It has always stuck in my craw that the insurance industry has such a bad reputational standing with the general public, considering that its products and services have created perhaps the largest and most efficient social safety net in the history of civilization. More people have been helped by insurance — more businesses saved, more families maintained, more personal fortunes protected — than by any other mechanism that aims to do the same thing. Certainly, it has a better track record than government spending, and this is coming from a guy who is left of center and doesn’t mind the government throwing money at our social problems. That may be naive of me, but at least I recognize that the insurance industry does it a whole lot more efficiently than the government does, and the industry never gets enough credit for it.
As if that were not enough, the industry also has a long history of charitable giving, and since we are coming off of the holiday season, I would like to focus on that for just a moment. I am a big fan of the industry’s charitable giving record. I was, unfortunately, unable to attend the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s annual fundraising dinner in December, but the IICF is a fantastic organization that works to coordinate the insurance world’s humanitarian efforts in the hopes of creating a force for good that is greater than the sum of its parts. The IICF has appeared in my column before, and it will do so again, especially since it is working hard at creating as much of a footprint in the life and health insurance world as it has already done in the property and casualty insurance world. These are good people doing good things, and I encourage every insurance professional to see how they could help them out.
I mention all of this because, even though I was still on vacation last night — and traditionally do not follow the news when I have time off — I could not help but follow the last-minute fiscal cliff negotiations and Congressional votes. I never thought that we would really go over the cliff, but thanks to last-minute brinkmanship, Congress let things get dangerously close to the edge. Technically, we did go over the cliff, but the federal government finagled a way to backdate itself so that we didn’t. If only they were so flexible with the rest of us on April 15.
Keep in mind that the fiscal cliff was not something that surprised anybody; we all knew this was a problem waiting to be solved for at least a year, but our friends in Washington chose to ignore it until after the national election, giving themselves not quite two months to figure out the solution to a problem that even under excellent circumstances would have required a Herculean effort to fix. What we got was a solution crafted by a herd of cats that couldn’t agree on what shade of blue the sky is. Small wonder they went into 2013 to avert a disaster.
What Your Peers Are Reading
Amid all of the political reporting going on last night, it came up that a vote to set up some aid for areas hit by Hurricane Sandy (which darn near made landfall on my house in Oakhurst, NJ) was put off. So, while Congress fought amongst themselves over how to prevent a pretty serious self-inflicted wound, it also managed to drop the ball on something you’d think Congress would be front and center on — providing disaster relief to a historic storm that had already caused tens of millions of dollars of damage.