Thursday, September 18, 2008


The Democratic leadership in their effort to prove to the business elite in this country that they can also be trusted to serve the elites' interests are now pushing a bill which would pre-empt state insurance related (health care insurance is exempted from the bill) consumer protection law if it conflicted with an international treaty. Here is the summary of the bill (from the Congressional Research Service):

Insurance Information Act of 2008 - Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to advise the President and Congress on domestic and international policy issues regarding all lines of insurance except health insurance.
Establishes within the Department of the Treasury the Office of Insurance Information, headed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary, to: (1) collect, analyze, and disseminate information and issue reports regarding all lines of insurance except health insurance; (2) establish federal policy on international insurance matters and ensure that state insurance laws are consistent with agreements between the United States and a foreign government or regulatory entity; and (3) advise the Secretary on major domestic and international insurance policy issues.
Extends the authority of the Office to all lines of insurance except health insurance.
Preempts inconsistent state law.
Requires the head of the Office to report to specified congressional committees on the financial state and meaningful trends of the insurance industry.
Establishes the Advisory Group to the Office of Insurance Information.

For those of you who do not know why many people object to the WTO and the so called "Free Trade" treaties. People object because many of the provisions of these treaties are designed to overturn local or state regulations that international corporations see as an impediment to trade, and the WTO has the authority to punish (levy fines, which are enforced by the US federal government) local and state entities that continue to enforce their regulations. These bothersome regulations include such things as zoning, environmental, consumer protection and labor laws.

Because of the massive resistance to NAFTA and similar trade agreements Democrats have publically stated they oppose "free trade" bills, although many of these so called opponents of free trade continue to support and vote "yes" to every free trade bill which comes up.

This bill HR 5840 introduced by Democrat Paul Kanjorski in April (with Brad Miller as a co-sponsor) of this year will allow similar attacks on insurance related consumer protection laws. This bill has not moved much, yesterday it was still in committee. However, with the current failure of one of our largest insurance companies the Democratic leadership in the House wants to bring this bill to the floor.

According to a letter to Congress from Public Citizen this bill has been placed on the suspension calendar. I am no expert on the intricacies of Congress but I understand this operates kind of like a consent agenda, it allows a bill to pass quietly with little or no publicity. The letter is worth reading, it give a much more in-depth description of the problems with the bill, but this excerpt from the letter summarizes the issues well.
Never before has the U.S. government allowed a federal agency to interpret or enter into international agreements on subject matter under the authority of the legislative branch, and then preempt states through rule-making on the basis that state policies are in contradiction to those agreements. HR 5840 would allow the Treasury to "coordinate federal efforts and establish federal policy
on international insurance matters" and then preempt state law via administrative action upon its own determination that the state law is "inconsistent with such policy.".

This is the same kind of bullshit we have grown to expect from the Bush Administration. The use of some emergency to quickly pass an unpopular law which will actually make the crisis worse. We simply cannot afford to let the Democrats think they can get away with this shit.

The meltdown of our financial system was brought about by the deregulation of the 80's and 90's followed by the rampant corruption of the 2000's. What is needed now is more regulation, not less. Self regulation did not work. It is time for the Federal Government to reign in the cowboy financiers and prosecute the crooks which have stolen our treasury. It is not the time to further deregulate any aspect of the financial industry, including the insurance companies.

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