Thursday, September 22, 2016

WHAT TO WATCH-THE SAINTS OR THE DEBATES?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

WHAT TO WATCH-THE SAINTS OR THE DEBATES?

Every now and then, we all face a “Sophie’s Choice” moment, where we have to pick what to accept and what to give up.  Folks down in the Bayou State soon will have to confront a real dilemma.  It’s a decision that will cause upheaval in many families all over Louisiana.  Politics or football?

You see, the first two presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take place on a Monday night.  And that’s in direct conflict with Monday Night football.  This poses a particularly difficult problem for die-hard New Orleans Saints fans all over Louisiana. At the exact time that the Saints take on their arch-rival Atlanta Falcons in the Superdome, Clinton and Trump will be butting heads on rival TV networks.  What’s a Saints fan to do?

Sure, the presidential debates are important, but we are talking here about what, in Trump’s words, is something “HUGE” for Saints diehards, of whom there are many all over Louisiana.  The streets of New Orleans and many other Bayou gathering points will be filled with fans dressed in black and gold.  Who Dat will reverberate in offices throughout game day.  How could they schedule a presidential debate at a time when the Saints are to be highlighted across America?

Some one third of Americans will opt for football. The numbers will no doubt be higher in Louisiana with the home team in the mix.  And viewers face some tough questions. Which event do you DVR? If you are betting on the game, you will go nuts if you don’t watch it live. Do you tailgate or cook up a gumbo for a debate? And here’s a good question. What goes better with wings: football or politics?

Some voters are wondering how someone could even be concerned about such a choice.  Isn’t deciding on the leader of the free world more important than a Saints game?  To fully understand, an outsider has to discover that down in the Bayou State, weddings, funerals, and even births are scheduled around the Who Dat Nation’s game day schedule.

So is there a compromise to keep from having to make a choice? Yes, and it’s a good one. Remember now that there is a great deal of just waiting around in the average football game. Sportsgrid and other athletic publications estimate that there are only eleven actual minutes of playing time in a three and a half hour football game.  The rest of the time is spent on replays, huddles, time outs, commercials and half time breaks. So with so much free time, some are suggesting we combine the game and the debates.

I like this idea.  The officials stand around for long periods of time reviewing instant replays.  Flash to Clinton and Trump on the sidelines for their views on healthcare.  Timeouts allow for the candidates to give us a one-minute response and free trade.  At half time, Trump and Clinton could talk briefly about the economy, then critique the first two quarters of the game.

Am I being irreverent here about the importance of the coming election?  Actually I’m probably right on the money considering the degradation of how both candidates have been running their campaigns. TV ratings would be HUGE, and it would be a win-win for all viewers.  So don’t belittle me for the suggestion.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote this week: “Don’t act above it all.  Don’t act like you wouldn’t watch. Politicians come and go, but football is football.”

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

THE DEMISE OF ENTERTAINING POLITICS IN LOUISIANA!



Baton Rouge, Louisiana


THE DEMISE OF ENTERTAINING POLITICS IN LOUISIANA!

I have a sad announcement to make.  Politics is just no fun anymore in Louisiana.

Reams of books have been written about the colorful characters that ran the Bayou state throughout its history.  And the average citizen got involved, attended rallies and actively supported their candidate of choice.  Few states could match the intensity and enthusiasm that was a part of Louisiana campaigning. The state’s two favorite pastimes were LSU football and Politics.

The two Longs who served as governor wanted to stay involved right up to the time of their deaths.  Huey Long was shot and died September 10, 1935, eleven days after his 42nd birthday. His last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.”  Younger brother Earl Long was famously quoted as saying:  “Oh Lord, when I die, let me be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”

Retail politics used to be a basic part of any campaign.  No statewide candidate would fail to attend the Rice Festival in Crowley, the Watermelon Festival in Farmerville or the Strawberry Festival in Hammond.  There were thousands of hands to shake and voters galore who loved to be part of the campaign season.  I experienced the buzz and thrill of campaigning during my 28 years in public life.  Politics was just a lot of fun.

Most of my colleagues who served during my tenure going back to the 1970s ran for public office to serve and try to improve the quality of life for the voters they represented.  There was little thought of financial gain.  When I was first elected to the Louisiana State Senate back in the 1970s, I was paid $600 a month, with no office, staff or any other financial help. I represented a large part of Northeast Louisiana.  My phone bill in my district averaged $900 a month.  A campaign contribution of $100 was a big deal.

