Thursday, September 01, 2005

Welfare knows no political parties

From the Kennedys to the Bushes to former Congressman Dick Gephardt (D-MO), welfare for the rich does not discriminate. Did you know that the federal government (i.e. your money) offers cheap insurance for beachfront property owners? John Stossel (himself a recipient) reports (thanks, Kira):
If the ocean took my house, Uncle Sam would pay to replace it under the National Flood Insurance Program. Since private insurers weren’t dumb enough to sell cheap insurance to people who built on the edges of oceans or rivers, Congress decided the government should step in and do it. So if the ocean ate what I built, I could rebuild and rebuild again and again -- there was no limit to the number of claims on the same property in the same location -- up to a maximum of $250,000 per house per flood. And you taxpayers would pay for it.


I did have to pay insurance premiums, but they were dirt cheap -- mine never exceeded a few hundred dollars a year.

Why does Uncle Sam offer me cheap insurance? "It saves federal dollars," replied James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when I did a 20/20 report on this boondoggle. "If this insurance wasn’t here," he said, "then people would be building in those areas anyway. Then it would cost the American taxpayers more [in relief funds] if a disaster hit."

That’s government logic: Since we always mindlessly use taxpayer money to bail out every idiot who takes an expensive risk, let’s get some money up front by selling them insurance first.

The insurance, of course, has encouraged more people to build on the edges of rivers and oceans. The National Flood Insurance Program is currently the biggest property insurance writer in the United States, putting taxpayers on the hook for more than $640 billion in property. Subsidized insurance goes to movie stars in Malibu, to rich people in Kennebunkport (where the Bush family has its vacation compound), to rich people in Hyannis (where the Kennedy family has its), and to all sorts of people like me who ought to be paying our own way
This segues nicely into a discussion taking place now in America: How much should the government spend to rebuild New Orleans, a city below sea level that has not taken the proper precautions since Camille hit the area 36 years ago to build a better levee system, and likely won't take better precautions this time around? Don't get me wrong...I'm not advocating telling the citizens of N.O. to drop dead! I'm sending a donation today, but as a private citizen.

The piece goes on to explain other subsidy insanity: paying for multi-millionaire sports owners to have new sports stadiums, paying farm subsidies to farmers making over $200,000 per year (even Sam Donaldson...who knew he was "destitute"?), paying farmers to NOT sell their crops, making Americans fork out more money for products with sugar though it's half the price in other countries, etc.

As economist Walter Williams aptly noted: "A panhandler is far more moral than corporate welfare queens....The panhandler doesn’t enlist anyone to force you to give him money. He’s coming up to you and saying, ‘Will you help me out?’ The farmers, when they want subsidies, they’re not asking for a voluntary transaction. They go to a congressman and say, ‘Could you take his money and give it to us?’ That’s immoral."

Feeding at the federal trough...any wonder why I'm a libertarian?