Obviously, if we’re going to convince the heartland to subsidize our seaside living, we’ve got to convince the folks out there that a national catastrophic insurance program would cover more than the occasional hurricane. Hey, we’ll cover their piddling catastrophes too. We might need to remind residents of the Midwest that Joplin, Missouri has been hit with four devastating 7.0 earthquakes in just a two-year period. Of course, those four quakes occurred two centuries ago, but still.
We’ll include earthquakes, tornados, wildfires. We’ll toss in blizzards, hail storms, riots, terrorist attacks, unexpected visits from the in-laws. We’ve just got to discourage folks from the hinterlands from doing any actual risk assessment. We don’t want them to know about the Insurance Information Institute report finding that from 1991 to 2010, hurricanes and tropical storms accounted for 44 percent of total catastrophe losses in the U.S., followed by tornado losses at 30 percent. Other catastrophes included winter storms at 7.4 percent, terrorism at 6.8 percent, earthquakes at 5.1 percent, wind, hail and flood losses at 4.1 percent and fire at 2.2 percent. Folks running wild in the streets, a category the insurance industry files under civil disorder, accounted for less than one percent of the insured losses.
In the low-lying Netherlands, the national government covers commercial and residential flood losses under the Calamities Compensation Act. The Dutch rationalize the coverage because 70 percent of the national GNP is generated from business properties situated below sea level. Hey, we can remind folks that most of Florida’s money is stacked along the beaches. They just need to think of high-rise beachfront luxury condos as money factories. Still, that argument might not be enough.
But the devastation suffered in New York and New Jersey from Super Storm Sandy brought some new allies into the argument for a national catastrophe fund. (We came close even without much support from the northeast back in 2007, when a national catastrophic insurance measure introduced by U.S. Rep. Ron Klein — of Florida of course — passed the U.S. House of Representatives but languished in the Senate.)
Still, we’ll need support from landlocked places where the locals regard Florida and New York as bastions of hedonism deserving of Cat 5 divine retribution. We just need to re-define “catastrophe” to reflect certain peculiar regional views of just what entails a disaster. We could include insurance coverage in case of an assault weapon ban. We can pay off if the WWE cancels WrestleMania, if the UN invades Nashville, if the New York Jets win the Super Bowl, if Rush Limbaugh embraces the science behind global warming, if either a secret Muslim from Kenya or Michael Bloomberg is elected president, if Danica wins the Daytona, if Makers Mark waters down its whiskey, if Michele Bachmann runs off with Sean Penn or, if Mitt Romney busts loose with the Harlem Shake.
Any ol’ catastrophe will do. We’ve just got to spread the risk. Preferably, before the beginning of the 2013 cyclone season. Florida, dangling like an empty windsock over hurricane alley, needs all the sucker-money it can muster.