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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Democrats Shame, Skewer Insurance Shills

 Democrats Shame, Skewer Insurance Shills

by Ana Maria

Eloquent, down home as well as brutally truthful and direct in a classy manner, Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) shamed 6 witnesses who testified at the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee hearing on Housing and Community Opportunity. Each of these witnesses asserted that from the perspective of the insurance industry, the status quo was good enough. One after the other with painful repetition in this four hour subcommittee meeting that I watched online, each of these corporate shills reiterated the same talking points with a single goal in mind: protect the status quo.

I couldn’t have been more proud of Congressman Taylor’s performance if I myself had personally verbally skewered each of those shills. But I sure as hell would love the opportunity, and I guarantee you that I would not necessarily be nearly as nice or classy about the matter. Over and over again, these shills said the same industry-produced talking points.

  1. The Federal Government would loose money if it got into the business of covering all natural perils.

  2. The private market can take care of consumers.

  3. The Federal Flood Insurance Program should be allowed to do its job.
Of course, the whole lot of them operate in a fact-free bubble which attracts those with similar inclination.

For the majority of the country that comprise the rest of us, we live in a factually-based reality in which fairness and protecting families play an important role in our core values. We believe in fiscal sanity and financial security for our families, our businesses and our country. And that is clearly the primary goal that the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007 achieves.

Region-wide, private companies took premiums from families and businesses then deliberately instructed its agents not to pay on the wind policies. That’s called stealing. When the companies deliberately sent erroneous bills to the Federal Flood Insurance Program—bills for which they had engineering reports that specifically stated wind caused the damage, these companies defrauded the U.S. Treasury thus stealing from the American taxpayers through an inflated $23 billion bill.

ABC News was able to obtain a copy from State Farm files of the original FAEC [Forensic Analysis & Engineering Corp.] damage report, which included the image of an attached "Post-it" note that read, "Put in wind file - do not pay bill - do not discuss"

Image at ABC's The Blotter.

In so doing, the private insurance companies have betrayed American families and business owners. These are the values of the Bush White House. However, betrayal and theft are not mainstream American values.

The corporate shills who testified before this Congressional subcommittee had one message: keep the status quo. Basically, these corporate shills testified that insurance companies should be allowed to continue to steal from American families, businesses, and taxpayers. It’s good for their bottom lines, good for their businesses. The testimony that these shills provided merely protected the industry’s $108 billion in profits earned in 2005 and 2006. They had no concern for the very real impact that their corporate thievery had on Americans.

Does any compassionate and sane individual really believe that these obscene profits at the expense of fiscal obligations to those whom the companies promised financial security are not blood-drenched profits? These shills, these men and women who testified are compassionless corporate cronies. Yes, even the FEMA dude recited the same talking points which surely to goodness came from Bush’s buddies in the insurance industry.

Last week, former GOP Chair Marc Racicot, who now heads the American Insurance Association, sent to Congress and the media a fraudulent report with the same messages embedded in its reality-free rambling. Bush appointed Racicot to head the Republican Party in 2001. Racicot chaired the party while remaining an active lobbyist for Enron.

One after the other, in calm and deliberate fashion, Democratic Congressional members skewered those six panelists. Many of these subcommittee members drove home the reality that insurance companies cheated lower and middle income families out of their rightful claims on their homeowner wind policy provisions. These Democratic congressional members talked of families and business owners who had to hire attorneys and engineering firms to fight their insurance companies for claims that should have been paid within months after the hurricane had hit the area.

Today, many of these businesses are not up and running. Many of these families remain living in FEMA trailers or with other family and friends both inside and outside of the region. Is this the American Dream we want everyone to embrace? Cheat and be rewarded? As Taylor said, his constituents played by the rules and got screwed by the insurance companies.

The reality is that insurance companies betrayed their policyholders. The reality is that insurance companies are jacking up their premiums by god awful amounts or abandoning homeowners throughout the country from the Mid-West like Oklahoma or the West, East, and Gulf Coasts.

Look, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, 55% of us live within 50 miles of the nation’s coastline. These towns and cities are where we live, worship, educate our kids, visit with family and friends, and work. Other than the corrupt Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who would suggest that over half of the U.S. population ought to move inland?

The enormous impact from Hurricane Katrina should leave Mississippians wondering if they should live "in harm's way."

With insurance companies failing to protect the financial stability of our families and businesses—and insurance commissioners like Dale helping companies to rip us off blindly, we have turned to the federal government to protect us through expanding the government’s federal flood insurance policy to include wind damage. Indeed, some of the subcommittee members suggested that the new legislation should also include earthquakes and fire both of which are continual threats.

Of its own choosing, the market driven insurance industry has failed to protect us.

The era of insanity of profits over people and of financial greed over family financial security is coming to an end. We will beat the drum until we have enough votes in the House and Senate to pass this bill because we must protect America’s fiscal sanity, fiscal stability for our families and businesses.

If Bush vetoes the legislation, then we will again pass this legislation under an expanded Democratic majority after the 2008 election. Then the newly inaugurated Democratic President will sign this legislation, perhaps as part of a legislative package titled something along the lines of Protecting American Families Financial Security.

That is the point of the legislation. Protecting families, protecting businesses.

Additional resources

  1. H.R. 920

  2. FAQ regarding the Multiple Peril Insurance Act of 2007

  3. Rep. Gene Taylor Asks AIA to Retract Report

  4. Trent Lott's letter of support
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