Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

When I found him this morning in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark at John Wayne Culpepper’s Lip-Smackin’ Bar-B-Que House and Used Lightbulb Emporium in Watson, Louisiana, Harley Purvis was in his usual mood, i.e. nasty.

The Greater Livingston Parish All-American Redneck Male Chauvinist Spittin’, Belchin’, and Cussin’ Society and Literary Club (LPAARMCSBCSLC) had scheduled an emergency meeting for 10 a.m. and only two of the six members (that would be Harley and me) had arrived. As president, Harley was not one to brook tardiness.

But there was something else on his mind today as I slid into the booth opposite him. I can always tell the degree of his consternation by the amount of coffee he’d consumed and the condition of the day’s newspaper. Today, I could tell he was on at least his fourth cup and the Baton Rouge Advocate looked as though a squirrel had chosen today’s edition for a nest.

You don’t rush Harley when something is weighing on his mind. He will speak when he’s ready, so I ordered a cup of John Wayne’s high-octane coffee brewed from yesterday’s leftover grounds that went down more like Number Two West Texas Crude. And I waited.

Finally he spoke.

“If you want to sum up the complete worthlessness of Congress, I can do it in two sentences,” he said.

“Based on my current income, if I retire at 65, I will qualify for about $3,500 per month in social security.”

That surprised me because I never knew Harley made that kind of income, let alone reported it to Uncle Sam. He went on.

“My wife, Wanda Bob, is a school teacher and a damn good-‘un but if I die before her, she will get maybe a couple hundred bucks a month in Social Security spousal benefits.”

“Wait, what?” I managed to stammer. Two sentences and I was floored.

“That’s right. Because Louisiana is one of 15 states in which have their own retirement systems and in which public employees do not participate in social security, there’s this thing called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) passed way back in the Carter administration.”

“Government Pension Offset?”

“Yeah. Stay with me. It was passed in 1977 and it’s called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). It was passed ostensibly to prevent double dipping but as usual, it was passed without any real consideration of the consequences and it turned out to be a penalty for public service like the teaching profession.”

“A penalty? How so?”

“Simple. If she’d worked in the private sector at something like banking or a CPA, she would be entitled to my full Social Security benefits if I died first. Hell, even if she didn’t work at all and was a stay-at-home mom and housewife, she’d still be entitled to my full benefits. But because she chose to work as a teacher, she will penalized if I die first. Does that seem fair to you?”

I had to admit it didn’t. I asked him why something hadn’t been done to correct this egregious injustice. I should have known better than to ask.

“Hell, I can give you 535 reasons right up front!” he exploded. “That’s the 435 House members and the 100 Senators. They don’t give a rat’s patooty about us. Never have, never will. It’s like everything else they do: they give lip service but never follow through. Every member of Congress, with the possible exception of Clay Higgins and Ted Cruz is fully aware of this but they continue to sit on their butts and do zero about it. And they wonder why they have such low approval ratings.

“They’ve had bills introduced for years to do away with the WEP and enough members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors because it looks great to the folks back home. The problem is, they won’t bring it up for a vote. That’s their way to come back home when they run for re-election and to tell the good voters that they tried to help them but couldn’t get other members to go along. That’s crap but it works and they can then concentrate on raising campaign funds and catering to the special interest. Meanwhile, we’re left holding the bag.”

“What can we do about it?” I naively asked.

“Not a damned thing! You think Garrett Graves or Mike Johnson or John Kennedy or Bill Cassidy has ever given a thought to this? Hell no, there’s no campaign contributions to go with it. And Clay Higgins is such a dumbass he wouldn’t know unless it was an NRA issue. He thinks GPO stands for Guns and Preemptive Ops and WEP stands for Weapons of Extreme Prejudice.”

“That’s pretty strong,” I said, taking a sip of my now-cold coffee.

“Well, I stand by it. There are 46,000 public school teachers in Louisiana and some 60,000 other state employees and the same rules apply each one whose spouse works in the private sector and pays into Social Security. I’d guess at least 75,000 or 80,000 are adversely impacted by this B.S.

