What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Happy Talk: State Farm and Their Statistics

 Happy Talk: State Farm and Their Statistics
I come from a musical family. Growing up in my home, playing musical instruments, dancing, and singing were the norm. On Saturdays, one of my older brothers would turn on the radio or put a stack of 45s on the stereo. We would dance with mops and brooms to Motown or other terrific music playing in the background while doing our chores.

As my younger brother now says, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing to music!” I wonder if this is his modern day version of the Mary Poppins’ lyrics “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” For old time’s sake, here’s a YouTube version of Julie Andrews singing it. Go ahead, press the button. You know you want to! ;)

Mary Poppin's "Spoonful of Sugar"

Indeed, Disney movies as well as Broadway plays were a big while I was growing up, and their positive influence has remained with me. I have found their lyrics to be supremely instructional. Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific featured the song “Happy Talk” which may be seen as a precursor to the introduction of the power of positive thinking. In the Broadway musical, South Pacific’s character Bloody Mary sang the rhythmic song while playing matchmaker with her daughter and a military guy.

Happy talkin’ Talkin’
happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream
If you don’t have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?

. . .

If you don’t talk happy
And you never have a dream,
Then you never have a dream come true.

Clearly this is good advice with regard to anything we desire, and its magic is legendary for those of us who’ve followed it. We can see its fruits all around us. The fruit itself can be quite deliciously sweet.

However, the fruit can also be demonically poisonous. It just depends on the fruit about which one is happily talking. State Farm’s happy talk about its closed Katrina-related cases is a great example.

In response to the racketeering lawsuit that the Scruggs Katrina Group filed against State Farm, the company’s spokesman Jonathan Freed declared, “More than 99% of all Katrina claims have been paid and settled.”

Mississippi’s Insurance Commissioner George Dale repeats the talking points that the insurance industry apparently provides him. "98 percent of all claims have been paid." This is all happy talkin’ non-sense. The company’s happy talk covers up the sad reality for hurricane survivors. Playing the role of the big bad wolf, State Farm and Commissioner Dale, who is in the industry’s pocket, hope to scare away current and potential plaintiffs from participating in lawsuits that are intended to force the companies to live up to their contractual obligations. Dale’s attorney is a big time lobbyist for the insurance industry, and the commissioner sees no conflict of interest with this relationship.

Oh my, what big teeth you have!
Not really. Mississippi Attorney General Jim “Hood accused State Farm of reporting false statistics, saying the insurer asserted it had settled 99 percent of its Katrina claims. The Attorney General said if the insurer considered a residence damaged by water, it didn't consider it a claim at all.”

What?! Isn’t that what all of the lawsuits are about in the first place? The fact that State Farm and its cohorts in the insurance industry have routinely pawned off on the federal government’s flood insurance program all of the hurricane’s costs regardless of the percent of damage caused by wind and that caused by water? A smidgen of water and bam! The insurance industry hits our Federal flood insurance program with an inflated $23 billion bill. Meanwhile, the Insurance Industry Institute reported that the private insurance industry boasted $44.2 billion in after-tax profits in 2005 and $63.7 billion in after-tax profits in 2006. These profits were after the companies had paid out $40.6 billion in Katrina claims, which of course, are not all of the Katrina-related claims that they should have paid. [For more information, read Scamming Policyholders & Taxpayers.]

Mixing Bloody Mary’s Happy Talk Advice with Alice in Wonderland
State Farm isn’t the only one using the talking point to pretend 99% of Hurricane Katrina claims have been settled. It’s good neighbor Allstate uses the same number, too!

“Allstate spokesman Michael Siemienas said, “We are pleased that these customers are now a part of the 99 percent of Allstate customers in Mississippi whose claims are settled.” What does he mean “are now a part of the 99 percent”? Is this an admission that Allstate had created a number and from now on any claims the corporation really does close appropriately are part of the fictitious number? Geeze, Louise!

Is State Farm—and Allstate, for that matter—combining Bloody Mary’s happy talk advice with “The Unbirthday Song” lyrics from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland? Do you remember that one? It’s about using statistics in a way that favors your goal. Go on. Press the button. You know you want to remember the Disney film of our youth.

Alice in Wonderland's "The Unbirthday Song"

Statistics prove, prove that you've one birthday,
one birthday ev'ry year.
But there are three
hundred and sixty four
That is why we're gathered here to cheer.

