Don’t add wind coverage to U.S. flood insurance program

In the wake of Hurricane Ike, and serious flooding in the Midwest, we have seen ruined homes and businesses, displaced families, and ravaged communities. These heartbreaking images underscore the importance of renewing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This vital federal program, which insures more than 5.5 million Americans against flood damage, will expire if Congress does not reauthorize it by Sept. 30.

Flood insurance is not included in the standard homeowners’ insurance policy. The prohibitive cost of insuring against floods would be unaffordable for most citizens, and that is why the federal government created the NFIP in 1968 — to ensure that flood coverage would be available and affordable.

The NFIP ensures that policyholders help finance the program through their insurance premiums.

This funding helps offset flood losses that otherwise would be borne entirely by taxpayers.

The House and the Senate have passed differing bills, and the only way legislation can be enacted is if they resolve the differences. One key difference between these bills is that the House version would add windstorm coverage to the NFIP. This is a misguided idea that would create negative unintended consequences. Additionally, it is unnecessary. Windstorm coverage is universally available for homes in insurable condition. Where private coverage does not exist, homeowners can obtain wind insurance through state wind pools.

Adding wind coverage to the NFIP could hurt the national economy and the affordability of insurance.

This step could result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in premiums that insurers use to pay claims to homeowners in their time of need.

Also, the White House has said the president would veto the program if it is expanded to include wind. It is pointless to pass a bill that would be dead on arrival.

With Congress planning to adjourn on Sept. 26, time is short and the consequences of expiration would be serious. The protection the program provides for taxpayers — nearly $3 billion a year in premiums — would be displaced. Beyond that, post-flood recovery efforts would be greatly hampered as communities struggled to rebuild without NFIP support.

There could also be dire consequences not just for homeowners, but also for the nation’s economy.

Real estate transactions involving properties with federally backed mortgages cannot go through the closing process without flood insurance. Given the precarious nature of the housing market right now, we do not need additional disruptions.

The NFIP offers vital protection to policyholders nationwide, and it is critically important to Americans and the U.S. economy. Congress should reauthorize this program now.

Des Plaines, Ill.

For fun, ask Palin a science question

From Frank Marunder

“Is she ready?”

Let’s quit asking this (unanswerable) question about Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. Stop feeding the Republican National Committee their favorite straight line.

Start asking real questions, like, um, “CERN just started up its new high-powered LHC, hoping to eventually recreate, in micro, the conditions of the universe immediately following the Big Bang. What do you think of the possibility this holds for new discoveries in cosmology?”

I realize this is a pretty open-ended question. It would sure invite more interesting replies than asking about those wonderful tax cuts that we all, of course, favor. I’d sure sit up for the answer to this one!

Bangkok, Thailand