First word: Extreme makeover for insurance

The cost of insurance is one of the most worrisome subjects in our industry, and indeed has been in the No. 1 worry listed by respondents to Equipment World’s past three reader profile studies. Making the books balance and beating a sales budget are hard enough without getting blindsided by a huge price increase on a service you cannot operate without. This is exactly the situation those of us in business of any kind are facing.

It’s easy to place blame on those giant insurance companies that apparently are holding us all hostage while they accumulate millions. Before you jump on that particular bandwagon, however, consider the cost of frivolous lawsuits in this country tops $200 billion dollars per year – that’s billion with a capital B. If insurance companies were unable to raise rates to compensate for the tremendous cost of settling those lawsuits, it would take a 2.5-percent tax increase for all taxpayers just to fend off these trial lawyers.

Please do not misunderstand me; I am not advocating that taxpayers cover this cost. It just always seems to make a stronger impact when we can relate this huge expense to our own finances or tax burden. After all, tax burdens were a prime reason some of our ancestors boarded ships a few hundred years ago to seek refuge in America. And still today the debate rages on – who should pay what, or more commonly – why should I take on the brunt of the burden?

This question has become high profile, getting plenty of press during the presidential race this past year, but it is much bigger than differences in political parties. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself on philosophically, the fact remains that the top 1 percent of workers in terms of income pay 34 percent of the total income tax paid to the federal government. Do you think any of those folks who are lucky enough to be among the top 1 percent of wage earners would not love to have a flat 10 percent tax program for everyone? While we live and work in the greatest country in the history of mankind, there is always some tweaking that needs to be done with our tax system.

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Since we have a second-term conservative president, perhaps we can all make enough noise to finally bring about tort reform and stop ridiculous lawsuits that directly affect the price of insurance and seem to serve only one small group.

Our tax system, and the political hot potato Social Security, could also stand an extreme makeover. President Bush should have a most interesting next couple of years: dodging barbs from liberals – who would never admit this president has done more to strengthen welfare than even Lyndon Johnson, whose presidency was defined by his work in that area. A lot more to do, and so little time…