“You tell me if you think it’s fair for me to pay into Social Security all my working life, die a few months after retirement and my widow get nothing? That’s money I paid into the system and because she chose to become a teacher and worked to enrich the minds of children by teaching them to think and reason, she’s entitled to nothing. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor’s wife who chose to stay home and not work is entitled to her husband’s benefits after he dies. Is that fair?”

I had to admit it wasn’t. And he was correct: he had summed up the complete worthlessness of Congress in two sentences.

I wanted to ask more questions but two more members of LPAARMCSBCSLC had arrived, giving us a quorum. Harvey, as president, pounded his gavel, bringing the meeting to order.

Read Full Post »

As a state and nation, we’ve lost our minds.

As weary as I get of writing one negative post after another (believe me, I’d love to write something really upbeat sometime), here I am once again wringing my hands and wondering how we ever arrived at this point in our history.

We have a president who’d rather tweet about how great he is than to actually act as a public servant.

We have a U.S. Senator (John Kennedy) who expressed a preference for weed killer over Obamacare.

We have a congressman (the Cajun Barney Fife, 3rd District Rep. Clay Higgins) who is $140,000 behind on his child support payments but who wants to kill all “radical Islamics,” even though he neglects to specify who—or what—defines “radical.”

And now we have a congressman (4th District Rep. Mike Johnson) who wants to throw teenagers in federal prison for a minimum of 15 years because he feels he is an instrument of God.

This is the same Mike Johnson, by the way, who, as a member of the Louisiana Legislature, tried to push through his “Marriage and Conscience Act.” That bill died in committee so Bobby Jindal promptly issued an executive order to enforce the act, which upheld discrimination against gays. Gov. John Bel Edwards rescinded that order last year.

Introduced by Johnson, the “Protection Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017,” would punish not only adults found guilty of sexting explicit photographs to minors, but also would subject minors found guilty of sexting to other minors to federal prison sentences of up to 15 years.

Johnson, like Higgins and Kennedy, is a Washington newcomer (all three took office in January of this year for the first time). In defending his bill, he says, “In Scripture, Romans 13 refers to the governing authorities as ‘God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.’ I, for one, believe we have a moral obligation as any just government, to defend the defenseless.”

If imprisoning teens for sexting is what he means by defending the defenseless, I shudder to think what his punishment might be, for example, for teens actually engaging in sex? And it’s not like that doesn’t occur.

So he wants to set himself as judge, jury and executioner. Well, I’m not at all comfortable with that. Who gave Mike Johnson franchise right on judging anyone’s moral code?

Okay, I know the answer to that because he’s already said so. He’s God’s servant.

Well, let’s go straight to the Good Book and review.

“But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22: 20-21)

Well, there you go, Mike. And yet…and yet…didn’t Jesus rescue a prostitute from being stoned to death? I’m confused, Mike.

“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” (Psalm 137:9)

I dunno, Mike. That seems a bit extreme to me. But, hey! It’s right there in the Bible.

“Master, Moses wrote unto us, ‘If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.’” (Mark 12:19)

Guys, you may want to talk that over with your wife first. Unless, of course, you also subscribe to this little ditty:

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” Timothy 2:11, also translated as: “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent.”

And, Mike, don’t expect your wife to defend you because she will be punished if she does. It says so, right here:

“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

By the “secrets”? Now, there’s a visual for you.

Here’s my favorite, Mike:

“For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, Or a man that is broken-footed, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.” (Leviticus 21:18-21) 

So what it’s saying here, Mike, is that heaven isn’t for people like Helen Keller, Ray Charles, Franklin Roosevelt or anyone who wears glasses or contacts.

Paraphrasing, Here a few more, offered without comment:

  • Don’t have a variety of crops on the same field. (Leviticus 19:19)
  • Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)
  • Don’t cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)
  • Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)
  • If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a result, he must be punished. But he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property (Exodus 21:20-21)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh (I Peter 2:18)
  • Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment(Exodus 21:7-11)

So, Mike, exactly what is your position on slavery these days?

