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Alan Snel: Dear Mr. President, let’s ride bicycles when you’re in Florida (so that you keep off the Twitter)

Alan Snel: Bicycle Writer

Dear Mr. President,

It’s so cool that you enjoy Florida!

You’re back in South Florida today — and I live here too.

Today is such a sweet March day here in the Sunshine State for both of us. Strong tropical breezes off the Atlantic Ocean, yet the humidity is still low so that we’re not sweating our balls off!

Yet, for some reason, when you come to Florida you seem kinda, well, stressed out and those fingers of yours go running across your cell phone and out pops another tweet that really grabs America by the . . . hmmmm, I’m not sure I better finish that sentence.

Well, anyway, you were back in Florida and back on the Twitter and out jumped this twittery gem.

Man, that’s quite the doozy!

You’re one intense dude.

So intense, that you threw in an extra “p” into “tapp.”

Talk about ppassion!

So, here’s the deal. Even your closest pals think you’re overdoing it a bit with this Twitter thing.

SAD!

So, I have an idea.

Let’s go bicycling instead of you twittering when you come to Florida.

Didn’t you hear? Bicycling is the new golf!

I get stressed out, too, sometimes — just like you.

But instead of tweeting I go biking.

I love bicycles.

You love bicycles. Well, maybe once you did, when you put on the Tour de Trump bike race back in the late 1980s.

You had the golden touch even back then.

This protest stuff is not new.

Check out some of these folks way back in 1989 at your bike race.

Anyway, I’m happy to take you out on a bicycle ride.

I have a bicycle for you. Or, I have lots of friends who would be happy to loan their bikes to you, too.

That’s the beautiful thing about bicyclists — we come in all shapes and sizes and political backgrounds, so we’ll definitely come up with a bike for you to pedal.

Just one condition.

No tweeting and biking. (And no Putin either).

Deal?

___

Alan Snel blogs about all things bicycling for Bicycle Stories.

Bruce Janz: In these troubled times of public discourse, is there still a place for dialogue?

Carl von Clausewitz, the great theorist of war, said: “War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means.” What he meant was that even in the time of war, there are other kinds of dialogue happening, and war is not an act that happens because of the failure of dialogue, but is just another component in it.

This thought raises a central question in these troubled times of public discourse. Is there still a place for dialogue, and if so, what is it?

In the democratic foundations of the nation, dialogue is essential to bringing about the goal of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The entire structure of government is an exercise in dialogue – it is why there are checks and balances. The assurance of freedom of speech and of the press, the limitations on government power over citizens – it is all meant so that we can address the problems of the nation by using reasoned discourse rather than violence.

But what if dialogue itself becomes war by other means?

We often have an optimistic view of dialogue, which is that well-meaning people come together and work out their problems through understanding and compromise.

But dialogue can, of course, be many other things. It can be used to forestall action on a problem; we can indefinitely talk about something rather than acting on it. It can be used to placate someone, to “keep them talking,” while proceeding with a controversial action. Powerful parties in a dialogue can define the terms and assumptions of that dialogue, making it more restricted, or more abstract, or less historically aware than others might want it to be. Dialogue can be used to make a position seem completely rational, when in fact its limits are just not immediately apparent.

And, dialogue can be weaponized. That’s my term for the use of dialogue to further stigmatize or marginalize a person or group.

I don’t mean by this that the content of the dialogue is used in this manner – disagreement in itself is not the weaponization of dialogue. I’m referring to the form of the dialogue, and the ways in which what looks like dialogue can actually undermine any real communication or understanding (and, in fact, is specifically constructed to do so).

So, for instance, in many online discussion boards there are trolls whose purpose is ostensibly to engage in dialogue but is really to disrupt dialogue to make sure it doesn’t happen. It is a violation of one of the assumptions of dialogue, which is that dialogue partners have a similar goal: to arrive at truth or coordinate action.

When some people in a dialogue have weaponized it, it doesn’t help to just reassert the value of dialogue or insist on its basic starting-points. If an exchange of words was never about arriving at truth, then presenting facts or pointing out lapses in logic won’t help.

