Kaine Lifts the Curtain

Your car insurance policy is 22 pages long.

Did you read every word? No.

Only lawyers do that.

So when you got rear-ended and you needed a tow, your insurance company told you to look on page 5 on your policy.

Did it say “Great news! You’re covered!” on page 5?

No.

It said, “blah blah – blah blah blah – blah blah.”

Liberty Mutual – Coverage Compass

People usually don’t like commercials. I don’t like commercials.

But I have usually kind of liked Liberty Mutual commercials. One series of ads had people committing spontaneous acts of kindness, which inspired casual bystanders to copy what they had witnessed. The ads showed a sort of multiplying effect, a chain reaction. Pretty soon, the whole world would lapse into a peaceful friendly state of friendly peaceful states and the peaceful friendly populations that populate them, except the ad ended before that last part could happen.

Time limits, you know.

From what I’ve read, they’re a pretty good company. But they seem to be going through a bit a low phase.

Maybe they changed agencies or writers or maybe their executives decided that kindness and good will wouldn’t sell. Rage and hatred will sell, if it isn’t too scary.

They probably never sat around a table with their ad agencies and actually pondered what sort of hatred they could promote. We’ll never know for sure, unless Donald Trump’s Russian intelligence agencies hack in and publish some emails. I can picture business executives wondering how to latch onto public hatred. What really enrages folks?

As political campaigns have shown, there is a lot of hatred that can be directed at traditional targets: immigrants, poor people, and minorities. Think back to the financial crisis eight years ago that cost millions of jobs, forced homeowners to live out of their automobiles, pushed death rates up from the financial strain. It became apparent to anyone who followed the money that huge financial firms and those who ran them had committed massive fraud.

But who got a disproportionate share of the blame? If you thought of traditional targets; immigrants, poor people, and minorities; you get to stay and clean the erasers.

Think about political campaigns going back to the beginning of time, from no-nothings to the Klan to Trumpsters. Who gets to be hated? Try immigrants, poor people, and minorities.

But here’s the problem. If an insurance company even thought about climbing on that sort of wagon, they’d get off very quickly. For one thing, it’s real wrong. I’m trying to imagine an insurance company finishing up a campaign based on everyone should be a nicer, kinder, and gentler, then launching a Mexicans-are-drug-dealers-and-rapists-and-some-I-assume-are-good-people campaign. I can’t think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Okay, maybe one person.

Plus, how could an insurance company do it? How can you sell insurance with that sort of argument? Show those horrible immigrants and poor people and minorities! Buy a policy from us!!

But Liberty Mutual did find a villain. They figured that, aside from the usual targets, there was a group pretty much everyone hates: insurance companies.

So this insurance company got an ad agency to figure out how to sell insurance based on hatred.

Of the insurance industry.

A lot of things that seem impossible at first don’t look hard at all, once someone does them. And this is one of those things.

If you have accidents, the insurance company raises your rates.
So come with us instead.

If the car you totaled is old, the insurance company will not buy you a new one.
So come with us instead.

Then you can name your car Brad and do a happy dance.
Just come with us.

A lot of it leaves me skeptical. As in you get what you pay for, if you exercise due diligence and shop around. You don’t have to buy the promise of a fantasy.

I’ve liked what Liberty Mutual has done before. They would be on my list of companies to check out if I ever decided to change. But it would be in spite of their current run of ads, not because of them.

Those of us who have had insurance for a while can get a sense of dollars and cents. Insurance companies have employees who wear eye-shades all day long and work the figures for a single purpose. They want to make more money. So they figure the odds and put those odds into tables.

Change your deductible, or work to develop a careful driving record, or exercise due diligence and shop around. Drive more carefully, have fewer accidents, and insurance companies will find it profitable to chase after you. Please do business with us.

The only wrinkle in all this is the occasional rip-off. It could happen in a lot of ways. Until recently, some insurance companies in some fields, particularly dealing with medical coverage, would find ways to cancel insurance policies rather than pay large claims. Even car insurance companies might try to chisel their way out of the occasional catastrophe.

It doesn’t just happen in insurance, of course. One tactic is occasionally used by those with deep pockets against little folk.

If you sue us, you will probably win. But we will make it so expensive for you to win, and we will delay paying any judgment for so long, we will make sure you lose even while you are winning.

As you may guess, I’m quoting from personal memory.

More common than the too-big-to-lose strategy is the baffle-them-with-fine-print tactic.

That is why Liberty Mutual’s blah blah – blah blah blah – blah blah commercial strikes a chord.

Did it say “Great news! You’re covered!” on page 5?

No.

It said, “blah blah – blah blah blah – blah blah.”

Which brings us to politics and the middle ground.

When Elizabeth Warren was Professor Warren, before she became Senator Warren, she envisioned and argued for and fought for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was an anti-blah-blah-blah agency, designed largely to give ordinary folks a weapon against corporate rip-offs.

Too big to fight? Not if you were legally right and the little band of experts got on your side. Fine-print? Nope – put it in plain English or give up the loopholes. Is your bank delaying your deposits just a little, just enough, then processing the bigger checks before the small ones in order to force up late fees? Not if Senator Warren’s agency can help it.

Establishing an agency to guard against corporate theft was one of those issues that left very little to compromise. What sort of halfway point is possible? Can you be in favor of corporations cheating some retired couple of ONLY half their retirement savings rather than all of it? Some efforts to measure a political position on an ideological scale become distortions before they begin.

We either think Donald Trump’s 2000 or 3000 or 5000 mile wall is an absurdity or we don’t. Would a moderate position be a wall half as tall or a third as long?

When professional Republicans noticed Donald Trump rising in the polls, the attacks against him were largely ideological. He was not a true conservative. Look at his score from the Conservative League!

Most of those who thought his scowling visage worthy of their votes did not care about his score on the conservative yardstick. He hates the same groups they hate, he fears what they fear, he screams out their anger.

When Hillary Clinton announced she was raising Kaine, as some have put it, I heard that Senator Tim Kaine was a moderate. Not nearly as progressive as, say, Elizabeth Warren. Or Bernie Sanders. Or as progressive as am I.

Whether I care will, I suppose, depend on the issue. If he wants to allow large corporations to semi-cheat the economically vulnerable, I will object. If he is for the Trump wall as long as it is only 4 feet high, but no higher, I will object. If he wants to hand over to Vladimir Putin just half the NATO countries that Donald Trump says he’ll award to Russia, I will object.

Like most Americans, my opinions are just now congealing.
Tim Kaine seems like a decent fellow.

He spoke with passion and strength at the Democratic Convention.

I don’t care about the numerical score.
That’s all blah-blah-blah stuff.
I’m looking into what’s actually behind the curtain.


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