Following the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. TRIA, which provides a backstop for the government and the economy in the event that national security fails and terrorism risk materializes, has faced criticism despite these positive functions. Some think of TRIA as corporate welfare while others see government involvement in the insurance industry as inappropriate and unwelcome. As TRIA’s 2014 sunset date approaches, lawmakers must put these criticisms aside and recall what is different about this piece of legislation. It works.
The scope of TRIA is vast and it extends beyond skyscrapers in major cities. Hospitals, universities, schools, theme parks, stadiums and museums all benefit from the partnership between the federal government and the insurance industry. TRIA makes property and casualty insurance available for the risk of terrorism and also creates an environment where the losses are shared when they exceed the $100 million trigger. The private sector is therefore able to create some capacity for the risk of terror allowing for better and faster recovery if the risk materializes.
Leigh Ann Pusey, President and CEO of the American Insurance Association, agrees that TRIA should be extended past 2014. She explained at a National Journal conference in November that in this case terrorism insurance is not about the insurer. It is about the economy. She also explains that basic terrorism risk knowledge is in the government, not the private sector. For this reason there is a necessary marriage between the insurance industry and the government.
Terrorism insurance is often thrown into the same stew as other insurance policies that protect policy holders in the event of concentrated losses. But unlike some insurance policies that are priced according to modeled risk, there is no science from which insurers can model terrorism risk. A flood can be predicted and prepared for but not prevented; terrorism can only be prepared for. (This assumes that if terrorism is predicted it is thusly prevented.) TRIA is crucial to this preparation.
Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) supports extending TRIA saying, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” He explains that the patterns of unknown terrorists are unpredictable because most of their activity occurs underground. Grimm believes that terrorism has evolved but he also thinks that the United States has been admittedly lucky that terrorism has not, at least to our immediate knowledge, become any worse or graver.
This is not a situation where there old adage ‘what we don’t know can’t hurt us,’ applies.
Acts of terror are not meant to simply affect the American economy and cause wide-spread death; the intent of terror is to disrupt the American way of life. Terrorism targets our government by seeking to impose insurmountable change on the institutions of democracy, law and order. Those who think TRIA is corporate welfare or an unnecessary government overreach seem to have forgotten this. Terrorism does not target individual insurance companies. TRIA’s innate partnership between insurance companies and the government enables us to better guarantee that the intent of terrorism never fully manifests.
TRIA allows the government to work effectively with the insurance industry and the private sector to protect national security. Without TRIA our economy is at a greater risk in the event of terrorism but more importantly, so is our way of life. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act works.
Daisy Letendre is an intern in Washington, DC, and a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut.
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Congress on the Shutdown: “What, Us Learn?”
On October 4th, Rasmussen Reports released poll results of 1,000 likely voters. Participants were asked to rate congressional performance. With almost seventy (70%) percent disapproving, it’s safe to say that the American public is unhappy with their lawmakers.
Further, seventy-four percent (74%) of those polled indicated that they believe congressional leaders value the opinions of party leaders in Congress more than those of the constituents they represent. (See the full poll results here.) Congress’ 11% job approval rating hovers just one point above the worst rating in Gallup’s 75 year history. In fact, the last time congressional job approval averaged higher than 20% was December 9th of 2012.
Congressional approval has been on the decline for months but the October government shutdown gave Americans the opportunity to stop blaming Congress as a whole and start blaming Republicans. While I blame both parties equally for Congress’ poor ratings, the Republicans should have known better. In 1995, House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, were eager to confront President Clinton using the shutdown as a tool in budget debates. Once the government closed, however, the House GOP was heavily criticized and lost their leverage.
Following his reelection, President Clinton spoke to Congress: “On behalf of all the [Americans] who are out there working every day doing a good job for the American people, I challenge all of you in this Chamber: Never, ever shut the federal government down again.” This warning from Clinton, which came in the form of his 1996 State of the Union Address, has obviously been ignored by Republicans in the 113th Congress.
Recently, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker reflected on the 1995 shutdown and the lessons the Republicans should have learned from 18 years prior. The three lessons he emphasizes are: “don’t lose control of your message”, “don’t get hung up on numbers” and most importantly, “accept the winning headline.” In both 1995 and 2013 Republicans chose to close the government because the alternative, keeping it open, meant an outcome they didn’t like. In 1995 the outcome was Clinton’s budget and in 2013 it was Obamacare.
Of the 113th Congress, 52 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the House were also in Congress in 1995; similarly, in today’s Senate, 11 Democrats and seven Republicans were also onhand during the ’95 shutdown. Taken together, these Members make up nearly one-fifth of the current Congress that has taken a class in Shutdown 101 before. Why, then, does it seem like only the Democrats have learned that when the government shuts down, the Republicans get the blame?
Daisy Letendre is an intern in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Trinity College.
How to Keep National Parks Open? Privatize!
The government shut down affects all Americans. This past Tuesday, however, veterans took the shutdown personally. A group of World War II veterans arrived in D.C. on Tuesday as part of a trip sponsored by the Honor Flight Network and found that their destination, the memorial erected in their honor, was closed. The World War II Memorial was ordered shut at 12:01AM EST on Tuesday as were all of the nation’s national parks. Carol Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, explained that this was not a decision made by the National Park Service but rather an act in compliance with the terms of the shutdown.
News coverage of this event is varying. Some express gratitude towards Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) for moving barricades to allow WWII veterans into the memorial. Others use the event to propose false vendettas held by politicians towards retired military personnel. Both of these accounts, however, neglect the important lessons that can be learned and applied in the future.
Representative Steve King (R-IA) was quoted saying that closing the WWII memorial is the “most spiteful act ever committed by a commander in chief.” What is puzzling about this declaration, feelings about Obama aside, is that the President himself did not decide to close the government, let alone the memorial. If anyone is “to blame” it is King and his colleagues in Congress who, in their unwillingness to compromise on the budget (a Constitutional duty of Congress,) have shut the government down. But pointing fingers is inefficient and ineffective so how then do we assure veterans and the general public are free to visit the sites they desire to visit even if government is closed? Two words: we privatize.
The privatization of the National Park Service would serve more than one purpose. It would allow important pieces of America to be seen in all circumstances of government activity and it would allow those who work for the National Park Service to receive regular and reliable paychecks, again, whether the government is open or otherwise. In this situation it is easy to feel empathy for our nation’s heroes who were unable to freely visit the memorial built in their honor. Yet we must not forget others who have also been wronged: those who work to keep pieces of American history clean and safe and in this government shutdown are not receiving pay and are uncertain when they will again.
Ideally, the government would do its job and this discourse would be unnecessary. But while we have the opportunity let us consider the potential benefits of privatizing certain programs and services. At the very least there may be greater certainty in a nation determined increasingly by the uncertain fervors of self-serving politicians. After all, they get paid no matter what.
Daisy Letendre is an intern in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Trinity College.
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