The point of weaponized dialogue, as the anonymous online bulletin board 4chan would put it, is all about the lulz, that is, all about the amusement of seeing people who still believe that dialogue gets us somewhere, flail around and get all worked up.

Weaponized dialogue is dangerous precisely because it is war by other means, and not in the sense that Clausewitz meant. It is not just a parallel track to other, more rational ways of making a political point. It is the belief that it is no longer possible to make political points because they will all be loaded in favor of the “enemy,” whoever that is. It is the abandonment of the public sphere while holding onto the illusion that such a sphere still exists.

Do we, then, just live in an anarchy at this point, where even if we get the facts right the dialogue to which they are supposed to contribute is so tainted that it is all but useless? Is dialogue just another weapon to advance the goals of my team over yours?

I don’t think so, but we will have to put aside our rose-colored glasses about what dialogue can actually accomplish.

Dialogue itself, as a form of reason, needs as much attention as the arguments we make within a dialogue. We know a lot about logical fallacies, biases and other ways in which positions within a dialogue can fail, but we spend little time thinking about dialogue itself and how it is shaping or warping our ability to construct the society we want (as if, indeed, there even is a society that “we” together might agree on).

Dialogue is not gone, and it is not irrevocably tainted, but without care it can serve to deepen divisions rather than heal them.

So, does dialogue still matter for you? What kind of dialogue – real dialogue – do you actually want? And what are you willing to do to make it happen?

___

Bruce Janz is a professor in the UCF Department of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Humanities and Digital Research. He can be reached at Bruce.Janz@ucf.edu. The UCF Forum is a weekly series of opinion columns presented by UCF News & Information. A new column is posted each Wednesday at http://today.ucf.edu and then broadcast between 7:50 and 8 a.m. Sunday on WUCF-FM (89.9).

A birthday card for the unofficial, undisputed queen of Tallahassee

(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Rosanne Dunkelberger is President of Dunkelberger Consulting, Editor-at-Large for Extensive Enterprises, and formerly editor of Tallahassee Magazine.)

It’s a Milestone Birthday for Rosanne Dunkelberger, and her kids have asked millennials she’s mentored and friends who knew her before she was an award-winning magazine editor to tell them what we remember most about the Unofficial Undisputed Queen of Tallahassee.

To the Geritol Generation of media lawyers who knew Rosanne in the disco era when she worked as staff director for The Florida Bar’s Committee on Media and Communications Law, she’s the woman who did all the work that we got all the credit.

Back then, the Bar’s annual Media Law Conference was a signature event. Hundreds of lawyers, judges and journalists attended to engage with and learn from speakers of statewide and national prominence.  For years, the Conference commanded the personal attention of the Bar President, who hosted a pre-conference dinner, usually in his home, where Bar leaders built significant and sustained relationships with media and political leaders, and nobody ever dreamed there’d come a time when the legislature would set about to castrate the courts.

Rosanne’s larger-than-life work ethic, and her genius at conjuring pleasant settings for meaningful conversations, helped to create and to nurture countless relationships that operated above and below the radar, and always in the public interest.

The Conference was funded in large part by underwriting from law firms and news organizations. With big money and bigger egos involved, there were opportunities aplenty for disaster. Rosanne’s extraordinary talent at wrangling donors; massaging egos, and arranging place cards were at the center of many of the Bar’s greatest conference hits.

Rosanne was also instrumental in creating a new “Florida Bar product,” the Reporter’s Workshop, an invitation-only seminar aimed at print and broadcast journalists who were new to the legal beat. One has only to look at the agendas for the programs she staffed to see the outstanding quality of their design and execution.

Rosanne is one of those very rare people who does not have a mean, selfish, or self-aggrandizing bone in her body. She makes any #Process better, just by being in it.

In Tallahassee and Orlando, advocates walk and talk about eating disorders

“I was four years old when I looked in the mirror and saw an obese, deformed body looking back at me,” recalled a college girl who is, thankfully, doing fine now.

