Frequent visitors to this site know they are burdened with a couple of my obsessions. One for “historic documents;” another for low-fat foods (have you tried Dannon’s new “Light ‘n Crunchy” frozen yogurt? the peanut butter crunch is fat-free and 440 calories for an entire pint); another — the subject of today’s comments — for auto insurance reform.
There’s this battle we waged in California, the history of which, if you care, I have chronicled at length in the October issue of WORTH Magazine (the one with Ralph Nader on the cover — the title, despite my professed admiration for much Mr. Nader has accomplished, being RALPH NADER IS A BIG FAT IDIOT).
Here’s the executive summary: more of California’s auto insurance premium dollars go to lawyers, when you’re hurt than to doctors, hospitals, rehabilitation specialists and, yes, even chiropractors combined. Fixing the auto insurance system would cut out the lawyers in most cases. The trial bar hates that. And in this Mr. Nader has always been their ally.
I won’t reprise the whole thing here, but the flavor of it might be caught from a recent press release sent out by our opposition (currently calling themselves the “Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights”).
It says that the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that provided most of our financing, people like Intel, “having grown extraordinarily wealthy from the patronage of computer-using consumers” — you — “now want to undermine the basic institutions of Democracy.”
First you get rich in software and chips; then you feel this overwhelming desire to undermine Democracy. How? Three ways: by fixing California’s auto insurance mess (Prop 200); by making unfounded securities class actions more difficult to bring, as Congress overwhelmingly did at the federal level last year (Prop 201); and by putting a sort of “usury” cap on lawyers’ contingent fees when there’s a quick settlement (Prop 202, based on a concept widely endorsed by both the left on the right).
The two-and-a-half-page single-spaced Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights press release is, in short, ridiculous. But the part I read with most interest, naturally, is the part that targets me.
I’m described as a “business consultant” (I’ve never done any business consulting) and “a friend of the big corporations and insurance companies who often swindle or abuse consumers and small investors” (to which I don’t even know where to begin to respond). But the specific charge I thought I should answer, because it could impact your vacation plans, reads: “In 1995, Tobias was squired around Hawaii by State Farm to support legislation similar to Prop 200.”
Squired around Hawaii.
Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll provide the same cushy deal to every one of you (and to the good people at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights). I will give you a Hawaii vacation and see that you are squired around just as I was. The only conditions are, first, that, like me, you pay your own way to get there, your own hotel and meals, your own airport cabs; second, that you wear a suit and tie the whole time; third, that you go in late June, when it’s good and hot; fourth, that you stay a maximum of 48 hours; and fifth, that you spend most of your time talking to people about auto insurance.
Pretty damn tempting, no?
In truth, I wasn’t exactly squired around Hawaii, a breath-taking seven-island chain. I was driven around downtown Honolulu by a P.R. guy in a sedan.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights press release would be laughable if it didn’t come from Ralph Nader’s camp. Aren’t they supposed to be the good guys?
Tomorrow: Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen
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