Let’s recap, shall we? We have State Farm, Allstate, and their industry front man, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale all singing from the same fictitious happy statistical song sheet.

Too bad I’m not a cartoonist. I could sketch out an editorial cartoon of three men on stage surrounding a single microphone. Two are cartoonish State Farm and Allstate figures dressed in suits made from cloth with their respective company logos as the design. The third member of the trio, of course, would be their front man, George Dale.

The tune? “The 99% Blues” sung in three part harmony and dedicated to Katrina’s plaintiffs. This would be a two frame cartoon. The first frame is a close up of the three singing, smiling, and winking at each other as if to say, “Yeah, buddy, we’re singing in perfect harmony . . . just like always!”

The second would capture the filled-to-capacity auditorium whose audience is up on their feet walking out on the trio’s performance. The trio is screaming, “Where is everybody going?!” Turning to each other, audience members are saying, “Who has that number to the Scruggs Katrina Group?” “I’m calling my attorney when I get home. These guys were handing us a line of you-know-what.”

So what do we do about an industry that is the only game in town to insure us? Two things come to mind.

First, Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) introduced a bill to expand the federal flood insurance program to include all natural perils. Since these private corporations don’t want to keep their word to us, we can change the rules of the game and end the industry’s gravy train. This is within our power. It is up to us to do our part in ending this legal thievery. Following the rules established under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Congressman Gene Taylor’s legislation requires that the program be financially self-sufficient. Good. It should be.

Today’s political hell raising activity will help us provide real all perils insurance for Americans.

We can call and email our congressional representatives to request that they co-sponsor H.R.920, which is called the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007. Raising a little political hell together, we can protect everyone’s families from being soaked by insurance companies.

The second thing that comes to mind is this. For our own purpose, we use the power of Bloody Mary’s happy talk advice. It’s good advice upon which the filmmakers of The Secret have expounded. I’m a big fan of both The Secret and the song "Happy Talk". The Secret is a DVD that introduces the concept of the Law of Attraction, the idea that what we think about with emotion we will attract and manifest into our lives. Bloody Mary conceptualizes this idea in her song. Talk happy, be happy.

State Farm and Allstate talk happy statistics in hopes to make their dream of scamming us come true.

We can talk in terms of quick and fair settlements. We can talk about a quick and just outcome of the racketeering lawsuit to punish insurance corporations that have harmed families and friends in the Katrina-ravaged region. We can talk about passing the Multiple Peril Insurance Act so that when a tornado rips through or an earthquake swallows or a hurricane demolishes or a flood drowns our home, we really will know that we are in good hands. We really will know that our insurance coverage will be there, just like a good neighbor.

For those who are unfamiliar with or for those who simply want to go down memory lane, below you will find South Pacific’s “Happy Talk” video on YouTube. Go on. Push the button. We all can stand to memorize this song. That way, when we a naysayer like the apologists for State Farm and Allstate start singing their fictitious statistical song, we just remember that these days, we’re singing to our own tune.

South Pacific's Happy Talk"

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Kingfish said...

Nice post.

Also, if you are going to buy a house and its in a flood zone or pretty close to it, buy the damn flood insurance.

You'd be amazed at how many times a closing is held up because the borrowers and realtors raise hell about being told they have to get flood insurance. They'll go out and pay for surveys, extra flood certificates etc just to avoid the coverage. Alot of times for this reason, a determination that flood insurance coverage is required is a kiss of death for a sale of a home. Its not that they don't want the home, its that they are usually cheapskates and don't want the coverage which is usually not that much.

I've also seen borrowers more than a few times raise hell because the lender required them to get coverage for replacement cost, not the pay off of the loan, like the borrower has 30K or 50K in their bank account to cover the difference if disaster strikes.

My point is, be a cheapskate on premiums if you must, but don't be a cheapskate on coverage itself. If you live below I-10, screw the floodmaps, you know you are at risk to eventually get hit by a hurricane. Get the coverage.

Ana Maria said...

The opposite is true many a times, however. I know of folks who had to fight to get coverage because they were told they didn't need it. I'm still conducting research and interviews and will soon be posting about this very topic. Sooooo, thanks for the teaser about upcoming goodies!

Thanks, too, for the compliment. ;)

Ana Maria