She won’t be at Tallahassee’s Cascades Park tomorrow for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk because she’s running a half-marathon someplace else. But she’ll be there in spirit. She knows how lucky she is to be among the survivors of a ruthless, complex mix of heredity and environment that causes many boys and many, many more girls to weaponize food and wage war on their minds, bodies and spirits.

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. They are not a fashion accessory that rich white girls like Karen Carpenter and Princess Diana order up from the Nieman’s catalogue. They are among the most serious and difficult conditions to treat. They are the mental illnesses most likely to kill.

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders do not discriminate by race, gender, ethnicity or family income.  Good professional advice is hard to find, and much of what insurance covers will actually make matters worse.

Former congressman and recovering alcoholic Patrick Kennedy has seen all manner of mental illness in his immediate and extended family, so it’s well worth noting that he ” … has always felt that eating disorders suffer the most persistent discrimination within the mental health community in both insurance coverage and research funding. I commend NEDA for raising awareness to this issue and for setting the stage for progress.”

The pink ribbon crowd commands a disproportionate share of the high-priced PR people in the Awareness Industry, so props to the Tallahassee Democrat for bringing the Tallahassee walk to local attention. The second of two NEDA walks scheduled for Florida takes place Saturday, March 11 in Orlando.

These illnesses are so cruel, so cunning, that they can snatch our children from under our noses while they are still small enough to be sitting in our laps.  We could use a whole lot more awareness.

 

History provides a bit of assurance between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler

When current events became too depressing, I turned to history for possible reassurance. It came from what might seem an unlikely source, Volker Ullrich’s excellent 2016 biography, “Hitler Ascent 1889-1939” published in translation by Alfred A. Knopf.

There are sound reasons to hope that what happened there won’t happen here, as even though it threatens to.

There are of course many similarities between the Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump phenomena, starting with the basic facts that neither new ruler had any prior experience in public service, did not win a majority vote in a fair election, and would sooner lie than speak a truth. Hitler’s megalomania, craving for adulation and contempt for criticism were rooted, as Trump’s seem to be, in a deeply rooted personal insecurity. Hitler had no respect for independent courts or a free press.

Neither does Trump.

Both campaigned as demagogues, owed their success largely to bigotry, promised to make their countries great again, claimed they alone could “fix it,” and gave clear warning that they would attack civil rights. Both harbored worldviews that could — and in Hitler’s case did — lead their countries into massive cruelty and war. With Hitler, it was his determination to rid Germany and then Europe of all Jews and to wage a “decisive” battle against Bolshevism. With Trump it’s the demonization of Mexican immigrants and a craving to do battle with Islam, as whetted by his personal Darth Vader, Steven Bannon.

Trump doesn’t have an organized army of brownshirt thugs, as Hitler did. But he does have followers who don’t need orders to harass Jews, Muslims and foreigners, desecrate cemeteries and commit occasional murders. The list goes on.

But it’s in the dissimilarities that I found strong basis for hope that America won’t go the way the Third Reich did.

Organized dissent virtually disappeared in Germany as soon as President Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor in the mistaken belief that he could harmonize a Reichstag paralyzed by multiple parties. People who should have known better thought they could control Hitler better, and use him, if he were in the government rather than screaming at it from outside. And to an extent, a similar self-serving folly characterizes the Republicans in our Congress.

The German population, long inured to authoritarian rule under the Wilhelmine royalty and infested with anti-Semitism, welcomed Hitler.

“It was astonishing not just how quickly, but how easily Germany was turned on its head,” Ulrich writes. He quotes Victor Klemperer, a professor and Jewish diarist who survived against odds: “All counterweights to his power were quickly swallowed up and disappeared.”

Public opinion flipped so quickly that even Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, was contemptuous of it.

“Now, everyone is a Nazi. It makes me sick,” he said.

