We all — well, most of us — know that global warming means a higher risk of coastal flooding, particularly in low-lying areas susceptible to increasingly intense storm systems. Yet President
Why the rollback? Politics.
The program, which began in 1968, offered taxpayer subsidies to property owners who were unable to buy private flood insurance because of the higher, and unprofitable, risks their flood-prone properties posed. Designed as a public-private partnership, the program was meant to become self-sustaining over time as insured people paid more and more of their own premiums and municipalities became smarter about limiting developments in flood-prone areas, thus reducing risk. Neither has happened. By July 2013, the program owed the federal government $24 billion it had borrowed to pay claims, a financial gap exacerbated by taxpayer-subsidized premiums for one-quarter of policyholders, combined with massive losses from Hurricane Katrina and
The Government Accountability Office added the flood insurance program to its annual "high-risk list" of troubled agencies in 2006, and it's been there ever since. The problems are broad and, at times, arcane, but the bottom line is that this is a program that benefits people who knowingly buy property in areas that stand a good chance of flooding, partially at the expense of the rest of us.
To address some of those problems,