The last thing this country needs now is for some little holier-than-thou despot to assert himself as the moral police over our teenagers—or over anyone else, for that matter.

Sexting is a disgusting practice I wouldn’t want my grandkids participating in. And to be sure, it is against the law—and should be. Adults who sext minors should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We can all agree on that. But you don’t toss a 15-year-old in federal prison for that. Like it or not, teens are going to do what teens do. Back when I was in school, They did their experimentations in the back seats of ’57 Chevys. At least they can’t get pregnant using an iPhone.

Only a sanctimonious jerk would seriously advocate federal prison for that.

Read Full Post »

I found my friend Harley Purvis in his usual spot at John Wayne Culpepper’s Lip-Smackin’ Bar-B-Que House and Used Lightbulb Emporium in Watson, Louisiana—in the booth in the back in the corner in the dark. Also as usual, his mood matched the lighting. Not much brightens Harley’s moods these days.

Without bothering to look up as I slid into the booth opposite him, he said, “Idiots. We’re overrun with idiots.” It reminded me of Strother Martin’s line in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when the outlaws fled to Bolivia to escort the payroll to the mines run by Martin. On the way down the mountain, Butch and Sundance were speculating where the banditos might be lying in ambush. “You idiots,” Martin scolded them, pointing out that they weren’t likely to be robbed going down the mountain when they had no money but on the trip back up when they would be transporting the payroll. “Imbeciles, I’m working with imbeciles,” he said as he spat a tobacco juice stream to the ground.

Without waiting for me to ask, Harley continued. “I remember when they first opened the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts up in Natchitoches. It was 1983 and it’s been the one shining star for Louisiana, something the state can be really proud of. Now they want to name it after a politician.”

The school, I already knew, was pushed hard by State Rep. Jimmy Long of Natchitoches, who passed away last August. I also knew that State Sen. Francis Thompson was pushing his SENATE BILL 1 which would rename the school as the Jimmy D. Long, Sr. Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts.

“That school has a great reputation and now they want to tack a politician’s name on it,” Harley grumped. “Is that gonna make the school better? I know Jimmy Long was the inspiration behind the creation of the school but there were others involved, too. There was State Sen. Don Kelly, Gov. Dave Treen and the Dean of the College of Education at Northwestern…what was his name?”

“Robert Alost,” I said. “His son Stan was a photographer for the Baton Rouge Advocate.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where they gonna put their names? Look what they did at Louisiana Tech, naming that Wyly Tower after Sam and Charles Wyly. Didn’t them boys get into a little trouble with the SEC and the IRS? Sam and the estate of his brother Charles owe the IRS something a little north of $3 billion, last I heard.

“Hell, why stop with that school? James Davison’s done a lot for Tech. Let’s rename it James Davison University. How about James A. Noe University in place of the University of Louisiana Monroe? Or Eddie Robinson University at Grambling?

“James Carville’s not even in the ball park wanting to erect a puny statute in honor of LSU’s first president. I say we just rename it the Gen. William T. Sherman University and get it over with.”

“What about McNeese, Nicholls State, ULL, Southeastern, UNO and Southern?” I asked.

He shot a withering look at me. “Dumbass, Nicholls and McNeese is already named after somebody. I ain’t give the others much thought yet, but I can come up with somebody appropriate if I tried. Next thing you know, somebody’s gonna have the bright idea to name Poverty Point the Francis Thompson Poverty Point State Park. An’ I bet Francis would like that. He’d probably lobby for it.”

Just as abruptly, he turned his wrath onto Congressman CLAY HIGGINS, who over the weekend, publicly advocated killing all “radicalized” Islamics. “This guy (Higgins) is a former reserve deputy city marshal and a former reserve deputy sheriff,” for God’s sake,” Harley said.

Shoving a folded newspaper at me, he pointed to the ARTICLE. I had already read the story in which Higgins advocated the killing of anyone even suspected of having links to terrorism. “The biggest problem with his plan, as I see it,” said Harley, “is that nowhere in this story does he spell out how such a suspect is to be determined. Looks to me like this former bastion of law and order is trying to set himself up to be accuser, judge and jury with no provision for due process. Does that sound like America to you?