But in our United States, there have been massive protests nearly everywhere you look and the anti-Trump, anti-Republican demonstrations vastly overshadow those in support of our potential führer. The Congress reports unprecedented traffic in phone calls, emails and letters. The newspapers Trump hates the most are gaining subscribers handily. The polls show his approval under water; he’s the most unpopular new president since records have been kept.

Let’s keep it up, people.

The Weimar Republic, which was only 14 years old when Hitler accomplished his design to destroy it, had no resilient traditions such as ours of free speech, free press and freedom of petition. It was still possible to censor newspapers and the radio, ban the activity of opposition parties and prohibit their leaders from speaking. Under Hitler, that was expanded to jail and even to kill them on his whim.

Hitler exploited the burning of the Reichstag building — which was blamed on the Communists but which the Nazis welcomed and are still suspected of having caused — to pass emergency measures that extinguished what was left of liberty in Germany. We need to take care here that the next act of terrorism — the question is not whether but when — doesn’t incite Trump to unconstitutional repression. The wholesale deportations and the attempted banning of immigrants and refugees from selected Muslim nations give fair warning that he knows no bounds. Here, at least, we have courts that can stop him. Protecting the independence of those courts is the paramount present responsibility of the Senate Democrats.

Here we still have free elections, but nearly every Republican state legislature has passed or is considering voter suppression laws that clearly target Democrats, and our new attorney general, a lifelong opponent of civil rights, is withdrawing the federal government from the battle. Both parties are guilty of rampant undemocratic gerrymandering, which at the moment heavily favors the Republicans. Here again, the courts will be crucial as to which path America follows.

Hitler used creative accounting to finance his massive arms buildup and extravagant public works projects. Debt and inflation would have destroyed Germany had the war not done so first. Here, Trump is similarly inventive in claiming that Mexico would pay for his great wall and that economic growth will finance his excessive military budget. There should be enough genuine conservatives in Congress to put the lie to that. Thank God for the filibuster.

The most astounding difference between Germany then and the United States Nov. 8 is painfully ironic.

Germans knew almost nothing about Hitler’s personal life before or after he became chancellor. He had been in no business, except for selling his artwork, and so there had been no bankruptcies, no cheated workmen and contractors. There was no Hitler University. There had been the seeds of scandal in the suicide of his niece, Geli Raubal, who lived with him, but he wasn’t present and wasn’t blamed. He was deeply misogynistic in private, once saying that intelligent men should “make sure they get a primitive, stupid woman.” However, he took pains to hide his mistress, Eva Braun, from the public, “to maintain the myth,” as Ulrich puts it, “of the Führer sacrificing himself day and night for his people.” He had never been accused of rape or boasted of groping women in ways that could have gotten him arrested. Nor had there been any massive tax evasion, although he would exempt himself entirely later.

Contrast that to the mountain of Trumpian sleaze, much of it from Trump’s own mouth, that was known to the American public before the election. It helps to explain why nearly 10 million more people voted for candidates not named Trump than voted for him. But for the intervention of a foreign enemy and FBI director James Comey’s October surprise, he likely would have lost the electoral college too. Fixing that anachronism, which has now crowned the trailing candidate five times, ought to be an urgent national priority. Democracies don’t deserve losers.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Grieving octogenarian does the heartbreaking heavy lifting that government won’t

The clubs have names like I Am One and Brave Women of Palm Beach County, and to look at their elegant members, you’d think they were ladies of leisure on their way to a fashion show or an art gallery.

Instead, they are the heartbroken survivors of beloved children and siblings whose extreme mental illnesses ultimately killed them, and they are on their way to any and every microphone they can find. They have learned the hard way that silence kills, and they are done suffering in silence.

At age 85, Rita Thrasher is not worried about people who think that mental illness is something about which to be ashamed. She and “a small group of thoughtful, committed” mothers and sisters are working to comfort afflicted families, and afflict federal, state, and local governments that are stuck in the 80s — the 1880s — in their approaches to mental illness.

By the time Mrs. Thrasher’s daughter Valerie ran away from home at age 18, she had been suffering for seven years from the bipolar disorder than would lead her to a lonely death at age 42.

