Yesterday, I had the enjoyable challenge (well, enjoyable to a journalist, anyway), of publishing our post-election coverage on the same day we were scheduled to go to print, which made for a very, very tight day. It helped a little that the elections turned out largely how I imagined they would: the GOP retook the House by a noteworthy margin, made gains in the Senate but not enough to take it, and made plenty of gains on the gubernatorial front. All in all, a good night for the GOP. Perhaps not as good as the Republican leadership would have liked (I’m sure they would have preferred to have retaken all of Congress), but still, a good night.
On a personal level, I’m alright with these results. I don’t belong to any political party, but I tend to vote Democrat, and on a lot of issues, I’m fairly left. (Except when it comes to matters of defense, in which case, I tend to be fairly hawkish.) So one might imagine a guy like me to be grinding some teeth over the Republicans’ victories. But to be honest, while I was glad to see the passage of both healthcare reform and financial services reform – two things that could only have been done with an overwhelming Democratic majority – I am relieved to see a bit more balance restored to the system. Indeed, big things can only get done in Washington when one group holds all the cards (or when there is a truly extraordinary period of cooperation going on). But in politics, you can definitely have too much of a good thing, and frankly, it would have made me nervous had the Democrats held on to their supermajority for much longer.
The truth is, passing healthcare and financial reform was the easy part. We still have to figure out their implementation, which is where the rubber will meet the road in terms of how all of these new laws will affect our daily lives. We only really know half of what these reforms are all about, and to have a period of forced bi-partisanship of any kind can only be a good thing as these laws are made into reality.
In the meantime, Tuesday’s elections have brought forth a huge amount of potential turmoil for the life & health industry. Long story short, we can expect a battle over defunding and delaying healthcare reform, and even an outright effort to repeal it, though more than a few political experts think that repealing really stands little chance of happening. Every day spent fighting that battle is a day less that we can devote to figuring out implementation, so I hope the de-funders and repealers make their efforts quickly and cleanly, because there will still be a hell of a lot of work to do, regardless of whether their own efforts to rewrite or derail reform turn out.
There will be more federal oversight of the industry. That is a fact. And with lots of turnover among state regulators, I must wonder about the very nature of state-based regulation itself. Have we seen the first steps toward an inevitable erosion of state-based insurance legislation? After all, the NAIC’s power is finite, and it is only a trade association, not a formal governmental group. There is an inherent weakness built into that kind of power structure, regardless of how much lobbying money the NAIC has at its disposal (a lot).
On the gubernatorial front, we’re seeing a lot more red states than blue, though one of the holdout blue states is New York, where Andrew Cuomo beat Carl Paladino. This amounts to a local election for me, and while I am glad that Cumo won (Paladino struck me as unsuitable for the office), I cannot forget how quickly Cuomo sought to villainze the life insurance industry over retained asset accounts. That rashness and opportunism speaks ill of any kind of politician, but especially one willing to beat up on an important industry just to create a political stepping stone for onself.
It will be an interesting two years, and an even more interesting four years after that, depending on who wins in 2012. I would like to think that there will be some hard-fought compromise made in Washington in that time. Both sides have deep passion for their positions, and that’s fine, so long as it gives them a worthy middle ground to pull towards. In the short run, though, get ready for some really interesting discourse on the floors of the House and Senate. There is much spleen-venting to be had, as is to be expected whenever you have an overturn like this. Should make for interesting viewing.
Oh…one more thing. I stirred a lot of conversation with my Godwin’s Law post a while back. To that point, I have noted that as bad as our discourse is now, it’s got nothing on how our leaders used to revile each other back in the early days of our Republic. Have fun with this attack ad for the 1800 election, straight from YouTube. This is fun stuff. These guys really knew how to construct a put-down.
The Gamut publishes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as on the front page of each print issue of National Underwriter Life & Health.