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End of the Race

In which I rely upon my iPod to provide me with inspiration for editorializing...
I frequently listen to my iPod while working and writing. It’s not a process that works for everyone, but I find that having my favorite tunes on shuffle vastly increases productivity. Case in point: just this minute, Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” popped up as I was contemplating what this week’s editorial should cover.

Naturally, when I hear that melody, I think of Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation running toward Walley World, deliriously happy that in a trip fraught with misadventure, finally the stars have aligned and all his dreams – the ones that feature mass-produced, corporate-manufactured happiness -- have come true.

Yep, that’s the insurance industry right about now – gleefully celebrating the last bountiful year. Most years feature far more Vacation-esque mishaps like hurricanes, earthquakes or simply bad weather. However, in 2006, everything was coming up Milhouse,* as shown by the announcement that the overall property-casualty insurance industry saw more than $63 billion in net income.

It is that unusual good luck and profitability that will prove difficult to explain with any degree of success to policymakers that see unimaginable riches as a sign of corruption and obvious scheming. And, just as Chevy Chase’s Clark W. Griswold found his joy tempered by a talking moose and a big “Closed” sign at Walley World, the insurance industry’s long-awaited vacation from losing money may well  be over too. Despite the entirely valid argument that one good year does not an invincible industry make, skepticism and disdain for the arguments on terrorism reinsurance and natural disaster predictions abound. And when naysayers get to saying their nays on legislation dear to the industry’s collective heart, it will be with the healthy sums of 2006 on their minds.

Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” came up next on my iPod, if you were wondering. I can’t really think of any insurance connection for that one, unless you interpret the lyrics “It’s been a long time, been a long time/ Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time” to refer to the industry’s usual drought for profitability. I don’t imagine that’s what Page and Plant meant, though.

*For the uninitiated, a character from The Simpsons on whom fortune typically does not smile.

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