HIGHTOWER: The Rich Cash in on Disaster Relief

When a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, it's good to know that federal assistance is standing ready to help repair such essential public facilities as schools, hospitals and yacht slips.Yacht slips? Yes, and golf resorts, luxury beach clubs and other recreational facilities used mostly by the hoity-toity.Under current law, a marina is just as eligible as a hospital to receive repair funds from us taxpayers through FEMA -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A report by the Office of Inspector General finds that a quarter of a billion tax dollars have gone to such facilities since 1989.In Miami, for example, the posh Dinner Key Marina got $3 million from us to restore its yacht dockings after Hurricane Andrew. Technically, this marina is open to the public, but DO NOT try to dock your bass boat there -- this place accepts no boats less the 30-feet long, and slip fees are as high as $850 a month. This eliminates about 99 percent of "the public."Also, out near Palm Springs, California, a 1993 flood damaged "The Golf Resort At Indian Wells." Never mind that this grandiose golf club was built in a dry wash subject to flash floods, and never mind that a round of golf can cost you $120 bucks there -- its owners still collected some three-quarters of a million bucks to repair erosion, cart paths and sprinklers on their links.Likewise, the rich folks of Loch Arbor Village in New Jersey, a tiny and exclusive enclave of only 380 people living in houses with a median value of $230,000 each, took $320,000 from FEMA after a 1992 storm damaged their Beach Club.These perverted payments for disaster relief prove once again that the rich are different from you and me -- they get more federal handouts.

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