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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 4 years ago

Our View: Flood insurance: catastrophe


Politicians do a lot of dumb things in this country.

For at least the past 150 years, our national politicians increasingly have enacted the lies that they can give people something for nothing (or something for less than it really costs) and that it’s OK to confiscate the property of one to give an unearned benefit to another.

Or, you just print more money and make future generations pay.

This, of course, is why the nation is $17 trillion in debt.

And this, of course, is why Floridians’ rising flood-insurance rates are causing coastal property owners to squeal.

Since 1968, the start of the National Flood Insurance Program, Congress has never charged the real cost of flood insurance. It’s not inaccurate to say, thanks to Congress (and the American taxpayer at large), virtually everyone on Longboat Key and along all of America’s coasts lives less expensively than they otherwise would.

And thanks to this politically expedient policy, Congress has allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to fall $18 billion in debt.

But finally, recognizing the insanity of their way, Congress in 2012 adopted the Biggert-Waters Act, a phased-in plan that will increase flood-insurance rates up to 25% per year for four years for vacation homes, businesses and repetitive-loss properties located in the most vulnerable flood zones. The idea is to make those who choose to live and do business in harm’s way carry the full financial burden of their decision. What a concept.

Predictably, lawmakers from states with the highest flood claims and largest number of flood-prone properties are now feeling backlash from constituents. Take U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. In a recent letter to two committee chairman, Nelson penned classic political double-speak:

“I’m not opposed to making the flood-insurance program more financially stable, but it won’t do much good if it turns out folks cannot afford coverage.”

Nelson wants the rate increases delayed a year to allow Congress to “gather more information” about how many people will be affected and the cost.

Unfortunately, senator, you can’t have it both ways — fiscally sound and low cost.

Fact is, there is no easy, painless way out. Many municipal commissioners and coastal property owners alike now worry that the rising flood-insurance rates are going to do more than cost property owners in higher premiums. They worry that higher insurance costs are going to make coastal communities less attractive and thereby adversely affect property values.

Perhaps so. But here’s what we’re also seeing: Having witnessed the devastation that comes from weakly constructed homes and businesses on the coasts, those who choose to buy and tear down the 30- and 40-year-old homes in flood-prone areas are rebuilding better, storm- and flood-resistant structures. They’re lowering the risk, which in time will reduce the cost of insurance and incentivize private investors to take the risk.

The best scenario over time is for the federal government to get out of the flood-insurance business altogether. If Sen. Nelson and his colleagues in Washington were governed by the threat of term limits rather than the next election, they might have the courage to do exactly that — end the National Flood Insurance Program.

Take a page from the late President Calvin Coolidge. When floods ravaged his home state of Vermont in 1927, Coolidge declined to send his fellow Vermonters any federal aid. Natural-disaster relief, Coolidge believed, was not the job of the federal government. Indeed, here’s proof it’s not: Taxpayers gave the National Flood Insurance Program a $17 billion loan to cover claims after Hurricane Katrina. A few years later, because interest payments were so large, the flood insurance program had to borrow another $1.7 billion. Seven years later, only $600 million in principal has been repaid. Government officials say they doubt the loan will ever be paid off.

Shut down the National Flood Insurance Program and watch how the private sector fills the void. Better and fewer homes will be built on the coasts. A win for taxpayers and the environment.


As you witness the Obama administration’s foreign-policy fiascos with Syria, Iran and Vladimir Putin, it’s worth reviewing history. As we know, history repeats.

We’re thinking of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who negotiated with Adolph Hitler. The following excerpts on Chamberlain are from Spartacus Educational, a British online encyclopedia: — Ed.

Anthony Eden, Chamberlain’s foreign secretary, did not agree with [Chamberlain’s] policy of appeasement and resigned in February, 1938. Eden was replaced by Lord Halifax who fully supported this policy.

Winston Churchill, Chamberlain’s leading critic within the Conservative Party, argued in the House of Commons:

“The resignation of the late foreign secretary may well be a milestone in history. Great quarrels, it has been well said, arise from small occasions but seldom from small causes.

“The late foreign secretary adhered to the old policy which we have all forgotten for so long. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have entered upon another and a new policy. The old policy was an effort to establish the rule of law in Europe, and build up through the League of Nations effective deterrents against the aggressor.

“Is it the new policy to come to terms with the totalitarian powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material factors, peace may be preserved?”

In February, 1938, Adolf Hitler invited Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Austrian chancellor, to meet him at Berchtesgarden. Hitler demanded concessions for the Austrian Nazi Party. Schuschnigg refused and after resigning was replaced by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the leader of the Austrian Nazi Party.

On March 13, Seyss-Inquart invited the German Army to occupy Austria and proclaimed union with Germany. The union of Germany and Austria had been specifically forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. Some members of the House of Commons, including Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill, now called on Chamberlain to take action against Hitler and his Nazi government.

Hugh Christie, an MI6 agent based in Berlin, met with Hermann Goering. He reported his conversation with Goering and included information that Germany intended to take control of Austria and Czechoslovakia. He also told Christie that Germany mainly wanted “a free hand in Eastern Europe.”

In March 1938, Christie told the British government that Adolf Hitler would be ousted by the military if Britain joined forces with Czechoslovakia against Germany. Christie warned that the “crucial question is: ‘How soon will the next step against Czechoslovakia be tried?’ … The probability is that the delay will not exceed two or three months at most, unless France and England provide the deterrent, for which cooler heads in Germany are praying.”

International tension increased when Adolf Hitler began demanding that the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia should be under the control of the German government. In an attempt to solve the crisis, the heads of the governments of Germany, Britain, France and Italy met in Munich in September, 1938.

On Sept. 29, 1938, Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Edouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Agreement, which transferred to Germany the Sudetenland, a fortified frontier region that contained a large German-speaking population.

When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia’s head of state, who had not been invited to Munich, protested at this decision, Chamberlain told him that Britain would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland.

The Munich Agreement was popular with most people in Britain because it appeared to have prevented a war with Nazi Germany. However, some politicians, including Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, attacked the agreement. These critics pointed out that no only had the British government behaved dishonorably, but it had lost the support of Czech Army, one of the best in Europe.

Chamberlain told his private secretary: “If Hitler signed it and kept the bargain, well and good … if he broke it, he would demonstrate to all the world that he was totally cynical and untrustworthy … this would have its value mobilizing public opinion against him, particularly in America.” …

In March, 1939, the German Army seized the rest of Czechoslovakia. In taking this action, Adolf Hitler had broken the Munich Agreement …

… Chamberlain now realized that Adolf Hitler could not be trusted, and his appeasement policy now came to an end. After the invasion of Poland, Chamberlain was forced to declare war on Germany. On the outbreak of the Second World War, public opinion polls showed that Chamberlain’s popularity was 55%. By December, 1939, this had increased to 68%. However, members of the House of Commons saw him as an uninspiring war leader.

On May 7, 1940, Leo Amery, the Conservative MP, argued in the House of Commons: “Just as our peace-time system is unsuitable for war conditions, so does it tend to breed peace-time statesmen who are not too well fitted for the conduct of war. Facility in debate, ability to state a case, caution in advancing an unpopular view, compromise and procrastination are the natural qualities — I might almost say, virtues — of a political leader in time of peace. They are fatal qualities in war.

“Vision, daring, swiftness and consistency of decision are the very essence of victory.”

Looking at Chamberlain, Amery then went onto quote what Oliver Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”


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