Sunday, November 1, 2009, 10:08 PM - Political developmentsWhen the baby boomers among us think of bus drivers, we often think of Ralph Kramden.
Kramden was the bus driver portrayed by Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners. Big hearted but blustering, Kramden was the epitome of
the 1950s working class, living in a small apartment, hobnobbing with a goofy friend, Ed Norton, who worked for the city sewer system.
But Kramden's world wasn't as malignant as situation that many workers now find themselves in.
The gang rape of a young woman at a Richmond, California high school dance has left much of the public disgusted and outraged. Whether the
event stemmed from perverse crowd behavior or specifically from a gangbanger culture run amok isn't clear.
But what is clear is that in parts of our Golden State there is sick kind of lawlessness. Neighborhoods held hostage by thugs and gangs. Women treated as chattels. Areas where Glocks are king. Areas where children are raising children and the schools are a joke. Kid wearing baggy pants who see no reason to learn and no hope in sight.
Parts of Richmond are like that.
One of my clients was a hero in that environment, just minutes from the site of the Richmond gang rape.
Driving a passenger bus for the local regional transit authority, my client pulled up at one of his stops. Passengers got off the bus. Passengers got on the bus. Business as usual.
Exiting the bus, a 15 year old pulled a weapon, shooting at least 15 rounds at the bus, striking at least 3 passengers.
My client had the presence of mind to hit the accelerator and drive straight to the nearest Richmond emergency room.
Subsequently he was commended by his employer for his stellar effort in responding to the critical situation.
Many a public safety officer or public employee has to serve in these
neighborhoods. Workerscompzone salutes the efforts of these latter day Ralph Kramdens.
The Richmond gang rape:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 1ACRGU.DTL
The Richmond bus attack:
http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_1327468 ... ost_viewed
Friday, October 30, 2009, 11:18 PM - Political developmentsA.I.G.'s financial practices are under attack in a Los Angeles County lawsuit that could have repercussions for A.I.G. and its business model.
The L.A. lawsuit is not focused on A.I.G. workers' comp practices. But it does target the apparent A.I.G. modus operandi of A.I.G.'s holding company moving assets between different A.I.G subsidiary companies in transnational and cross state line transactions.
There's been concern that A.I.G.'s model skirts effective regulation by state insurance regulators.
In the L.A. case the plaintiffs seek an injunction barring A.I.G from moving money out of California for 90 days. The plaintiffs allege that A.I.G may not have sufficient assets to back its obligations.
The lawsuit raises deeper questions about whether state based regulatory systems can effectively oversee the multinational, multiline insurer.Although the lawsuit largely focuses on A.I.G. life insurance operations, one wonders what we'll find if lawyers and courts get to peel the A.I.G. onion a bit.
Here's a link to the New York Times article by Mary Williams Walsh:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/31/busin ... ig.html?hp
Thursday, October 29, 2009, 08:53 AM - Political developmentsHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning unveiled the current version of the House healthcare reform bill. It would expand coverage to include up to 36 million people.
Medicaid would be expanded and there would be increased subsidies for the low income to buy insurance from either a private plan or a government run plan. That's the public option that's been at the heart of the debate.
In the coming days we'll all see myriad analyses of the props and cons of the bill.
But I just noticed an interesting analysis already. Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that under the plan less than 10% of the public would be able to use the public option. The public option will mainly be available to those who can't buy insurance , to small businesses,and to people whose healthcare costs exceed 12.5% of their income.
Perhaps over time the "public option" would have a major impact on the insurance market and on holding down healthcare costs. But claims by proponents and opponents of the "public option" may both be overblown if only a small percentage of the public can participate.
Lochhead's article can be found here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... &tsp=1
Meanwhile, with defections of key swing senators (Snowe, Lieberman and perhaps Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln) it's not
clear that Harry Reid has the votes to move the Senate version.
Here's an interesting piece from today's Politico on the problem Pelosi has getting the votes to actually pass her package:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/10 ... Page2.html
Monday, October 26, 2009, 10:31 PM - Political developmentsHe's baaaaak!
Not that he really ever left.....
That's Maurice Greenberg, who as chairman of A.I.G. presided over the rise of an insurance behemoth.
