Insurance and Politics
By: Lisa H. Harrington, CPCU, CAE, AAM, AAI, AIAM, AIP, Interim Executive
Tis the season. Everyone is talking about the upcoming election.
Insults are being hurled via every modality, families are fighting, and
millions of dollars are being spent in support of the candidates. Just a
typical day in DC.
But what does politics have to do with you? You’re not affected
by all that, are you? Well, of course you know you are. But how? And why
should a CSR or Insurance IT person be involved with politics?
At the IIABA ACT (Agents Council for Technology) meeting last
week, Bob Rusbuldt talked about the current state of the legislature when it
comes to insurance, but more of his conversation with us centered on the issues
affecting small business. At least 76% of our independent agencies around the
country fall in to the category of “small business” according to the definition
from the Small Business Administration and other sources. As the general
state of US small business goes, so does our agency business in many ways.
So, Mr. Rusbuldt, CEO of IIABA, spent some time discussing the
implications to small businesses in many areas of pending legislation, such as
whether or not small business will be paying more taxes next year (while larger
businesses will get a break, something not everyone hears from the media) if
the Bush era tax cuts “sunset” in January. You’d like to know if your agency
will spend more money on taxes, wouldn’t you? Because that reduces profits,
which certainly affects employees. Bob also talked about health care reform
issues, of course. He talked about the process, how much money we have in the
IIABA Political Action Committee funds, and how IIABA was trying hard to help
small businesses avoid the kinds of taxation and penalties that could be
crippling next year.
He also talked about the times when one stroke of a pen could
have wiped out an entire source of revenue for an agency. In one state a few
years ago, the politicians were going to cut all commissions for an entire line
of insurance, wiping out billions in revenue to agencies and putting thousands
of folks out of work. It didn’t happen, because someone was there to stop
it. Both US and state Congresses have that sort of power, and things like this
happen whether there are Democrats or Republicans in there. Someone has to be
watching out for us, and that is the job of the state associations connected to
IIABA, PIA, CIAB and others.
Our influence on laws that affect the insurance business depends
entirely upon cultivating a strong presence in the halls of Congress.
Talented, experienced lobbyists do their part on your
behalf. Still, senators and representatives who shape our laws listen
most closely to the voices of those who put them in office—their constituents,
the citizens of their state. That includes you, and anyone in your
office. The ability to speak with a unified voice via the various associations
is critical to keep our eyes out for legislation that can hurt our businesses.
We help watch out for each other this way.
So, my first admonition would be to get out there and vote. Take
advantage of the most important right you have as an American. And if you
can, go to a few meetings with your local representatives. Find out who you
have in there representing you. I was pleasantly surprised that one of my
representatives is a neighbor and serves in the local Home Owners Association
with me. It’s not hard to get an appointment and you’ll be amazed at what you
Maybe you’ll even decide to get in there and fight and run for
office. Either way, there is so much to gain by learning how the system works.
Just think: you can help protect your industry, and your livelihood!