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Who pays to clean up after superheroes?

Another superhero epic premieres, and another debate rises about who’s responsible for picking up the pieces. After Man Of Steel, it was revealed that the destruction to Metropolis would have been worse than 9/11, with an estimated $2 trillion in damages (and a large number of people wounded, killed, or missing following the climactic fight). Similarly, The Avengers final battle of New York City would’ve cost $160 billion in damages (and again, large swaths of injuries, deaths, and disappearances). This question of who foots the bill for these superpowered tussles frequently arises as large-scale disasters explode on the screen. It even seems to be a crux of the plot for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, as the debate looms over who is in charge of these superbeings and who bears responsibility for their destructive actions (even if they are done in the name of “justice”).

Mike Rugnetta looks at this question in the latest PBS Idea Channel video, first as a sort of winking roundtable discussion one would find on cable news, and then in much more depth. Using actual disasters as a barometer, such as tsunamis or Hurricane Katrina, Rugnetta discusses how the reaction to paying for these horrible events can get mired in politics, partisan bickering, and even slow responses to helping out the individuals.

So it may not even be a question of who is going to pay for the Hulk’s rampage, but how will politicians justify not paying for the wanton destruction of a walking disaster like Bruce Banner’s rage monster. It’s an interesting and sobering account of just how federal and state agencies would respond to such events, not to mention weighing the costs of lives and damages against doing the “greater good.”


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