A.I.G. is everywhere. Several months ago while walking in Shanghai on the banks of the Huangpu River, by "The Bund" (an area that was one of the foreign "concessions" established by the Treaty of Nanjing after the First Opium War), I happened upon the A.I.G. China office. A.I.G. was very active in Asian markets; founder C.V. Starr, a Fort Bragg and Cal Berkeley native, was said to have been an operative of the OSS, predecessor to the C.I.A.
Here in our state, A.I.G. has long been a major player in the California workers' comp market, with its various subsidiaries.
Greenberg's sons are heavy hitters in the industry. One son was chairman at Marsh & McLennan. The other son, Even Greenberg, is the CEO of Ace. Both these insurers have had a significant presence in the California comp market.
Greenberg was pushed aside by the A.I.G. board. At the time, Greenberg was being pursued by then Governor Eliot Spitzer. That was, of course, before Spitzer's penchant for call girls came to light. Greenberg is still being pursued in various civil suits.
A.I.G. imploded in 2008 as its various involvements in arcane financial products crashed and burned.
Historians and economists may be debating for years why Lehman was allowed to fail but A.I.G was saved. But saved it was. By you, dear taxpayer. It was deemed an enterprise too big to fail, with connections to the major corporate and political players in the world.
The various state-regulated A.I.G. subsidiaries continued to pay workers comp claims. Despite fears in late 08 it would all melt down, it's largely been business as usual in workers' comp.
Greenberg, in his 80s, has been reassembling his team.
You the taxpayer now own a majority stake in the old A.I.G., which has been on a mission to restructure itself.
But Greenberg is now competing with your company. He's luring talent from the Uncle Sam-rescued firm for his C. V. Starr company.
One of Greenberg's divisions is C.V Starr California:
And you thought the insurance business was straightforward.
Here's an interesting profile that appears in today's New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/busin ... ig.html?hp
And the painted ponies go up and down in the circle game.......
Sunday, October 25, 2009, 10:39 PM - Political developmentsCould it be that we're in an economic recovery cycle that sheds jobs on the rebound?
A weak dollar, a weak housing market, and a gloomy jobs picture are all significant pieces of the conundrum we're in.
8 million jobs....yes, Eight Million.....have been lost in the economic cycle that started some time ago.
And as new high school and college kids join the workforce, jobs aren't being created for them.
Here's a good article from the San Francisco Chronicle on the job-loss trend which continues unabated:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 1A9PMQ.DTL
(the comments to the article are worth reading as well....)
I've recently seen a number of clients laid off. Some were injured workers who were back to work before getting a layoff notice. Others received layoff notices while on TTD. Contrary to popular myth, that's not illegal per se, unless the worker can demonstrate employer motivation or differing treatment that would constitute a Labor Code 132a violation.
And some spouses of disabled workers are being given less hours in their jobs. As a result, a two earner family may be reduced to one income (after TTD and SDI run out), and then to less than one income due to reduced hours. That's a path to bankruptcy and financial ruin for many folks.
Those of us lawyers and claims professionals in the comp system would do well to ponder all of this from time to time.
Some of us are so focused on the workers'c comp case law developments and the minutiae of our practices that we can easily forget the big picture of how scary it is for many workers out there on the street.
As the national unemployment rate marches on to the 10% "tripwire" noted by some commentators, and as the unemployment rate in some California cities and counties goes over 20%, it's time to see this as a crisis.
It's not a Democratic or a Republican crisis. It's a national crisis. If a generation of young people find little or no opportunities (as in Japan's 1990s "Lost Generation"), we'll see the social consequences for decades.
We're talking the American Dream here.
Many of my colleagues have young adults in their families-as do I.
Giving these young adults excuses for partisan bickering and gridlock isn't going to cut it.
It's not always clear that the political class in the country-on both sides of the aisle-is prepared to consider sacrifices for the good of the workforce. We're going to have to re-envision the ways we do many things. Sacred cows will be sacrificed.
Ten years from now the Limbaughs and Olbermanns may be gone.
But will we then have an industrial policy that gets people back to work? Will we invest in our people? Will we figure out a way to work on our infrastructure? Will we make some hard choices to get our deficits under control and salvage the value of our currency?
Without workers, there'll be no workers' compensation. And without getting a handle on this, we really will be on the road to being a Banana Republic.