Will this be true of the insurance industry's agenda for the new year? What does it generally--and the agent/broker segment particularly--need to get done?Will it, and can it? What are the issues that are going to test its resolve?
Last year at this time, the industry's agenda was unsettled as it had to figure out a way to come to grips with a remarkable shift in political power in the nation's capital. The business community generally, and a traditionally Republican insurance industry specifically, were reeling in the wake of an upset Democratic victory in the midterm elections that led to a seizure of both the House and Senate from Republican control, albeit by slim margins.
I asked back then: Will this seemingly momentous change mean a lot, or nothing at all? Will it be as short-lived as the Gingrich 'revolution' of 1994? We'll just have to wait and see. Well, we've waited, and we've seen. The Democrats in Congress have exhibited their usual disarray and an extraordinary political squeamishness in light of their new clout toward facing down the GOP and its positions. (Exhibit A, of course, is the war in Iraq). Still, the Democrats remain in power and, in the minds of many an analyst, are practically a shoo-in to extend their reach in the coming presidential election.
This year, the early indications are that business lobbyists are frantically pressing their agendas before the 2008 voting. A lead front-page story in the Dec. 2 edition of The New York Times stated "business lobbyists, nervously anticipating Democratic gains in next year's elections, are racing furiously to secure final approval for a wide range of health, safety, labor and economic rules, in the belief that they can get better deals from the Bush administration than from its successor."
"Corporate executives, trade associations and lobbying firms have begun to recalibrate their strategies," was how The Times quoted Craig L. Fuller, executive vice president of Apco Worldwide and a former Reagan White House staffer.
The Federal Register, The Times also reported, "typically grows fat with regulations churned out by any administration. But the push for such rules has become unusually intense because of the possibility that Democrats in 2009 may consolidate control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time in 14 years."
The report says, as a result, corporations and trade associations are recruiting Democratic lobbyists and are contributing heavily to the campaigns of Democratic candidates for the White House, the House and the Senate.
Presumably, the same is happening on the insurance side. It's apparently a foregone conclusion that Clinton or Obama will beat out Romney or Giuliani or a crowd of other Republicans to sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office for the ensuing four even eight years. What such an eventuality spells for the nation's insurers, agents and brokers, and consumers is still unclear.
THOMAS J. SLATTERY, a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for more than 40 years, is also the managing director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications, Baldwin, N.Y.
January 1, 2008
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