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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

3-31-2022 - Florida Homeowners' Insurance, Virginia Thomas and James Madison




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The Florida Homeowners' Insurance Disaster

Homeowners insurance is an unmitigated disaster in Florida.  And that is proper usage of the word ‘unmitigated.’  Nothing is being done to deal with it.  The imbecilic legislature in Tallahassee, aware of the problem, did nothing about it during their last session and spent their time bashing gays and catering to book burners.  

Homeowners who have been used to paying about $3,000 annually for a policy are now being renewed at double that price if they are not being dropped entirely by their insurer. (Replacing coverage with another company is near impossible if a home’s roof is more than fifteen years old.  More about that follows.  It is the crux of the problem.)  An interesting article about this problem may be found by checking out a story originating with a Naples TV stationhttps://www.winknews.com/2022/02/17/floridians-running-out-of-options-for-home-insurance/   Also, You can click here to read it.

But here is my personal take on the situation.  Homeowners insurance is intended to protect homeowners against losses which involve very few of them, such as fires, burglaries and bursting pipes. At a low cost, the homeowner purchases peace of mind against events highly unlikely to, but nevertheless possibly, happening to them. 

In Floriduh, however, such events are not so rare.  Damage caused by windstorms, a polite way of referring to hurricanes and such climatological events is not uncommon.  A system to cover them at a reasonable price has been developed.  For such claims, homeowners’ insurance has higher deductibles and it limits coverage.  Most homeowners accept the fact that for such events, which have a greater possibility of occurring than a fire, for example, they must prepare to share in the cost of replacing whatever is damaged. 

Most likely though, most homeowners will not have claims for the events I’ve mentioned above. They’re akin to the likelihood of your automobile being ‘totalled’ in an accident. Possible, but unlikely during your ownership of a vehicle.

These events, for which insurance protection is purchased, are uncertain ones.  They may never occur.  Contrast this with life insurance, which is priced to cover an event certain to occur, death.  If an anticipated loss is certain to occur, homeowners’ insurance as we know it now, is incapable of covering it without enormous price increases . Roof replacement is such an event.  Like death, it is a certainty.  All roofs, sooner or later, must be replaced.

 Homeowners insurance won’t pay for routine maintenance of roofs, but cooperative inspectors, roofing contractors, and always available attorneys, stand ready to turn roof replacement into an event coverable by homeowners’ insurance.  Without getting into the ethics of this, it is what is demolishing the homeowners’ insurance marketplace in Floriduh.  Many claims are valid and should be paid.  Others are not and exceed the number of claims anticipated by the homeowners’ insurance company’s actuaries who determine the rates.  Actuaries depend on studies that have placed the lifetime of a tile roof in Florida at anywhere from 25 to 50 years, and factor in the expected frequency of windstorms as well.  Claims have exceeded their anticipated numbers, despite built-in cushions. 

The State makes the Citizens Property Insurance Co. available to homeowners who cannot get or afford coverage elsewhere, or are turned down if they try to move their policy to another company.  Citizens' prices are very high.  The renewal rates of private companies are now equal to or exceeding those of Citizens!  No company wants new policyholders with roofs over fifteen years old. Citizens cannot turn them down though!

It occurs to me that a simple solution might be to clearly exclude any roof damage whatsoever from homeowners’ insurance.  Availability of such an option might take legislation by the State.   A few broken tiles or a limited leak should be, and presently is, the responsibility of the homeowner. That is considered maintenance and not a “loss.”  When a roof reaches the point where it must be replaced, as they all do eventually, even if the cause can be related to a “a windstorm,” replacement would be entirely up to the homeowner. 

All roofs are certain to reach that point sooner or later. We all hope “later.”  To pay for their replacement, and a typical cost right now would be in the $35,000 range, a home equity loan, to be repaid over many years, would seem to be a logical solution.  That would probably be less costly on an annual basis than the increases to the level to which homeowners’ insurance premiums are now rising.  Problem solved? I don’t know.


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Justice Thomas' Wife

Some people throw around more weight than others.  I can send emails and make phone calls to the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States repeatedly and I am certain that, at best, they will be seen by a lower-level clerk in his office and go no further.  But it is my right and the right of any American to communicate in that manner.  

For various reason, however, what some people communicate gets to where it is directed, bypassing someone who just counts it and files it away and that is the end of it.  The scanners recognize such communications. Usually, they are directed to a confidential address not available to the general public.  

That is why what Virginia Thomas emailed to the White House Chief of Staff carries more weight than my words or yours would carry. After all, she is the wife of the longest serving Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  She is also a leading advocate of right-wing extremist causes with access, due to her martial status, to the defeated former president.

Her messages might be considered treasonous but from someone else, would be ignored.  In view of her husband’s position, however, they must not be.  And of course, he must recuse himself from any cases involving the matters about which his wife wrote to Mark Meadows, Chief of Staff of the defeated former president, who remains crazy enough to believe he didn’t lose the election of 2020.


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Don't Let the Right Wing Steal Madison - Possibly Heavy reading 

Some ‘traditionalists’ or ‘originalists’ turn to James Madison in defending their idea of what our government should be.  Their position is that the individual states, federated together, were the crux of the Constitution and that’s where power correctly should rest.  Today’s Federalist Society advocates that position and Madison identified that position as ‘federal.’ 

By picking and choosing and selectively quoting, those intent of reducing democracy in the United States often turn to some of James Madison’s words in the Federalist Papers, a series of articles by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, aimed at getting New York to support the proposed Constitution.  In Number 39, Madison concluded, after digging deeply into the differences between the nature of the proposed Constitution’s federal features and its national features, that

“the proposed Constitution … is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation, it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national;  in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

Earlier in Number 39, Madison’s true feelings are hinted at in his discussion of the operation of government, which he wrote was national in nature. (In today’s terms, ‘national’ may be taken to mean based in a central government in Washington.)   In explaining this, Madison wrote that:

“So far the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be disfigured by a few federal features.  But this blemish is perhaps unavoidable in any plan; and the operation of the government on the people, in their individual capacities, in its ordinary and most essential proceeding, it in this relation, a national government.” 

Madison bent over backwards to expound the ‘states rights’ arguments of those who believed the Constitution was ‘federal’ in nature.  Remember that the ‘Federalist Papers’ were intended to gain New York’s support for the proposed Constitution and Madison recognized that such support had to come from those who were on the ‘federal’ side as well as on the ‘national’ side.  His was a masterful job of fence-sitting.

But while he did not ignore the ‘federal’ belief in the power of the individual states, Madison made clear that the operation of the government was national in nature.  Note his use of the words ‘disfigured’ and ‘blemish’ in the quote cited above.  This suggests where he stood, at least regarding a federal or a national approach to the operation of government.  As for the source and extent of the power of the national government, he granted that these were more, though not entirely, federal in nature.  The original composition of the Senate, the Electoral College, and the Amendment process were and continue to be evidence of this. 

But to Madison, and as history has proven, the operation of the government is what counted most, regardless of the extent and source of its powers originating in, and limitable by, the individual states.  Today’s Federalists still believe the states have that power.  That’s why we call them ‘traditionalists.’  But this does not hold true about the operation of government, which Madison declared to be national.  Things get done in Washington which would never get done if they were left to the 50 States individually.


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