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I was flummoxed last night at my neighborhood book club. We had just started talking about the devastation from the terrible tornadoes. One woman said:

What I keep thinking about is why didn't they have renters' insurance instead of relying on the government?

She went on to say that for only $12 a month, "these people" who wanted the government to bail them out hadn't practiced good self-control and planning. What leaches! This is what bothered her about the news.

I said a quick prayer to George Lakoff and tried to answer this, but didn't go a good job. I hope to learn from your comments below and at Netroots Nation how to do a better one next time.

While I was grappling with shock and dismay, she went on to say that in her job she saw people come in saying they couldn't pay their loans. Not because they lost their jobs, had big medical expenses, etc. but because they had just bought big new TVs or cars. "I ask them, 'Didn't you read the fine print? It says right here you have to pay no matter what!'"

I tried these approaches:

  • For a lot of people, $12 a month means several meals on the table.
  • You want to see private gambling with public money? How about Goldman Sachs? Have you seen Inside Job?
  • Don't make me start organizing on you!

I didn't try these approaches, because it was a party not a political meeting and I didn't want to start a big tussle:

  • Maybe you should make the "fine print" bigger and more clear.
  • What about the government payouts for beach houses that are swept away?
  • Do you think the Insurance Fairy is going to swoop down and make everything alright immediately? Before anyone needs something to eat or drink or a place to stay?
  • Don't you use the library, public schools, police, fire department, etc? When hurricanes and ice storms hit our neighborhood, weren't you glad that Public Works came to the rescue?
  • Doesn't most insurance exclude "Acts of God" like tornadoes? (Depends. But is it slack to not pay for riders that cover tornadoes, floods, etc. in areas where they are unknown?)
  • Your first thought is insurance when people have lost everything they own? Things that insurance can't cover: pets, pictures, grandma's recipe book, the hope chest Uncle Doug made for Lula, the fruit tree planted as a graduation present.
  • Yaaarrrgggghhhh!

I needed a way to reframe the topic. What do you suggest? I get into similar discussions all the time with people who think food stamps are for lazy whiners, usually a variation on "I've never needed a handout."

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Comment Preferences

  •  Where does she keep her money? (5+ / 0-)

    Oh, right... In a FDIC insured account....

    Citizenship is what makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it. - Mark Twain, 4 March 1906

    by Coast2Coast on Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:10:57 AM PDT

    •  That's still planning ahead with insurance (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      liz dexic, ColoTim, Oh Mary Oh, BachFan

      Don't just fixate on FDIC being gov't, consider the whole system.

      A bank that is FDIC insured pays for that insurance.  In turn, they pay a lower interest rate on investments.

      So if a non FDIC bank opened up and offered a higher interest rate but no insurance, and someone takes that gamble....

      If the bank folds, do you think the person should get their money back?  Or did they lose the bet just like a gambler in a casino?

      As someone who accepts a lower rate to be FDIC insured, I'd be furious if someone who gambled for more got the same protections I do for no effort.

      •  I know of a situation like that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh, BachFan

        A wingnut who had kinfolk who invested everything they had in an un-FDIC insured S&L back in the '80's because it paid 1/2% of a point more interest than the others (at a time when savings account interest was 7-12% IIRC).
        Risked it all for that lousy 1/2% more, greed is good. Of course the S&L went belly up 'unexpectedly' along with a bunch of others back then.
        Lesson learned?
        Become even more of a wingnut.
        You really can't fix stupid.

        "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

        by Bluefin on Wed May 25, 2011 at 12:35:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  FEMA aid is loans (6+ / 0-)

    so you do have to pay them back

    George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

    by nathguy on Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:14:03 AM PDT

  •  When I'm at a party and someone says (4+ / 0-)

    something like that, I will usually reply with, "Well, I don't want to judge people I don't know anything about. With the economy the way it is, some people are struggling to pay their rent and buy food. Even $12 a month for renter's insurance might be a hardship for some people." It's obvious the woman at your party didn't want to put herself in the shoes of those who were devastated by the tornado - sometimes you have to make your point without getting angry or making the other person angry. An angry person isn't going to listen to reason.

