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Published: Tuesday 22 October, 2013

shops for women shops for women ?Should taxpayers subsidize flood

Gerald Herbert AP

Rep. Michele Bachmann R called Hurricane Irene a wakeup call from God to rein in federal spending. Perhaps, but if God hates federal spending, he has a funny way of showing it: There no question that the disaster will rack up governments costs in the short run, particularly when it comes to flooding from the hurricane rain and coastal surges.

Private insurers rarely cover offer flood protection, believing that the risk is far too high in most cases. Instead, the National Flood Insurance Program created in 1968 and currently run by FEMA covers about 5.5 million homes across the country, insuring floodprone communities that take steps to manage their floodplains. Even when private insurers are contracted, profits from such flood insurance are private, but the losses are socialized as private insurance companies bear none of the underwriting risk associated with this insurance, as economist Don Taylor explains. Either way, taxpayers are ultimately on the hook when these floodprone homes go under water.

The program was originally intended to pay for itself, but since Hurricane Katrina, it been heavily in debt. As of March 2011, the NFIP owes $17.8 billion, and Irene will only add to the costs, particularly as New York and New Jersey have heavy concentrations of federal flood protection. The NFIP fiscal troubles have prompted the Government Accountability Office to put the program on its risk list, urging reforms to help balance its budget and taxpayers exposure. Such concerns have motivated fiscal hawks like Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Heartland Institute to go as far as calling for an end to the federal program, which is up for renewal Sept. 30. On the other side of the issue, the National Association of Realtors has lobbied hard for more funding, arguing that it vital for development and home ownership.

But the argument over spending and debt obscures a larger concern: Why are we subsidizing the building of homes in floodprone areas?

A significant chunk of flood insurance is offered at federall shops for women y subsidized rates in areas vulnerable to natural catastrophes. A quarter of participants pay below rates, many of whom receive a subsidized or premium, according to the GAO. As a result, more Americans have moved into lowlying, floodprone areas since the creation of the NFIP. And the taxpayers have had to cover the risks, which often means additional aid to disasterstruck areas.

It would be possible to continue the program without continuing the subsidy: In March, the GAO suggested various changes to the program to put it on better footing. One of them was premium rates that fully reflect risks. This would probably mean insurance rate hikes. But it might also mean fewer people moving into floodprone areas, and less taxpayer support for those who do.

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