Feature

Subsidizing shoreline foolishness

The National Flood Insurance Program—already $17.8 billion in debt to taxpayers—faces 100,000 new claims from Sandy.

Editorial
USA Today

After a horrific disaster like Hurricane Sandy, it’s natural to want “to do everything possible to help people struggling to rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives,” said USA Today. Those good intentions, however, can lead to “a lot of foolish, even dangerous, decisions.” In shoreline communities up and down the East Coast, people are now vowing to rebuild homes, vacation getaways, and businesses that the storm inundated and swept away like so many matchsticks. The National Flood Insurance Program, which is already $17.8 billion in debt to taxpayers, faces 100,000 new claims from Sandy, with payouts expected to total $7 billion or more. “Chances that the money will be repaid to taxpayers: virtually nil.’’ A 2010 study by this newspaper found nearly 20,000 shoreline properties where multiple insurance claims had produced payouts greater than the properties’ value—including one Mississippi home flooded 34 times over 30 years. Owning property on the shore has an inherent risk—a risk that seems to be growing as sea levels rise and storms become more powerful. Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize those who build castles at the ocean’s edge. 

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