“You know who he sounds like to me?

“Joe McCarthy,” he said, not waiting for me to reply. “He’s one of those clowns who, back in the 19th Century, would’ve sat up there in Washington and endorsed the wholesale slaughter of the American Indians. He would’ve been the first in line to put all Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. I have a friend who calls that kind of fool an ass clown. I ain’t sure what it means, but I like the sound of it.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have to do something about these terrorist attacks. I wish I was smart enough I had the answer, but I don’t. But neither does Higgins—not with his kind of mindless B.S.

“I wonder how he feels about the radical wingnuts at Westboro Baptist Church?”

Harley noted that Higgins had once served as public information officer for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. “He made all those stupid macho PR SPOTS for television,” he said. “Called himself ‘America’s toughest cop.’ One of ‘em even went viral and was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Hell, he was a PR flack who called himself the Cajun John Wayne. Cajun Barney Fife is more like it. It got so embarrassing for the sheriff’s office, he had to resign only to be sworn in the next month as a deputy city marshal in Lafayette. Now the damn fool’s a congressman.”

“The man was sued during his campaign by his ex-wife who said he was in arrears on his child support to the tune of about 140 grand. Know what he said in response to that? If he got elected, he could afford to pay. Now that he’s in, he still hasn’t paid and his lawyer says it’s because he’s ‘busy.’ He’s busy, all right. Busy making a damn fool of himself and a laughingstock of the state.”

Harley took a long drink of coffee and set his cup down in disgust.

“Idiots. We’re overrun with idiots.”

Read Full Post »

I have to be honest with you and let you know—finally—that the inspiration for many of my stories comes not from my own diligent research but from my best friend who only now, after more than six years of my writing LouisianaVoice, has begrudgingly consented to my publicly acknowledging his sage observational talents.

That acknowledgement is long overdue and I am happy to tell you about my good friend and mentor, Harley Purvis, the resident political guru of John Wayne Culpepper’s Lip-Smackin’ Bar-B-Que House and Used Lightbulb Emporium in Watson, Louisiana. (John Wayne proudly boasts that he has the largest selection of used light bulbs in the state.)

If Watson was incorporated, which it is not, Harley would most surely be the mayor—if, that is, he could be talked into offering himself as a candidate, which he most probably would not. In his own words, he much prefers shaking a few bushes and jerking a half-hitch in the egos of various political officer-holders. “I’d rather be outside the tent peeing in than inside peeing out,” he says in his usual matter-of-fact tone.

The highest office he ever aspired to was his current position as President of the Greater Livingston Parish All-American Redneck Male Chauvinist Spittin’, Belchin’, and Cussin’ Society and Literary Club (LPAARMCSBCSLC). He was elected president by acclamation since he was the only member to ever read a book—several, to be accurate.

Nobody runs for office in Livingston Parish without dropping by John Wayne’s to pay homage to Harley as he occupies the booth in the back in the corner in the dark, (a phrase he readily admits he stole from the late Flip Wilson). “I liked it when he said that and I especially like it since that’s where I sit at John Wayne’s,” he says as he takes another sip from his special dark roast coffee blend (Community Coffee, of course) found only at the Bar-B-Que House and Used Lightbulb Emporium.

Coffee is a tad gamier at John Wayne’s than at those hoity-toity places like Starbucks. That’s partly because John Wayne doesn’t throw out the previous day’s coffee grounds from Monday to Saturday night. He simply adds a half measure to the previous day’s grounds and runs the water (and any leftover coffee) through again for peak financial efficiency. You almost have to scrape the stuff out of your cup but Nobody’s complained yet. That’s probably because it will take your breath away.

John Wayne’s is a natural habitat for political groupies of all stripes and nobody disrespects anybody else’s political views at John Wayne’s. Hillary supporters and Trump backers rub shoulders without incident though, admittedly, Trump supporters far outnumber those who voted for Hillary here in Livingston Parish in general and at John Wayne’s in particular. Civility is a tradition that enhances the popularity of the place.