Today a political campaign is all about who can raise the most money.  TV drives the debate.  Political rallies are few, and you would be hard pressed to see a candidate for statewide office throwing candy and riding in a local parade.  If a candidate is leading in the polls, he or she often chooses not to even show up for debates.  So the public loses interest, voter participation is down, and voter distrust is on the rise.

Political parties in Louisiana are becoming more and more obsolete.  It has become obvious that any allegiance to a particular party is over.  Democrats make up 44.9% of registered voters, but a significant number rarely vote their party affiliation.  The fastest growing numbers of registered voters are independents that list themselves with no party affiliation. 

An interesting side note is that the last time a president was elected who was not either a Republican or a Democrat was Louisiana native Zachary Taylor, who won on the wig ticket back in 1848.

One of the problems in Louisiana and across the country is that extremists in both parties are dominating the political agenda.  Or as veteran Republican consultant Mac Stipanovich puts it, “Somehow you’ve got to destroy the myth that you don’t win if you’re not crazy enough.”  

And working across the aisles with a legislator from the opposing party is a thing of the past in a number of states including Louisiana.  A few years back, legislators would fight hard for their political beliefs during the day, but then spend time socializing and working towards some type of compromise when the working day was done.  No longer.  Today, if a lawmaker from the opposing party disagrees or has a contrary opinion, then he or she is dead wrong and often is considered a political enemy.

There’s a U.S. Senate race in Louisiana that few seem to care about, and both major candidates for president have high unfavorable ratings in the Bayou State.  The campaigns are just, well dull.  Don’t you miss the rhetoric and musings of Huey, Earl, Jimmy Davis, and even ole’ EWE?  Sad to say, the thrill is gone.  Let’s hope we can at least cheer on a winning Fighting Tiger team this year.

*******

“The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it except they keep coming back”
Will Rogers.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.










Thursday, September 01, 2016

PROPERTY INSURANCE RATES GOING UP?


September 1st, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

PROPERTY INSURANCE RATES GOING UP?

A local news reporter where I live posed the question this week as to whether insurance rates for property owners will begin to rise, following the recent South Louisiana flooding.  My answer was simple.  Of course they will go up.  In fact, the cost of insurance would have continued to go up even without the recent flood.  You see, that’s what happens in Louisiana.  Rain or no rain, flooding or no flooding, hurricanes or no hurricanes, the cost of insurance in the Bayou State continues to rise.

Remember now, there has been no major hurricanes out in the Gulf in almost a decade, and weather related insurances claims have been minimal.  In this most recent flooding, a large majority of the homes that were inundated with water damage had no flood insurance.  Insurance companies had very little exposure since homeowners’ polices do not include flood insurance. 

But despite minimal losses, the drumbeats for higher insurance rates have begun.  The Louisiana insurance department, that is supposed to be the watchdog for the consumer, is already talking about higher rates outside the flooded area far east as Slidell where no flooding took place. It would seem that both insurance companies and insurance regulators both subscribe to the old axiom, “You never let a good crisis go to waste.”

In recent years, Louisiana has never felt a compelling obligation to go to bat for insurance policy holders.  In most states, insurance companies are subject to a pre-approval process wherein the insurance department determines if the increase is warranted, so that the property owner can be assured that any increase is both fair and necessary.  But Louisiana is different. In the Bayou State, insurance companies are not required to get rate increases pre-approved.  So the answer to the question of how come big insurance companies can stick it to homeowners, whether or not such an increase is justified, is simply this — they do it because they can.

And some insurance companies don’t wait long following a disaster to push for rate increases.  Back in 1992 during my first term as insurance commissioner, Hurricane Andrew hit the Gulf Coast killing 17 people.  Louisiana’s largest insurance company at the time was the American International Group (AIG). Within 24 hours, the senor vice president sent out a memo to key company executives that read:  “Begin by calling your underwriters together and explaining the significance of the hurricane," he wrote in the two-paragraph memo. "This is an opportunity to get price increases now. We must be the first, and it begins by establishing the psychology with our own people. Please get it moving today."