Then and now, there was precious little meaningful help for people like Valerie. Mood disorders don’t show up on X-rays, but their symptoms cause heartache and chaos in a young person’s world. These conditions can be managed effectively, and people with mental illnesses can lead happy, productive lives.

But for every family that can find, and afford, the necessary care, there are tens of thousands who live in communities where competent professional help does not exist, or is unaffordable to all but the very rich.

The kids self-medicate with infinite varieties of self-harm as their families try desperately to protect them. But parental love is no substitute for appropriate medical care. The kids end up in jail. They end up dead. Some of their loved ones will follow them off the cliff.  Others, like the Brave Women of Palm Beach County, will take their cue from Mrs. Thrasher. “I am doing this work today because I want it in the curriculum of life,” she told the Sun-Sentinel’s Brooke Baitinger.

From her mouth to God’s ear, and to the ears of every Florida health care policymaker.

Easy call: St. Pete Cty Council to set Al Lang referendum

If all issues before the St. Petersburg City Council were as easy as the once members will consider Thursday morning, anyone could do the job.

The Council has a vote scheduled to set a referendum on a plan to privately renovate Al Lang Stadium. That’s so a bid by Tampa Bay Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards to obtain a Major League Soccer franchise for the city can continue.

If the vote is anything but yes, the Council will have lost an opportunity that likely will never come again. A “no” vote also would prove members have lost their minds.

Even though Edwards would pay the $80 million stadium renovation, the city wisely requires voter approval of anything on this scale that goes along St. Petersburg’s lovely waterfront.

(For what it’s worth, Edwards also has said he will pay the cost of the proposed May 2 special referendum).

There is no risk for voters.

The Rowdies already play at Al Lang as members of the United Soccer League. Edwards’ plan to renovate Al Lang into an 18,000-seat stadium worthy of the much more prestigious MLS hinges on the Rowdies becoming one of four expansion teams the league plans to add as soon as August. His plan wouldn’t even enlarge the downtown stadium footprint that already exists.

If the city’s bid is not successful, there will be no renovation.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said cities interested in expansion must meet three key criteria:

— A strong local ownership group that has the money to invest in infrastructure and build the sport in their market. Edwards certainly checks that box.

— A market that has shown strong fan support for soccer and located in a desirable spot. That box gets checked with a giant Magic Marker.

— A stadium plan that league calls “a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.”

Check. Check. Check.

While St. Petersburg has struggled to support the Tampa Bay Rays, this is a different animal. MLS teams play only a 34-game season, which means 17 home games versus 81 for the Rays. That makes individual games more of an event than a single baseball game.

The Rowdies were third last year in attendance among 12 North American Soccer League teams, averaging about 5,800 fans per game. Edwards already has sounded the bugle charge to the business community and others about greatly increasing that total if the MLS lands here.

I believe the support will be there.

I believe St. Petersburg is a perfect spot for an MLS team and Edwards has a strong plan to make it happen.

All that Council members need to do is say yes to keep this moving forward.

Easy call.

Blake Dowling: Websites and politics

The new resident at the White House and technology are an interesting pair, with the Russians, Twitter, etc.

Speaking of the new guy on Pennsylvania Avenue, make sure to check out the Showtime documentary Trumped.

Regardless of your status — love him, hate him, internet troller, hater Facebook over-poster, fan, rioter, protester, etc. — if you are a fan of the political process, the behind-the-scenes coverage is spectabulous.

The scene where Bernie asks the journalist what network is this anyway because the reporter is dropping the F-bomb, is a riot.

To that end, I have always thought Showtime needed to cover a couple of college football games each year.

The colorful language could be epic: “what kind of sh*t-ass hula hoop offensive scheme is Richt running at Miami this year,” etc.

Back to tech, so WhiteHouse.gov got the standard new President overhaul, and they went very simplistic with their web presence, the picture going from each side of the screen to the next is compelling, and the use of white space is in line with the latest designs.