Crowds are a lot bigger on Saturday mornings because during the week, the gravel truck drivers are busy running up and down LA. 16 picking up loads of gravel at the pit north of Watson and hauling them to their destinations. They don’t have time to dawdle over raunchy coffee and day-old Krispy Kreme Do-nuts.

Except for Harley Purvis, that is. Harley’s there every single day, rain or shine, hot or cold, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. He’s retired with nothing but time on his hands. In his early seventies, he has hearing aids for both ears but doesn’t wear them because he’s married—coincidentally, the same reason he occupies his regular booth at John Wayne’s on a daily basis except for Sunday. That’s church and that’s the one thing his wife Wanda Bob insists on.

He watches both CNN and Fox News. He reads the Baton Rouge and New Orleans papers as well as the New York Times and Washington Post online. There’s a sadness in his eyes these days. He’s happy to download news from the Internet but Harley’s old school and he’s disgusted with the state of the newspaper industry. But mostly, he’s frustrated that newspapers couldn’t see the Internet threat to print journalism when it first appeared on the horizon several years ago. Or if they did, they didn’t adjust, which is why the Times-Picayune only prints three days a week in New Orleans now.

Today, he sat at his booth with a Baton Rouge Advocate lying on the table in front of him. As I slid into the booth opposite him, he shook his head as he looked at the headline in the paper. “Everybody talks about a do-nothing Congress, but this Louisiana Legislature sure gave ‘em a run for their money this year,” he said. “This is just about the sorriest bunch we ever had in Baton Rouge.”

“Why do you think that is?” I asked as I took out my notebook and pen.

“I call it the Jindal Syndrome hangover,” he said. “Before we got that little twerp in the governor’s office, the legislature occasionally screwed up and did something progressive. The Stelly Tax Plan was a good example of that. So, what was the first thing Jindal did? He gutted the state’s ethics laws and let a couple of his friends off the hook when they already had ‘em on ethics violations.

“That’s the way it’s been since 2008. We thought we’d made a little progress when John Bel got elected but nothing’s changed. The Republicans aren’t going to pass any of his programs. That might be okay if they had an alternative plan. But what’s their plan? They don’t have one and we just keep kicking that can down the road. They’re Grover Norquist’s lap dogs.”

Harley got up and walked to the coffee urn and refreshed his day-old coffee. Returning, he took a sip and said, “They filed almost a thousand bills at the beginning of this year’s session. Know how many the governor’s signed into law? About a dozen,” he said, answering his own question before I could say a word.

“They spent way too much time caught up over those Confederate statues in New Orleans. That’s a can of worms in itself. You removed the statues but it could be just a start. What’s next, changing the names of Jefferson Davis Parish? Leesville? Jackson Parish? Beauregard Parish? Jefferson Parish? I dunno, Maybe the Daughters of the Confederacy have a valid complaint over the names of Lincoln, Union and Grant parishes.”

While Harley will readily offer his critique of Louisiana politicians, he, as one of the few admitted 70-year-old liberal Bernie Sanders supporters in Livingston Parish, is no less willing to offer his view of Washington.

“Whether you like Trump or hate him,” he said, leaning over the table towards me as if preparing to share some deep dark secret, “the thing that I just can’t wrap my brain around is why the Republicans in Congress can’t grow a set and think for themselves instead of obediently serving as Trump apologists every time he says or does some incredibly stupid—and that’s every day. There’re just some things you can’t defend, but they do anyway.

“They’re putting so-called party unity far ahead of the country’s interests. There are people in this country who because of circumstances over which they have no control, cannot afford health care. Yet the Republicans blindly follow Trump’s lead in taking health care away from these people. If Obamacare is broken, fix it. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. You have people who are on Social Security disability who are legitimately disabled. You don’t pull the rug out from under these people.

“And you want to know who’s front and center in his blind loyalty to Trump? Our very own Sen. John Neely Kennedy. The guy is an embarrassment to the entire state. And you notice that when members of Congress were holding town hall meetings during the recess, you couldn’t find Kennedy with a sheriff’s posse.

