Jul 27 2018
The National Flood Insurance Program is in desperate need of reform. It creates a government monopoly to insure some of the most expensive real estate in the world. These are homes and home-owners that the private sector should be falling all over itself to insure.
Yet somehow the federal government’s answer to private insurance is loses money. A lot of money. The NFIP is currently $20 billion in debt, even after receiving a $16 billion bailout just a few months ago.
How did this happen?
The answer is that like most inexplicably durable federal programs, NFIP quietly serves the interests of the well-to-do at the expense of working- and middle-class families.
Proponents of the program would have us believe that NFIP is essential to protecting innocent victims who just happen to live in low-lying communities and can’t afford flood insurance.
But this argument is absurd. First of all, if home-owners can’t afford to insure their homes, then in reality they can’t afford their homes.
Second, many of the areas Washington calls “flood plains” are really just “property near water.” Residences there are expensive for lots of reasons, but any realtor can tell you the biggest one is “location, location, location.”
These homes are expensive because lots of people want to live there, among them wealthy people who bid up the price.
There are, of course, worthy and sympathetic beneficiaries of NFIP, as there are for every government program. But in the aggregate, the NFIP simply redistributes money from non-wealthy people to wealthy people, and to believe otherwise is to indulge in what might be called actuarial science-denial.
Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) have a bill that would allow private insurers to compete with NFIP. I support their bill, and can cite Utah’s successful embrace of private flood insurance as strong evidence in its favor.
And Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have a bill that would improve flood mapping and insist on “community preparation” for flooding as a condition of eligibility for NFIP coverage.
This is not too much for the American people to ask – either of their affluent, flood-prone neighbors, or of their sworn representatives in Congress.
This week I offered an amendment that would cap eligibility for NFIP insurance at homes worth $2.5 million. Anything under that, home owners can still enjoy their cut-rate premiums. But taxpayers should not pay any amount of coverage for the top 1% that can afford a $2.5 million-dollar beach home.
With the stock market near all-time highs, with a corporate tax cut driving up profits, it’s an eminently reasonable time to ask multi-millionaires to insure their beach houses without the welfare assistance of hardworking taxpayers who make a fraction of their income.
Unfortunately this amendment did not get a vote and a straight four-month reauthorization of the program, without any reforms, is set to pass Monday.
But this is not a fight we can just give up. I will continue to fight to end taxpayer bailouts for millionaire beach homes this November. And I hope you and your representatives in Washington will join me.