Duluth has no right to expectDon Ness is a hands-on mayor of Duluth. I’m sure his high level of concern for the wants and needs of constituents is a big reason his approval ratings are higher than any politician I’ve ever heard of.
By: Virgil Swing, Duluth Budgeteer News
Don Ness is a hands-on mayor of Duluth. I’m sure his high level of concern for the wants and needs of constituents is a big reason his approval ratings are higher than any politician I’ve ever heard of.
It’s natural that he’s disappointed the Federal Emergency Management Agency has rejected a request for federal dollars to help local residents deal with costs from the June 19-20 flooding. The mayor called the decision “nothing short of a travesty” and added: “It’s inconceivable that FEMA wouldn’t reach out a helping hand” to flood victims.
Keep in mind that the feds will send millions our way to deal with public infrastructure damage from the flooding. Minnesota is appealing denial of private aid, but a reversal seems unlikely.
The mayor’s reaction to that denial is one view of how far government should go to make whole those who suffer from natural disasters. The other side says this is what private insurance is for.
After the flooding, state records indicated just 111 Duluthians had flood insurance. We could have governments (state and federal) step in whenever people are in need. But where does this stop? Do we bail out people whose homes were destroyed by fire but didn’t have homeowner’s insurance? What about those hurting because of huge medical bills?
I agree with those who say that, if the private sector provides insurance against some disaster, people should get that protection, or else live with the results. (I exempt health insurance from this rule. More on that later.)
Many Duluthians who suffered flood damage likely had no idea they were susceptible to flooding. But they should have known that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage — and relatively few bought it. In Duluth it costs about $350 to $1,050 a year, depending mostly on where you live.
I don’t have flood insurance on my home, and we were among the lucky ones who suffered no damage. If we had, I expect I’d also be disappointed at FEMA’s decision. But I wouldn’t consider it a travesty.
Government tends to rush in with millions or billions for those affected by big disasters but mostly ignores the one family whose mobile home burns down through no fault of their own. The difference
is really only a matter of scale. In both cases it’s a huge problem for those
Local flood victims have received help from non-profits plus friends, neighbors and other concerned people. That generosity can’t put things back to what they were like before the flood — but it can ease the sting. It also shows how communities dealt with such things before state and federal agencies moved big-time into helping those with problems.
Most families now have homeowner’s insurance on their homes. If you have a mortgage, you usually have no choice because the lender ensures there is collateral to back up that loan if a family stops making house payments.
How many folks would pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for homeowner’s insurance annually if it weren’t required? Few would if they knew some government agency would rebuild their house after a fire or flood.
I don’t know how much money FEMA has to help folks hurt by disasters, but lots of hands are out. Disasters are common in America. Those victimized by hurricanes and tornadoes would love FEMA help, as would people whose homes were destroyed by western wildfires and other natural disasters.
People who live through them often become impatient with insurers, but in general insurers seem to react quickly to try to make people whole.
The federal government is a good place to look for many needed services, but private insurance is a much better way to help put life back together after a disaster, whether it hits one family or thousands. The feds should help fix our roads, bridges and dams. We should take care of the rest ourselves.
I’m not a total libertarian, of course. I consider health care such a basic need that I favor a single-payer system in which the feds ensure health care for all Americans. Experience in other nations has shown it can work and the federal government can do it most efficiently.
Budgeteer opinion columnist Virgil Swing has been writing about Duluth for many years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.