Preventing Tragedies Is Costly — Not Preventing Them Is Far Worse

Sunshine Elementary School in Springfield, Missouri

Sunshine Elementary School in Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, MO is about an hour north of Country & Western Kitsch Destination Branson, and about an hour northeast of Joplin, the site of a horrible tornado convergence last year. Since my parents live half a mile south of Joplin (and a hundred miles northeast of Tulsa), I often think of these areas as tornado season approaches. Tornado alleys (as much of Oklahoma and Missouri are in) are now on everybody’s radar thanks to relentless coverage of the damage done in Moore, OK. Yet again, our hearts break as children are senselessly killed by what could be described as a brutal force of nature. Their deaths, though, were preventable.

And once again, the steps taken to reduce the likelihood of tragedy seem just out of reach to a government (and a society) that cares more about the status quo of guns as man toys and a tax system favoring the rich, than about the safety (let alone livelihood) of our children.

Springfield, a town with over fifty grade schools, has only three of them equipped with safety rooms – rooms that can hold up to a class 5 tornado according to FEMA.

Bishop shows off a safe room that was built from pre-stressed concrete, with straps at the ceiling capable of withstanding wind shear. FEMA’s $1.6 million grant paid for 75 percent of the cost of this room, which also serves as the school’s gymnasium and can protect about 500 people. When school’s not in session, it serves as a shelter for residents within a half-mile radius.

The rooms don’t come cheap, of course – but then again, neither do schools nor gym rooms, last I checked. More importantly, neither do lives let alone the lives of our children. Completely rebuilding towns doesn’t come cheap, either.

A room that can protect up to five hundred lives is a pretty decent investment.

The problem is, we are dealing with a Congress run by some pretty heartless sinkholes from the motherless side of the abyss. Even Satan shudders when they pass by on their way to the golf course. This is a congress that blocked the most basic, most simplest reforms to gun control – making it possible for another Newton any moment in the near future, and another 500 plus gun murders – mostly of youth – in Chicago for years to come. So, thanks for that, greedy and incompetent ones.

And it’s too bad. Maybe not too late, but it’d be more than nice and surely brilliant if underemployed states like Oklahoma, and much of the Midwest and tornado alley, could invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects – partly funded by the federal government, partly funded by states and municipal governments, partly funded by insurance rate breaks and partly funded by businesses that want to have long and prosperous lives in the communities they do business in.

This infrastructure investment would mean jobs and money flowing into middle and lower-class families and local businesses. I know, I know. It all sounds so horrible. But this could be a way to finally invest in poorer families, to help raise the standard of living for millions living on the edges. This could widen the tax base and help to stem the tide of decreased revenue for necessary programs like SNAP benefits (food stamps), even as the number of people that need to be on SNAP would decrease. Aaaaaaaannnnnd, to sweeten the deal, we would get to keep our kids safe.

The catch is: There’s not as much money flowing directly and quickly to the top as there is with tax breaks for big business. So, there’s that.

I mean, that’s not a negative for anyone with a still-functioning soul. But if you already sold it (and your mother) for a chance to be a lobbyist for Koch Industries…

You know what to do, America. Let’s get to work!

jasdye

When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!

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  • Truthspew

    I want you to consider your own article. You explain why in an indirect way we don’t try to be proactive. It’s because the insurance industry doesn’t want that. If you have structures that can stand up to an F5 what reason is there to carry and pay for insurance coverage? None.

    • That is a great argument for why insurance companies would discourage funding entire buildings that way (in the mean and evil way that insurance companies tend to discourage good things).

      But this article is specifically about helping to build rooms in schools in that manner. Obviously, insurance companies don’t want to pay for everything all over again. If a large room in a school is still standing, the rest of the school will still need to be heavily insured.

    • That makes no sense. We’re not talking about the whole school, just a specific room inside the school. The rest of the school would still have to be insured.

    • Amy

      Um…insurance companies would much rather NOT pay claims. They lose money when they do that, so your argument is stupid.

    • marilynclay

      Irrational arguments haunt our national conversation. Fed from the darkest, most suspicious sides of our character. This is the same argument as “the reason we don’t have a cure for cancer is that doctors would then be out of work”. I long for a critical thinking seminar sandwiched between the fear-festivals sponsored by Fox News.

  • marilynclay

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Stanley Fritz From LYVBH

    You make such a great point in this editorial and I really do have to thank you. I do a radio show every Sunday and we were looking for a way to discuss the Tornado Disaster in Oklahoma, and after reading this I definitely know what to pitch to my team!

    • Thank you. Would like to hear it after it airs if possible.