From a technology perspective, cyber warfare and cyberbullying are two items that get a lot of attention on the page; that is a good thing. The White House fired their cyber expert, so that is a bad thing, as we all know there are those seeking to damage our nation, infrastructure and our processes through digital means.

Back to Florida; the lobbying team at the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners has a cool site. Crisp and to the point. You get introduced to the team on the first look and can easily contact them if needed as email addresses are clearly spelled out.

Obviously, contact info is critical; there is nothing more frustrating than not finding a phone number or email address with ease. If you don’t have a contact button, add one ASAP.

Or even better have a generic email contact address right on the home page, for example, questions@CharlieSheen.com and the phone number too.

You must decide at what level you want to engage your audience with your web brand.

Look at Sen. Bill Nelson’s site for example. It would be the opposite of the White House and The Advocacy Group, it is loaded with info and color and extremely busy — billnelson.senate.gov.

That said, he gives you access to social media, video clips, newsletter sign up, track record, request a flag, tours, internships and anything else you could possibly want. It is a very informative site, it is odd however that the header does not say, “Senator Bill Nelson.”

Maybe he is keeping his options open. These three sites give you an excellent view into the vast world of political websites and perhaps you might see something you want to add.

My web development partner, Michael Winn of Digital Opps said this:

“In today’s fake or not fake news era, having a dedicated website to strengthen your organization’s initiative or campaign is paramount. An often-overlooked digital strategy is to integrate your original content into a blog or individual news brief format in order to provide the public, journalist and/or elected officials an information hub to check the facts. When done correctly, these bite-sized articles will garner the search engines’ attention and ultimately lead the readers to your website.”

Well said sir.

At Aegis, our site has a link to follow us on Twitter, like Sen. Nelson’s, but takes it a step further with an auto-feed of every piece of extremely helpful info I might be tweeting — like these three smoking hot tweets from Peter, Tim and John.

If you want to see a site that provides visitors an education, info, certifications, news, updates, and anything else you might want, check out the Florida School Boards Association site: fsba.org it is slick, from legislative updates for their members to a link to download their mobile app. It can keep a visitor engaged for days (if you are into that sort of thing). There a massive amount of info, like Nelson’s page, but arranged in manner that is easier on the eyes.

Other ideas to keep your site interactive and engaging: 360 tours, cams, links to blogs and columns, aegisbiztech.com or even a password protected area for clients, members, etc.

Your web presence is a part of your brand, and you will be judged by your clients and constituents, so make sure you are giving it a serious look.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for various organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Andy Madtes: It’s time to set legislative direction for Sunshine State

Andy Madtes, executive director for AFSCME Florida.

Already this year, American have seen clearly how our Constitution keeps our country strong. First, the world watched the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next and then tens of millions exercised their right to assembly by participating in one of the dozens of Women’s Marches across the country, including here in Florida.

Clearly, we are at a crossroads as a nation. But here in Florida we also face an inflection point about what kind of state we want to be. With the Legislature already casting votes and debating the issues our communities face and Governor Scott preparing his State of the State address now is the time to have this debate.

Are we a state that actively promotes a better tomorrow?

There is already heated debate about continuing the progress made on quality affordable health care, investing in our public schools and protecting our tradition as a nation of immigrants. It’s an understatement to call these issues complicated but at their root is a basic question: do we believe in investing in America’s tomorrow? No matter the direction the federal government takes, our state can take steps that will protect, and invest, in the youngest, the oldest and the newest citizen among us.

Are we going to be a state that rewards the wealthy or one which rewards those whose work creates that wealth?

There is a lot of talk of creating jobs but nobody holds news conferences to herald the opening of another minimum wage location. While work of all levels is important, we need to focus on creating good jobs that can support families and grow communities. Protecting the workplace rights of Florida employees, investing in our state workers through the first pay raise in a decade and supporting communities when they pass higher minimum wages are just a few easy and affordable steps to gauge how serious we are about creation good jobs.

Will we continue to be a state that governs in the sunshine?

