The rate increases for Florida homeowners covered by the National Flood Insurance Program is coming at a horrible time.
It’s not only costing many homeowners as much as 25 percent more for their flood insurance, but it’s making Florida’s elected leaders contort themselves into ideological pretzels.
Take, for example, Marco Rubio, who has been doing more than his fair share of bad-mouthing big government programs these days.
“Big government sells itself as the defender of the middle class, the helper of the poor,” Rubio told Sean Hannity on his radio talk show two weeks ago.
But it’s a big lie, Rubio said.
“Big government ignores them,” he told Hannity. “It ends up actually hurting the very people it clams to help. ObamaCare is an example of that.”
Enter the National Flood Insurance Program.
Rubio, like other Florida leaders, has become acutely aware of what a vital role big government has played in creating artificially low flood insurance rates for the 2 million Floridians who are insured by the popular program.
And they’ve been getting an earful from those Floridians who had their rates raised on Tuesday.
It turns out that about 40 percent of the flood insurance policies issued by the federal government in the country are in Florida. And the federal program has been helping those Florida homeowners by allowing them to pay low premiums through subsidies by other people’s tax dollars.
The result of these subsidized premiums, combined with the catastrophic flooding in the Gulf states caused by Hurricane Katrina, has left the federal flood insurance program tens of billions of dollars in debt.
So last year, Congress addressed this unsustainable insurance program in a law that shifted more of the costs to the covered homeowners, especially those who were insuring their second homes. For Florida, it meant that about 13 percent of flood insurance policyholders would see an immediate increase, and future premiums would be adjusted next year with new maps that reflected “risk-based rates.”
If you’re a fiscal conservative, you might praise this reining in of an expensive and unsustainable federal program as a prudent move that trims government spending and helps ease the national debt.
Rubio could have used the occasion to reprise his Hannity chat by advising Floridians to heed his warnings on the terrible false promises of help from the federal government.
But, instead, Rubio called for stopping “these devastating increases” of premiums. Which is another way of calling for the federal subsidies in this program to continue.
“This is about people. This is not about some government program,” Rubio said on Tuesday about the federal flood insurance program. “This is about people that are struggling as it is, especially the vast and broad American middle class which is the essence of what makes us special and different …”
“I don’t think that anyone disputes that this program as it is currently structured is not sustainable and needs to be reformed,” he said. “But I also believe that needs to be balanced with the reality that these massive increases are highly disruptive to our real estate market and they’re highly disruptive to the lives of everyday people.”
So to recap: A big government insurance program that subsidizes flood damage to waterfront property is about “everyday people,” but a big government insurance program that subsidizes health care to 30 million Americans is not.
That’s a really tight pretzel.