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A White House that Practices Harm Production

We recognize the harms and risks in the world. Whether it’s the dangers of automobiles or pollution or living in flood plains, the general goal is to manage risk. To reduce it, to hedge against it.

But this administration does the opposite. It orders child-separation and full intolerance policies. It welcomes trade wars and healthcare premium hikes. It invites worry and doubt among allies while praising the brutal.

Repeatedly, the administration has lied without compunction. Baldly lied to allies and to the public alike. Has made indefensible and unmerited statements. Even some before the courts.

Abuse. The administration has made statements that serve absolutely no other purpose beyond petty abuse of public employees, of political foes and allies, of public figures.

This administration has failed to act on crises. From Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, to opioids, to the mental health of farmers, to protecting the country against the Russian Federation’s interference, this presidency has been asleep at the switch.

There has been an utter joke on ethics practices. Scandal after scandal in cabinet-level positions. Repeated refiling of financial disclosures from the president’s own advisors. The president himself double-dipping like it’s the early 18th century, paying his inaugural largesse to friends and God knows whom. Making the Secret Service rent his golf carts. Having foreign countries stay at his hotels to ingratiate themselves.

Immigration, which needs to be made orderly and regular by changes to the law, has become even more chaotic thanks to poor planning and lack of any attempt to compromise or improve on the status quo. The White House’s rhetoric only serves to inflame and to whip into a frenzy those who believe immigration is a sin.

Leadership means guiding the nation forward, avoiding or minimizing risks in the process. Instead, this failure of a leader sends the nation toward folly on a number of fronts simultaneously. And no attempt is made to explain. No questions are taken at his rallies. The questions taken from the press are regarded with scorn.

Good government means reducing harm, not accruing it. Whatever the intentions of this president may be, he is making the nation worse.

Flood Insurance Shouldn’t Be Political

There are a number of government-sponsored enterprises, government-chartered corporations, and government-owned corporations, such as Fannie Mae, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The flood insurance program should be arranged as either a government-sponsored enterprise or a government-chartered corporation. The updating of maps and the adjustment of premiums should not be subject to political whims, as there is a proven record of moral hazard in failing to adjust the risk ratings to what exists in the real world.

States should have a role in funding the program that covers their state, with a choice between property taxes, real estate sales tax, a rake on mortgage payments, or other mechanisms.

Under the current regime, the program gives a false sense of security. Many at-risk properties without coverage, many more that aren’t paying according to their real risks. Without truthful premium costs, the market gets a distorted risk signal, knowing the federal government will pay for municipalities’ and states’ messes. Sound familiar?

The political environment makes risk adjustment difficult. Nobody wants to pay more, but they want flood protection. If the program is private, the owners want to ensure they are keeping liabilities in check, so they will keep premiums rising with risks. Specifically, if the lenders are on the hook for underinsured properties that are damaged, they will demand proper insurance.

Similar moves should be made for other issues that should be outside of political tampering, such as the gas tax and vehicle efficiency standards, drug price negotiations for public healthcare programs, and other similar budgetary matters. If these various measures require a waiver process, that’s fine, but generally firms and individuals should pay what’s required for the efficient operation of the system as designed.