Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 6, 2014

More debt with insurance delay

As taxpayer subsidies for the national flood-insurance program began winding down this year, coastal property owners began to complain about bigger insurance bills. With rates rising to reflect the true risk of living in flood-prone areas, some people’s annual premiums rose to several thousand dollars, from a few hundred.

Just as inevitably, then, Congress sprang to the rescue.

Last week’s Senate vote to delay changes meant to bolster the $1.3 trillion flood-insurance program was no surprise. If the House goes along, however, it will only assure that the program, already $24 billion in debt, will have to reach deeper into taxpayers’ pockets.

There are better ways to wean coastal homeowners from a subsidy that undermines sensible policy meant to prevent private losses from floods becoming a burden on the public.

Two years ago, Congress seemed determined to turn things around, passing reforms that, over a five-year period, would have phased out subsidized insurance premiums, eliminated the subsidy for vacation homes upon resale, barred eligibility for those who allowed coverage to lapse and adjusted flood-zone maps to reflect rising sea levels. Because of the gradual phase-in, the reforms assured that only 5 percent of policyholders would be subject to annual premium increases of more than 25 percent.

These subsidies go to properties that have suffered serious damage in past floods or are in flood plains — many of which are shoreline vacation homes. Although only about 20 percent of the roughly 5 million properties in the flood-insurance program receive the subsidy, the combined value of those that do ($527 billion) amounts to half the total value of all properties covered.

The subsidies have always been, at best, a well-intentioned mistake. Designed in the 1960s to reduce federal spending on disaster aid, the flood-insurance program quickly became a boondoggle that encouraged development on vulnerable beachfronts and sensitive wetlands prone to flooding. It is no surprise that some of the biggest opponents of flood-insurance subsidies, along with fiscal conservatives, are environmentalists.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Sometimes brand-name drugs just work better When you go to the pharmacy for aspirin, do you buy Bayer or the private-label generic alternative offered by chains such as CVS? The price for Bayer's version is more than twice that of CVS's, yet the active ingredient is exactly the same. The choic

    April 24, 2014

  • Conference looks at Obama, democracy Some of America's leading public intellectuals, scholars and activists gathered at Tufts University April 16-18 for the fifth annual Barack Obama and American Democracy conference. Author Michael Eric Dyson's exhilarating opening keynote offered a ri

    April 24, 2014

  • Will losers outvote winners? When it comes to the politics of Obamacare, there's really only one question that matters: How many Americans are benefiting from the new health care system, and how many are hurting? Problem is, we know more about the first part of the question than

    April 24, 2014

  • Why EU is not your dad's Europe The important-sounding Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union has recently reiterated "its strong support for Ukraine's unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity." Poor, destabilized, post-putsch Ukraine is to be congratulated

    April 23, 2014

  • Facebook bank could be disrupting force The company that rebranded the word "friend" may soon take up a more ambitious makeover: the word "bank." Facebook is on the verge of winning approval from Ireland's central bank to allow its users to store and exchange money. The company's plans are

    April 23, 2014

  • Warren's call for student loan reform As commencement season approaches, graduating students will soon hear words of wisdom from speakers offering experience, advice and inspiration. One thing they're not likely to hear about is the $1.08 trillion elephant on the quad -- our nation's stu

    April 23, 2014

  • How we devalued the 'R' word At the risk of angering somebody like MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, I sometimes used to joke that I only look white. Actually, I'm Irish. Meaning basically that I wasn't raised to think the man in the big house had all the answers, nor deserved all t

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary rock the world? WASHINGTON -- There are few happier events than becoming a grandmother, and almost none that says quite so loudly "over the hill." Ageism mixed with sexism is a toxic brew, but somehow tolerated. It's a often-used joke, but not a funny one, that wome

    April 22, 2014

  • Losing hearts and minds Robert Kagan recently wrote that, foreign policy decision by foreign policy decision, President Barack Obama has given Americans what they say they want. But the result hasn't made them proud of America or of their president. The same phenomenon may

    April 22, 2014

  • I signed what? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 19, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks