Opinion: DeSantis was right in 2013 but not now

photo by: Contributed

Froma Harrop

“I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy and believe that those who purchased flood insurance should have their claims paid,” then-Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis said upon voting against a $9.7 billion aid package for Sandy’s victims in 2013. But, he went on, letting the program increase federal debt by that amount without spending cuts elsewhere “is not fiscally responsible.”

DeSantis was not wrong. Today we can sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Ian and believe those who bought flood insurance should have their claims paid. But no, America’s taxpayers should not be asked to replace million-dollar beach houses built in flood zones, which much of South Florida is.

It is not a total surprise that now-Florida Gov. DeSantis has abandoned these conservative principles and has gone full socialist. He’s asked the federal government to bear 100% of the cost for removing debris and emergency services for 60 days and 90% of the cost after that. He says actual assessments of the damage “would be a clear waste of resources during a time of critical need.”

As DeSantis would have it, it is bad manners to inquire into possible fraud, something with which Florida is not unacquainted.

Blue state Democrats patting their backs over President Joe Biden’s generous offer to help Florida storm victims “every step of the way” should reconsider. They should ask themselves exactly what they are helping with.

Thanks to fraudulent claims, aggressive lawsuits and more severe weather (aka climate change), the premiums for property insurance in Florida have jumped to $4,231 a year, triple the national average. And most homeowners policies don’t cover floods.

For that one goes to the National Flood Insurance Program, run by FEMA. The program limits payment for building damage to $250,000 — and recently updated its rates to reflect the increased risks of more violent storms, rising sea levels and the cost of replacing the buildings.

Before Ian hit, a couple who had just built a grand new home in St. Petersburg expressed outrage to see their flood insurance premium rise from $441 to $4,986. They worry about their ability to sell the house in the future, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, a dear friend living in Rowayton on the Connecticut coast suffered terribly when Sandy swept six inches of water into his first floor. As mold crawled up the walls, he slept with a mask over his mouth. A middle-income guy who just retired, he emptied his pension savings trying to restore the house to a livable condition. And that was after the federal insurance money kicked in.

When he died, the house was sold to a Wall Streeter who leveled it and built a beach mansion on raised ground. Still, when the storms and high tides are working together, the street in front of the new manse floods, letting people paddle by in kayaks.

And so the trauma must be mixed with reality. The U.S. Treasury can’t be drained to replace properties put in the path of disaster time after time.

Sanibel Island was heaven on a barrier island. But in 2019, the local paper published a piece titled “Farewell, Sanibel.” “In 20 to 40 years,” Jesse Wilson wrote in a state of anticipatory grief, “my childhood home of Sanibel Island will not exist as it does now.” Little did she know that she didn’t have decades but three years before her fears were realized.

Rebuilding after Ian should now be up to the people and their insurers. The bill for help beyond immediate emergency services ought not go to the taxpayers of Massachusetts and Nebraska. The 2013 DeSantis was right about that.

— Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist with Creators.


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