JUST PLAIN TALK: Socialism doesn't have to be a dirty word

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

People living between the Blackwater River in Northwest Florida to the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana border have to feel like they joined the Hurricane of the Month club. Living on the Florida coast, it's always a relief when a storm makes landfall away from us, but the multiple strikes west of us do bring a twinge of guilt. Jimmy Buffett wrote "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season" almost 50 years ago, but that was about one storm, not a series.

By the time this goes to press, all the 2020 election votes will have been cast. Since hurricane season doesn't end until Nov. 30, maybe all the clamor about socialism will end. If a coastal community gets hit by a hurricane, socialism bails them out. Don't you believe me? When Hurricane Sally hit Pensacola, the winds had not died down before politicians had FEMA on speed-dial.

I grew up in rural Georgia, right on the Georgia-Florida line (not the Florida-Georgia line). Folks there would still be picking up debris from Hurricane Michael's 2018 devastation if it weren't for FEMA. Natural disasters overwhelm local and state governments, and a national response is the only suitable option. America tried the other way, and it didn't work.

A hundred years ago, a series of devastating floods wracked the Mississippi Delta. Arkansas suffered so severely the state declared bankruptcy. For decades the state didn't issue bonds and infrastructure withered. The flood's damage was catastrophic, and the region became ground zero for parts of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Critics called it socialism then, too.

South Walton real estate would suffer without the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), subsidized mightily by the federal government. According to a Congressional Budget Office study, the NFIP has a $1.4 billion annual deficit. Premiums collected by the NFIP leave a 25% shortfall annually. It's a government hand-out; deal with it. Even though I don't own an NFIP policy, we benefit since flood insurance props up property values. I'm not fool-hardy; we live on top of a hill.

I listen to Mike's Weather Page more than Jimmy Buffet or local prognosticators during hurricane season. Mike blogs about the weather, primarily hurricanes, but all of his data comes from the National Weather Service, along with information gleaned from other countries' weather forecasts. Civilized societies benefit from publicly-funded weather sources.

Americans have ingrained mythology about rugged individualism. We reflexively distrust government; after all, we overthrew one to get things going. But the first decade after the British sailed away was chaotic, and we formed a more perfect union; it's in the Preamble to the Constitution. Private industry can create the proverbial better mousetrap and improve society. Government programs have a place, too. The key is to find the mesh between them. Too often, especially in the heat of elections, we hear a lot of misplaced rhetoric. Lots of people complain about socialism but cash the checks.

You can't always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by, masked, 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.