“Those guys up there in Washington are bought and sold by the lobbyists. Look what Billy Tauzin did before he left Congress. He steered a bill through Congress that prohibited Medicaid and Medicare from negotiating the price of pharmaceuticals. That was a huge win for the pharmaceutical industry. Then he quit and became head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers (PhRMA).

“With all that special-interest influence in Washington, the only way to get a congressman’s attention is to drag a dollar bill on a string down the hall of the House or Senate. And it ain’t much different over at the State Capitol. The oil, banking, and business interests own the Legislature and the Koch brothers and Wall Street own Washington.”

I wanted to hear more but the regular monthly meeting of the LPAARMCSBCSLC was getting ready to convene in emergency session to consider the expulsion of a member who had gotten too big for his britches. As Secretary, I had to keep the minutes.

Read Full Post »

To get past those cute but misleading TV ads, and arrive at a better understanding of just how the insurance industry really works, you need to understand first, that insurance companies are in the business to make money for their stockholders.

That’s it. There is no second. The policyholder is never taken into consideration when there is a claim. The mindset for the insurance company, no matter what name or logo is on its letterhead, is driven by one overriding question: How can we get out of this obligation with the least cost to shareholders?

It matters not one whit whether it is life, property & casualty, auto, or health insurance. The company’s very purpose for existing is not to see that policyholders are made whole but how the payout on claims may be minimized so as to inflict the least monetary damage to the company’s bottom line.

Do you think that life insurance claim that was slow paying off was simply to investigate whether or not the beneficiary had a part in the insured’s death? While that may be a part of it, particularly in cases of suspicious circumstances (such as falling off a cliff during a hike in Bryce Canyon), there may well be other factors involved, such as delaying payment as long as possible in order to accrue as much return on the investment of premiums as possible.

You didn’t really think the companies just leave that money lying around waiting for the insured to die, did you? No, it’s invested heavily in all sorts of things in order to earn money for the company.  https://www.paxforpeace.nl/stay-informed/news/insurers-invest-nearly-7-billion-in-controversial-arms-trade

And it’s your money they do it with.

Did you ever wonder why your auto insurance company would suggest a particular body shop for repairs to your car after an accident? Why not the body shop of the dealer from whom the car was purchased? It could be—and often is—because the recommended body shop uses what is called “after-market” parts for repairs. That means the parts are generally inferior to those of the dealership’s original parts and can diminish the resale value of your vehicle. Did you ever notice that after repairs at some of those shops, the quarter panel replacement no longer fits flush with the original undamaged part of your car? Or you have air leaks (or worse, water leaks) around the replacement door that weren’t there before? That would be the likely result of after-market parts. http://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2015/02/12/anderson-cooper-360-piece-attacks-insurers-for-steering-parts-video/

You’re not happy, but your insurance company is ecstatic. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/05/08/insurers-auto-repair-tactics-only-part-of-problem-jindal-old-firm-mckinsey-co-coached-katrina-on-claims-delays-denials/

And who hasn’t experienced battles with health insurance companies that refused to cover a certain type of treatment because it’s considered “experimental.” Now, because of changes in the Office of Group Benefits instituted by the Jindal administration, state retirees who move out of state may find themselves no longer covered because their physicians are “out of network,” meaning they are non-participants in OGB’s coverage plan. Sorry, we don’t have any doctors in Arkansas or Mississippi who are part of the plan. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/25/louisianavoice-learns-of-jindal-plan-to-force-state-retirees-out-of-ogb-by-raising-members-premiums-cutting-benefits/

But by far, the most subtle method of claim manipulation is in the property & casualty field, namely your homeowners and flood insurance programs.

As we wrote in April, insurers will prepare repair estimates at two costs, depending on whether the damage to a home was caused by wind or flood. Repair estimates generally run much less on wind damage claims than for floods—even though the same material is used on each claim.

