Scapegoating seems to be turning into a national pastime, and perhaps no institution in government is more adept at it than the Congress of the United States.
A wonderful example of this is the debate over whether group life insurance should be covered by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Under TRIA, it is up to Treasury to determine, based on specified criteria in the statute, whether group life should qualify for the federal safety net.
Some months ago, the Treasury Department made its determination that under the statutory guidelines, group life should not be covered.
At a recent hearing on TRIA, Treasury representatives were blasted by some members of Congress who accused the department of placing buildings ahead of people” and other nasty things.
Left unexplained was why Congress is not guilty of the same offenses.
It is Congress that writes the laws of the land. It is Congress that decided not to affirmatively put group life in TRIA. It is Congress that approved the criteria used by Treasury to make its group life determination.
This is not to question whether group life should be covered by TRIA. In fact, I think it should be covered because it has the same characteristics as workers’ compensation.
My point is that Congress could have done so but chose not to. And rather than own up to their own decision, some members choose to pin the blame on Treasury.
This scapegoating, of course, is nothing new to the life insurance industry. The industry itself has been the target of it many times, most notably in the tax arena.
Usually, the scenario goes something like this:
Congress will approve an omnibus tax bill that is slapdashed together in the middle of the night in the rush toward adjournment. It will be a monstrously complicated document more than 1,000 pages long and riddled with loopholes and special interest exemptions.
If I told you that even 10% of the members had anything more than the vaguest idea of what they were putting into law, I’d be too charitable.