    He who is carried away by his own importance seldom has far to walk back.

    by StateOfGrace on Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:25:55 AM PDT

    •  Ah ha! You have solved the riddle. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, StateOfGrace

      They are always angry, therefore they never listen to reason!

      An angry person isn't going to listen to reason.

      You don't have to worry about making them angry, it's a permanent mental condition for them.

      "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

      by Bluefin on Wed May 25, 2011 at 12:39:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not wrong to encourage personal responsibilit (9+ / 0-)

    It's just not.  When I had an apartment I had renters insurance, and my home is always insured even though I'd love to not pay the bill.  But I do pay because I'd rather plan ahead, invest in my future and protect myself, than be in a position where I've lost everything AND have to beg for a handout.

    For anyone who says $12/mo. is too expensive, how do you propose people who've lost everything replace all their clothing and needed posessions for less than that?
    They can't, which is why we pay upfront when we can, so that we get what we need when we can't pay.  It's an investment that simply must be made for the sake of survival.

    Now this isn't Either/Or.  Having renters insurance isn't going to replace the gov't like some teabagger wet dream.  It's not going to cover everything, it doesn't replace emergency response and aid.

    And while we can certainly argue the fact that since Goldman Sachs got a bailout that so should all of Joplin, but that still doesn't mean it's a good idea to leave yourself defenseless and dependent on the charity of others.  Because the sad truth about charity is it's not always there when you need it.  And then what do you do?

    The proper response to that woman isn't to reflexively take the opposite stance, that no one should need insurance because the gov't should always take care of everything.  Focus on what the gov't needs to do in large scale disasters where it can mobilize resources the individual can't.  But don't dismiss individuals being prepared for disaster.

  •  Renter's insurance is nice if you can afford it (6+ / 0-)

    I had it when I was renting.

    But it doesn't put your life back together.

    It only pays for loss of personal property, not the extra money you have to pay to eat, live out of a motel , etc.

    No one is talking about grants to let these poor people replace all of their personal property.  We are only talking about getting them what they need to survive and get their lives back together.

    If people "have never needed a handout" then they have never been hit by this much misfortune, and they should be thankful, not resentful.

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:28:27 AM PDT

  •  Renters Insurance is a non-issue here. (3+ / 0-)

    I don't think FEMA is replacing people's TV's, etc. Yeah renters would cover things like lost clothes, but unless you want folks chilling for weeks in the same rags, maybe it's OK to get some soap and change of clothes to them.

    Prayer group and insurance knowledge fail.

  •  I'll also submit Eric Cantor as evidence (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dark daze, ColoTim, Oh Mary Oh

    Cantor is going to hold up aid to Joplin until he gets spending cuts.  When the government is being held hostage by teabaggers, then individuals need to plan ahead more than ever.
    They should have planned ahead and voted Democrat as well, but that doesn't fix the here and now.

    Because now we've got people with no insurance AND no gov't aid.  You think Cantor cares that people are begging for help?

  •  most (4+ / 0-)

    most of these people who say they never asked for anything, have actually been given a lot.

    as for how to answer this, this isnt about one renter somewhere getting robbed and asking for a govt handout, ( unless hes a banker he wouldnt)

    This is about a whole community being wipeout in a matter of minutes.  Thats the difference.  Usually when a bad thing happens, the person can rely on neighbors, friends, family, co workers in the area to help him through the bad time, and more often than not, they do come through.

    In cases like this, they ALL are in the same boat, their isnt that community safety net, SO we the american citizens come in and lend a hand. To help people out in MS, we are talking a few pennies from each of us, is that really to much to ask?

    Bad is never good until worse happens

    by dark daze on Wed May 25, 2011 at 09:37:59 AM PDT

  •  Facts (5+ / 0-)

    --I'm not sure about the $12/month cost.  Can anyone here who buys renter's insurance confirm this.  Of course, the cost depends on the amount if coverage purchased, the renters' credit score, dog breed, dead bolts, fire alarm, etc.

    --Do most renters even know that insurance for their belongings is available?

    --Renters insurance, like homeowners insurance, usually covers natural disasters except earthquake (extra cost rider) and flood (separate policy needed).

    If anyone reading this rents and does not have renter's insurance, get it.  It includes liability coverage as well as property damage and theft coverage.

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