There is little discussion about any long-range insurance rate help by legislators and other public officials.  One responsible voice in the regulatory wilderness is Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has proposed a statewide flood insurance program to be a buffer beyond the current federal program. It’s a good idea for discussion where a small portion of each property insurance policy sold in Louisiana would go into a state fund to be used when there is major flooding in the state.

Kennedy, a candidate for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat, is under political attack by several of his opponents for offering what they consider to be an unworkable and expensive solution to a major Louisiana problem.  But it just shows how naive these critics are when it comes to insurance issues.  Kennedy has made a good proposal that ought to be explored.

Unfortunately for Louisiana property owners, creative solutions to contain costs and give better insurance coverage has not been a priority by public officials in Baton Rouge.  The response seems to be to find a quick fix now, and let the Feds figure out what to do in the future.  But Louisiana is only going to be able to go to the federal trough so often.  Responsible state officials need to confect a much better insurance response.

*******
“It’s not hurricanes that are causing high insurance rates, but bad public policy.”
Policy Analyst Michelle Minton

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.






Thursday, August 25, 2016

NONSTOP TRAGEDIES IN LOUISIANA!


Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

NONSTOP TRAGEDIES IN LOUISIANA!

An old out-of-state friend called to touch base, and asked, “how are y’all doing down there?” I told him we were hanging in there, in spite of what seems to be one confrontation and tragedy after another. Of course you have to be optimistic about the future, but there have been some trying times in recent months, and a long way to go towards recovery in many parts of Louisiana.
I told my friend we are still recovering from racial strife after a number of killings, including three police officers just a few blocks from where I live.  A community dialogue began, which was a positive sign, with numerous community and political leaders joining in. And then it started to rain.

Now, it rains a lot this time of year in South Louisiana.  Afternoon showers are part of our late summer’s DNA. But it didn’t stop. The water poured down around the clock for 10 straight days. Canals and tributaries quickly filled in and backed up, overflowing their banks. Homeowners who had never experienced flood water in their lifetimes made a run for safety wading or boating out of their subdivisions.

And Mother Nature just doesn’t want to quit.  A potential hurricane is heading toward the Gulf right now with storm season hovering around Louisiana for weeks to come.  The state just cannot seem to get a break.  And there are so many unanswered questions concerning how homeowners can get back on their feet.

Flooding problems have become a statewide issue and a challenge for a statewide response by the Governor and other political leaders.  North Louisiana has experienced recent widespread flooding, damaging thousands of homes and flooding the interstate south of Shreveport.  The recent downpours of rain spanned an overflow of water from the Texas line to a wide expanse north and south of I-10 to the Mississippi border.

So now the hard work of recovery begins.  How much will FEMA initially pay to flood victims who have suffered major damage to their homes?  And what about the thousands of homes without flood insurance?  Will Congress give them a break even though three members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, voted against any flood relief for Hurricane Sandy victims back in 2012?

FEMA and the Federal Flood insurance program drew up the current flood zone maps, but they have not been updated in years. Should a homeowner who lives outside a flood zone in an area that has never flooded expect FEMA to shoulder some of the blame for not anticipating the deluge that took place?  Neither the state nor banking and mortgage companies have required flood insurance outside flood zones. So why should a homeowner have to carry the entire financial burden for rebuilding?

And what about lenders who refuse to turn over flood insurance checks to homeowners?  Some banks and other mortgage lenders will no doubt take the position that the home may flood again, and they want their mortgage paid off.  What recourse does a homeowner have?

The best initial suggestion is for the Governor to appoint a Louisiana Flood Recovery Commission to deal with a number of such flood related problems. An organized lobbying effort in Washington, led by the Governor, is necessary.  Maybe visits and apologies to congressional members form both New York and New Jersey would be in order, to put aside any bitterness from Hurricane Sandy.  Should the state borrow money for recovery efforts?  Can it afford to because of Louisiana’s dire state government financial condition?

Louisiana has proven to be resilient in the past.  But even an irrepressible populace can take just so much. And that’s when strong and creative leadership is needed. It would be an understatement to say that it’s crunch time in the Bayou State.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

*******

“A flood is cruel. Everything you had is ruined and you can see every picture of your family and children smeared and ruined. Everything you had is still there, but it’s useless ― every bit of it. It’s cruel. I think I would have rather been wiped out by a fire.”
Flood victim Joe Fulton

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.