It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That saying certainly seems to hold water when it comes to government policy in regards to disaster preparedness and recovery.
Throughout our state, communities have been hard-hit by massive floods. While this round of flooding has been one of the worst on record, flooding is a regular occurrence in Missouri, affecting communities year-round. At this point, many Missouri communities know what to expect in terms of flooding. It is for that reason why government at every level should be more focused on trying to mitigate these disasters before they happen. Funding of building improvements and construction that makes structures more disaster-resistant can save lives, resources, and time in the future.
Take for example, the plight of the town of Craig, Missouri. Between 2000 and 2019, Craig, a town of less than 250 people, was paid claims totaling $13.5 million on 641 buildings as part of the National Flood Insurance Program. Repeat floods, disasters, and destruction led to the need for claims to be paid out to compensate for damage properties.
No one should fault the townsfolk of Craig for the natural events that strike their community. And no one can fault Craig’s government for not being able to spend money they do not have to help shore up their town’s defenses. Rather, government at the federal and state level could use some of the funds available from the flood insurance programs to protect these communities proactively, rather than spend far more money on retroactive repairs. It is foolish to keep spending money trying to repair damage that need not have happened in the first place.
The same philosophy holds true if you buy an umbrella even though it might be sunny outside: because some day, sooner or later, it will rain–and when it does, you will really want that umbrella. Afterall, Noah built the ark while the weather was good, not while it was raining.
That is why I am advocating investments in disaster preparedness. At some point, the costs of repeat loss becomes ignorant policy decision making. For example, new legislation in the U.S. Senate adds significant subsidiaries of taxpayer dollars for insurance to properties that are flooded time and time again. This meets the aforementioned anecdote of insanity: making insurance cheaper for higher-risk areas. I hope Missouri’s Senators Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt will not go along with this insanity, and look for means to mitigate disasters, not incentivizing higher government pay-outs.
It would be wise to invest money in buildings and structures that are more flood resistant. In this case, money spent toward protecting structures would be the metaphorical umbrella, or ark, or what-have-you. It is spending money today to avoid a headache tomorrow. It just so happens in this case, the money spent today could save millions of dollars for communities, residents, and taxpayers alike in the future.
Rep. Cody Smith serves as budget chair of the Missouri House of Representatives.