Floods and Government Run Programs

As a native Nashvillian, I have great respect for the kindness and generosity of those who live and work in Middle Tennessee. Our friends and neighbors are always first in line to help people affected by tragedy – whether those folks in need are across the street or around the world. Over the last couple of weeks, we have shown the world how a community is supposed to come together in the wake of a disaster.

The historic flood that impacted Tennessee severely damaged thousands of homes, businesses and infrastructure throughout the state. At least ten people drowned, more than 16,000 homes were damaged or destroyed — and the cost for repairs could exceed $2 billion. Within hours of the rain’s end, Tennesseans mobilized by the thousands and began to rescue their neighbors and assess the damage caused more than thirteen inches of rain.

The water receded over the next couple of days, and neighborhoods, churches, civic groups and individuals spread out across the state to start the massive cleanup effort. Even before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived in Nashville, most of the flooded homes and business had already been gutted and were awaiting inspection by Codes and FEMA.

I have to wonder how different the ultimate effect would have been for all those affected by the flood if private companies would have been able to underwrite the damage instead of the Federal Government?

First and foremost, I believe that private companies would be able to provide a better product to more people using free-market solutions. Competition among insurance companies would help keep the cost down for businesses and families on both sides of the flood plain. Insurance agents would have an incentive to make sure their clients had the best insurance available.

If flood insurance were privately run, we would not have to worry about Congress playing politics with the program that millions of Americans rely on to protect their assets from disaster. Yet Congress continues to do just that — play politics with the flood insurance program, as they did before the Easter/Passover break when the Senate let the program expire because of a funding dispute.

The NFIP was renewed by the Senate April, 18, 2010, but the extension of the program lasted only for about 30 days. Now, as we head into Memorial Day weekend, Congress once again has failed to live up to their responsibilities, leaving millions of Americans at risk.

As in most cases, the Federal Government seems to be unwilling or unable to manage NFIP efficiently. They continue to leave taxpayers on the hook for cost overruns. Privately run flood insurance would be regulated by the government, instead of being a government program managed by FEMA and propped up by the taxpayer. (They owe us about $19 billion so far.)

Now that the federal government has begun the takeover of our health insurance with a single-payer system as the ultimate goal — can we expect the same results? We are already beginning to see the signs that healthcare reform will cost more than promised, reduce the number of doctors available, and cut services for seniors and others who are most at risk. How can we take the lessons learned from FEMA and the NFIP to ensure that our healthcare system does not suffer the same fate?

Mr. Spivak is a Republican candidate for the Congressional 5th District in TN. He supports congressional term limits, smaller government, lower taxes. He is opposed to cap and trade, a single-payer healthcare system, and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Email: [email protected]