Oh, woe is the taxpayer who is unjustly coerced into subsidizing the National Flood Insurance Program! Why must those Americans who engage in risky behavior be sheltered from risk. It's like "a special program to offer subsidized health insurance to people who refuse to wear seat belts!"
Like a train that is never late, we expect to see national pundits question the amount of government spending while reacting to natural and man made disasters involving water. Though I'm more used to hearing such business from the Ron Paul wing of suicidal libertarianism than to hear it from the pages of Ezra Klein's blog, the Daily Dish, and Think Progress.
Maybe even the left needs a hard lesson in losing money in order to save money. Yes, the Feds lose money on subsidized flood insurance. Yes, if the nation didn't subsidize flood insurance, people, businesses, and industry would pay higher premiums to live in flood-prone areas. Yes, we ought to figure out better ways to mitigate damage to lives, property, and finances.
But don't ignore the facts. Almost everywhere humans live in this nation are flood-prone. Some of the most flood prone areas are the areas where there is the highest utility for commerce.
Right now, whole parts of the Northeast are underwater. Earlier this year, the Midwest was underwater, and the Mississippi River was closed due to flooding. In 2009, there was flooding in the upland South. Further stretching the "people ought not live in flooding areas" credibility were this year's flash floods in Arizona, an arid state that spent most of its disaster money on wildfires. Happened last year, too.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) estimates that the US economy took a $35 billion hit from natural disasters in 2011 (including flooding), and that was before Irene flooded New England. That total adds up to an estimated $750 billion cost to the US since 1980, and that's the conservative estimate.
I know folks like to think it can't happen to them, and that cutting off the Federal subsidy for flood insurance will keep those pesky individuals in the "moocher class" from taking advantage of living near rivers and oceans and lakes and creeks and, well, anywhere 2 inches of rain in an hour can collect, run downhill, and sweep away cars and homes. But that would raise the costs of every commerical activity in the United States of America.
Fix the levees. Raise the homes and businesses. Fund the program more robustly. Respond more effectively to disaster situations. Prepare more effectively for disaster situations. Mitigate the risks as best we can. By all means, let us have a serious conversation about the costs of flooding in this nation.
But you start that conversation asking why NFIP costs so much. Because the answer to that question will tell you exactly why the country is willing to take a loss to cover the cost, and the only people who question that are pundits with an agenda.