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.
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."