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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Going Crazy: The Link Between Insurance, Housing, and Depression

A study on post-Katrina mental health that focused on families in FEMA trailers said that suicide attempts in FEMA trailer parks were 79 times the national average.

by Ana Maria

If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: The house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

— Gaston Bachelard, French philosopher, 1884-1962

Apparently here along the Missisisppi Gulf Coast we're experiencing 40% increase in mental problems than we were six months after Katrina. In plain language, we're more crazy than our relatives and friends in the Big Easy. That's what a Harvard professor stated in his testimony before the Senate committee that U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) chaired.

While I can't provide any psychological insights into the differentiation between here and there, I do wonder if the political perspectives between the two areas may be playing a factor.

New Orleans itself is a hard-core Democratic haven. Those of us with family roots in New Orleans--such as yours truly--are also die hard Democrats. Plenty of us here on the western part of the Gulf Coast replicate the political leanings of our New Orleans counterparts. However, the rest of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is definitely in the Republican camp. So let's try this on for size.

I remember listening to a woman not too long ago talking with pride of the fact that George Bush had actually come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. "We're his peeps," she beamed. "Of course, he wants to help us."

I didn't have it in me to attempt to persuade her to look at his actions with regard to his "help" rather than to merely listen to his rhetoric. Sooner or later, she and others will figure it out and, perhaps, with a devastating blow.

Indeed, the month after Bush's annual photo op and empty words about helping us to recover, his intentions made headlines in the region.

White House threatens to veto national wind insurance plan

The Sun Herald, the daily newspaper that covers the state's coastal counties, ran an editorial with this headline.

Presidential Veto Would Break Faith with South Mississippi

The headline speaks volumes about the emotional connection that people here feel toward this White House.

Reality, however, sometimes sinks in slowly. I have listened to local residents who are Republicans berate FEMA while praising Bush. I have heard other local Republicans go on at length about the Democrats in Congress while proudly proclaiming the virtues of the Republican leadership. Many a time these were folks talking while living in FEMA trailers.

I wonder the extent to which the 40% increase in depression, desperation, and other mental health issues is related not just to someone's party affiliation, but also to the amount of betrayal that they just cannot come to grips with regarding the stark difference between rhetoric and reality.

The White House has not used the resources at hand to demand the insurance companies pay up on the home owner's wind insurance claims. Rather, the White House greeted the multiple peril legislation that Congressman Gene Taylor sponsored and passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives with a veto threat. We can expect the same when the U.S. Senate passes it. Ditto for when both chambers pass the anti-trust legislation, which will bring the insurance industry under the same federal regulations as its everyone else in the financial services industry.

The insurance commissioner here in Mississippi followed the White House lead. George Dale's actions got him ousted in the Democratic primary. Gary Anderson is now the Democratic nominee and he is running on a platform that includes protecting the policy holder, creating real competition, and, of course, he supports Taylor's multiple peril legislation.

The insurance industry has its lap dog in Republican nominee Mike Chaney. [See Anderson's lap dog ad here. It's great!]

I've dubbed Chaney "Mini Me" because his views replicate those of George Dale. Hopefully, five days from today, it will be a new day here in Mississippi with the election of Gary Anderson as our insurance commissioner.

One of Anderson's promises is to put an office here on the Gulf Coast to help solve the remaining insurance claims. Anderson knows that the insurance industry's deliberate failure to live up to their financial obligations has kept people from rebuilding their homes. Solving the insurance crisis will help solve the housing crisis. And solving the housing crisis should dramatically decrease the depression, desperation, and isolation that many feel. Reducing the causes of the mental health issues will make for a happier, healthier community.

So, voting for Anderson is a sign of hope, of mental health, of promise for coming home.

When all this begins to come to fruition, my hope is that we'll experience the joy of going crazy because things are finally moving dramatically in the direction of our dreams. That's a crazy we're all looking forward to experience. That day can begin this Tuesday when we cast our ballots for Gary Anderson for Mississippi Insurance Commissioner.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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