From cradle to grave, life seems less about finishing business than about unfinished business. At my age it does anyway. Then again, maybe it's not so much a time-of-life as a time-of-year issue. At this writing, from where I sit in the Northeast, the frost still weighs heavily on the pumpkin and the fallen leaves bend my thoughts at least toward a new year and, inevitably, new resolutions and, just as inevitably, toward sadly revisiting the old year's broken promises to myself.
It's no different for you, I'm sure. Remember last year's resolutions? Tell me, just how many of those tomes on last January's book list did you actually read?How many times did you work out at the gym beyond the first month of the year and, say again, how many pounds did you shed? Are the upstairs room and the garden fence still unpainted?
You probably mull over personal stuff like that on the way to work this time of year.
So once you get there, because you're already in the mood, you might as well take stock of the disappointments in your business life too. Lots of unfinished business this year. Here's my short list for 2006:
TRIA Extension. As we speak, the sun is quickly setting on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Beyond December 31, there will be no federal backup for the insurance industry in the event of a new terrorist assault on the United States.
The Treasury Department is confident that, though TRIA's expiration may cause minor disturbances, it will wreak no major consequences on the American economy. Its renewal, on the other hand, could stand in the way of private-market solutions, says Treasury. Others agree, like the Consumer Federation of America and the Congressional Budget Office. Most in the industry privately concede that there is enough capacity in the system to cover a replay of Sept. 11.
They are, however, understandably fearful of a nuclear incident, maybe even multiple and simultaneous nuclear attacks, which could be well beyond the industry's capacity to absorb.
It's unreasonable to expect the industry to do that. Insurance is a business after all. It has to draw the line somewhere.
Until someone comes up with a better idea, and that hasn't happened yet, the government, within limits, should continue to serve as the insurer of last resort for catastrophic terrorist incidents. Columbia University's School of Business, the Rand Corporation and the GAO agree. So do I. So should you. TRIA should be renewed.
Regulatory Reform. I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it. The federal optional charter is the way to go. It would lay to rest a century-old debate over the adequacy or inadequacy (I vote for the latter) of exclusive state oversight. The sooner the better, but don't expect this one to be over soon.
Those who simply argue that state regulation has served us well so why change it fly in the face of experience. It has not served too many in the industry well for too long.
It sets up an all-but-impenetrable barrier to entry for national and international companies and brokers, and it makes it all but impossible to get products in demand to the marketplace in a reasonable period of time.
The resolution of both of these truly momentous issues lies in the hands of the politicians and a divided and cacophonous industry. It's unlikely, I guess, they'll be resolved this year.
But we can always hope.
THOMAS J. SLATTERY,a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for 40 years, is currently managing director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications, of Baldwin, N.Y.
December 1, 2006
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