Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A mighty wind

The current National Hurricane Center forecast puts the bullseye for hurricane Joaquin precisely on my ass. Fortunately for me, though possibly not for some other people, the meteorological blogger Jeff Masters at Weather Underground (no link because this is so ephemeral) explains that this is just splitting the difference between models that take it out to sea, and models that bury it in the mid-Atlantic. It's far too soon to know what will happen, but regardless they are predicting a lot of flooding rain and onshore wind.

That will cause a lot of damage, and maybe kill some folks, but it would be a lot less if congress didn't spend your money to encourage people to build houses in places where they will inevitably be destroyed. The National Flood Insurance Program is incredibly stupid for many reasons. Here, according to the General Accounting Office, is the first one:

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a key component of the federal government’s efforts to limit the damage and financial impact of floods. However, it likely will not generate sufficient revenues to repay the billions of dollars borrowed from the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to cover claims from the 2005 and 2012 hurricanes or potential claims related to future catastrophic losses. This lack of sufficient revenue highlights what have been structural weaknesses in how the program is funded. While Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—the agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for managing NFIP—intended that NFIP be funded with premiums collected from policyholders and not with tax dollars, the program was, by design, not actuarially sound. As of December 31, 2014, FEMA owed the Treasury $23 billion, up from $20 billion as of November 2012. FEMA made a $1 billion principal repayment at the end of December 2014—FEMA’s first such payment since 2010.
Another reason it's stupid is that it uses private insurance companies as intermediaries, rather than administering the program itself, and like all corporations, insurance companies are evil and they screw claimants even as 40% of premiums go to administrative expenses, most of that paid "to private insurance intermediaries who sell and manage flood insurance policies on behalf of the federal government but do not bear any risk."

Finally, of course, the sensible thing to do would be to retreat from the rising seas and allow salt marshes and barrier beaches to replace the shore front developments which keep getting wiped out and rebuilt with taxpayer dollars. That would also be good for the marine ecosystem, since the destruction of those regimes has meant loss of spawning grounds and marine biomass production. In the long run, it's inevitable.

But you know, people are stupid.

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