We have long been a state that prides itself in strong transparency laws to ensure government on all levels is conducted in the open and with as much input from citizens as possible. But attempts limiting the freedom of information or allowing quasi-governmental agencies funded with our taxes to remain free of oversight are just some ways our state has moved in the wrong direction. This year, the laws that strengthen the position of the citizen instead of the special interests are more important than ever with the start of the state’s Constitution Revision Commission, a once-every-20-years event that impacts us all.

The questions above don’t cover everything our state is facing, but do serve as three inflection points that, no matter your politics, will help determine the overall course of our state for years, even decades, to come. It is up to us to speak out, and it is up to our leaders to listen, so we can move forward together.

___

Andy Madtes is executive director for AFSCME Florida. Representing 15,000 members across the Sunshine State, Andy has led AFSCME to be one of the state’s fastest growing unions.

Christian Cámara: Border adjustment would sock Florida with hugely higher insurance rates

In recent years, Congress repeatedly has considered legislation that would have adversely and profoundly impacted disaster-prone states like Florida. Luckily, we were spared passage, over and over again.

Unfortunately, a tax “reform” package supported by House Republicans and likely to be introduced soon may contain provisions that would do essentially the same damage.

Historically, these bills targeted reinsurance purchased by property insurers from affiliates located offshore. The key change would be to eliminate the U.S. subsidiary’s ability to write off the reinsurance costs from their corporate income. The measures long have been supported by a group of U.S.-based insurance companies, who sought to reduce competition they face from foreign insurers and reinsurers.

Damages from isolated incidents such as fires, thefts and hailstorms are normally paid directly by insurance companies. However, when a massive disaster like a hurricane strikes, reinsurance kicks in and covers the insurer’s losses beyond a pre-negotiated deductible.

Changing the tax rules to punish international insurers would be particularly damaging for reinsurers, whose global scope allows them simultaneously to cover enormous risks like hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in New Zealand, as they are uncorrelated and therefore unlikely to happen at the same time.

Given Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes, the availability and affordability of reinsurance protection is critical to the state’s economic health and security.

According to new research by the Brattle Group, the tax would raise home insurance premiums by 1.9 percent, or $282 million a year in added costs, and raise premiums for business insurance by 6.7 percent, or $367 million in added costs.

As President Donald Trump and House Republicans continue to discuss plans for corporate tax reform, Floridians should pay close attention to proposals for a “border adjustment tax,” which is pitched as a way to tax goods and services companies import, but not those they export. House Republicans have discussed adding this feature to their tax reform “blueprint” in order to dampen the immediate fiscal impact of reducing the federal corporate income tax rate.

The fear for Florida and other disaster-prone states is that financial services, including insurance and reinsurance, would be included in the definition of imported goods and services and thus subject to taxation.

In 2011, the Florida Legislature became so concerned by the prospect of Congress enacting a proposal to tax the purchase of offshore reinsurance that it unanimously passed a memorial urging its rejection.

Indeed, Florida has a reason to be concerned about any proposal that taxes the purchase of reinsurance from offshore companies, as 91 percent of the state’s private reinsurance protection comes from such companies, along with 98 percent of the private reinsurance bought by the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

According to the Brattle study, applying border adjustment to insurance and reinsurance would cut the amount of reinsurance available to the United States by between 20 percent on the low end and a whopping 80 percent on the high end. Across the country, regular consumers would have to pay $16.9 billion more to obtain the same basic insurance coverage they already have. Florida, which leads the country with $2.9 trillion of insured coastal property, would be hit the hardest.

There is, however, some good news. Most countries that have adopted a border adjustment tax system have zero-rated or altogether exempted financial services from such taxation. Congress should do the same.

Florida has among the highest property insurance rates in the nation, due in no small part to its vulnerability to hurricanes, as well as an increasingly litigious environment that the Legislature can and should address.

The last thing it needs is for Congress to tax something that it relies on more than any other state.

___

Christian Cámara is Southeast Regional Director for the R Street Institute.

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