That is because the companies themselves are on the hook for any wind damage while flood damage, if covered at all, is the responsibility of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), claims for which are paid by the federal government, i.e. taxpayers.

But that’s not to say Allstate is averse to handling flood claims. Quite the contrary. Allstate, in fact, has had an arrangement with NFIP under which NFIP Allstate is paid for handling flood claims.

Accordingly, if Allstate found itself on the hook for wind damages, it would use a lower formula for paying claimants but if it determined the damages were caused by flooding, a second, more expensive separate formula would be employed.

In one example we found, damage was determined to be from wind and Allstate paid 83 cents per square foot for removal and replacement of drywall (sheetrock). In another claim from the same storm and in the same part of the state, it was determined to be flood damage and that same dry wall removal and replacement—paid for by American taxpayers—was $1.53 per square foot, a difference of 70 cents per square foot. Painting that drywall cost Allstate 35 cents per square foot for the wind-damage claim but cost NFIP (taxpayers) 58 cents per square foot for the flood damage claim.

That was not an anomaly. In comparing two 2011 claims from Tropical Storm Lee in southwest Louisiana, LouisianaVoice found that damage to one home was determined to be from wind. The cost of removing and replacing drywall (sheetrock) was estimated at $1.75 per square foot and painting of the drywall was estimated at 55 cents per square foot. That, of course was the cost to the insurance company, in this case, Colonial.

A second claim only a few miles away, also the result of Lee, was also for a home covered by Colonial. In this case, the damaged was determined to be the result of flooding, so the claim now belonged to NFIP. The estimate to remove and repair drywall for this home was $2.47 per square foot and the cost of painting that same drywall was estimated at 87 cents per square foot.

Assuming an area of 1000 square feet, you’re looking at a cost differential of $720 for removal and replacement of the drywall and a difference of $320 for painting, or an overall cost increase of $1,040 for repairs to a flood-damaged home compared to the wind-damaged structure.

By the time, other costs are factored in—costs for such things as replacing and painting molding, baseboards, doors and door frames, replacing electrical outlets and door hardware, removing and replacing windows and window trim, painting window frames, replacement of carpeting and/or wood flooring, the difference between a wind and a flood claim can be enormous.

And that doesn’t even include one other factor that goes into all estimates—overhead and profit (O&P) for the contractor. There has to be a profit for the contractor. That’s understandable; no one would expect him to repair your house for nothing.

But like the repairs themselves, the percentage of overhead and profit has a wide variance, depending on whether or not the damage is determined to be from wind or flooding.

LouisianaVoice has obtained three boxes of claims documents that not only reflect damning evidence of NFIP gouging on the costs of specific repairs, but in the allowance for contractor O&P, as well.

Built-in allowances for O&P for wind claims paid by the individual companies range around 20-29 percent. But for flood claims, paid by the American taxpayer through the NFIP, that O&P can range from 48 to 51 percent, according to documents in our possession.

For example, going back to 2005, O&P for one wind-damage claim was estimated at 28 percent for a Mississippi wind claim from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. But flood damage from the same hurricane resulted in contractor O&P of 51 percent. Both estimates were done by Allstate.

Wind damage from Hurricane Ida in Texas in 2009 resulted in a claim in which contractor O&P was 29 percent, according to Allstate damage estimates. But when damage from that same storm was determined to be from flooding, the contractor O&P shot up quickly, to 49 percent, Allstate documents show.

But Allstate and Colonial were not the only practitioners of such claim manipulation—not by a long shot. Here’s a story about how the game was played in the same manner by STATE FARM.

Project these tactics over a large, densely-populated area like that destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and at least one estimate of the increased cost from “padding” both specific damages and contractor overhead and profit has taxpayers in the two states being ripped off to the tune of approximately $10 billion.

And while strict insurance fraud laws are on the books that could result in a prison sentence if you so much as included a non-existent flat screen television on your claim, there apparently is no one minding the store to guard against raping the taxpayer-funded NFIP.

And as long as the insurance companies continue to pour money into the campaign coffers of members of Congress, state legislators and regulators, you can be sure there will never be.

Perfect.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »