Thursday, February 24, 2011

Commentary on Wall Street Journal Editorial "Waiting for Hurricane Charlie (Crist)"

The Wall Street Journal gets it absolutely right in its February 23, 2011 editorial titled “Waiting for Hurricane Charlie (Crist).”

Before discussing some of the points made in the editorial, it is necessary to present a background.

In 2007, newly-elected governor Charlie Crist embarked on a crusade against the free market when he decided to foist a socialist experiment on Florida that included a property insurance version of the “public option.”

Many critics of the “public option” portion of President Obama’s health care reform package insisted that enacting such a proposal would drive private health insurance companies unable to compete with the government out of the market or out of business altogether. Little did they know that their hypothesis was being tested and proven down in Florida with Governor Charlie Crist’s property insurance experiment.

This is how it worked: Charlie Crist converted Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state-run “insurer of last resort” into an active competitor in the market. Before this ill-conceived change, only consumers legitimately unable to obtain coverage in the private market were eligible for coverage through Citizens. Crist made it so anyone who received a single quote 15% above Citizens’ rates was now eligible for coverage through Citizens—AND he arbitrarily and artificially reduced Citizens’ rates through legislation and against all tenets of actuarial science. This essentially translated into a price control.

The result: private insurance companies could no longer compete. Several reduced policies or left Florida altogether, and in a matter of a few years, Citizens became the largest property insurer in the state controlling 25% of the Florida market, and one of the largest insurers in the country.

If the unfair competitive advantage of a government-owned company over private companies and the resultant lack of choice for consumers was not enough cause for outrage, then the enormous risk forced upon taxpayers should be.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial points out,

Citizens assured the state legislature last month that it is in "its best financial position ever," with "pre-event liquidity" of over $14.6 billion. That may sound hefty. But some of that money is borrowed, and the insurer itself estimates a once-in-a-100-year storm could cost upward of $22 billion. Its total liabilities are $451 billion. No storm would hit every insured house, but the possibility of a more than $22 billion event is there.

So how would Citizens pay its claims? It has three sources of primary income: premiums from policy holders, coverage from its reinsurer (more on that later) and the ability to levy "assessments," or taxes, on policy holders and every other Floridian. It's the latter ability that Citizens counts on to top up its coffers, and that's what makes it different from a private insurer, which lives and dies by its actuarial estimates before the storm hits.

Assessments. That’s bureaucratspeak for taxes. To make up any deficit that it may incur following a hurricane or series of hurricanes, Citizens has the legal authority to impose a tax not just on its own policyholders, but on just about every insurance policy issued in Florida—including homeowners policies, renters policies, auto policies, and boaters policies. Those taxes could dramatically increase the cost of those policies for many years. Everyone from millionaires to your neighbor’s 16 year-old kid who drives a clunker to school will be impacted. A typical middle-class family that owns a home and two cars may wind up paying several extra thousand dollars a year for up to 30 years for the very same coverage they receive today.

And it doesn’t end there. Florida also has a state-run reinsurer (reinsurance, essentially, is insurance for insurance companies. An insurance company will pay for a house that burns down; reinsurance kicks in if, say, a wildfire destroys an entire neighborhood). Florida’s reinsurance company, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (or Cat Fund for short) covers only catastrophic wind damage, and it also has the ability to levy taxes to pay off the bonds it would have to issue to raise the money it needs to pay claims after a hurricane. The editorial accurately states:

Last October, the Cat Fund said there's still "significant uncertainty" about how much money it can raise after a hurricane. The fund has about $6 billion of cash on hand. Anything above that would have to be raised in the bond markets. Imagine if the Cat Fund had to go cap in hand for $20 billion or $30 billion, all at once. Citizens, by the way, counts on the Cat Fund for $6.4 billion worth of coverage.

Mr. Crist's unstated answer to all this was that when the big one does hit again, Washington will ride to the rescue. In other words, the real insurers of last resort for Florida beachfront property are taxpayers in Waterloo and Denver.

So that, in a nutshell, was Crist’s entire hurricane catastrophe policy: reliance on Washington to bail Florida out of the bind he got the state in.

Now that the adults have regained control of the state’s affairs, tough decisions lie ahead. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and every hurricane season that goes by without the right reforms in place is another blank fired in the game of Russian Roulette that Florida was thrown into.

[The] politics will not be easy to navigate because any reform will have to reinsert price signals into the market—meaning higher premiums for Floridians, at least in the short term, given that Florida is so often hit by hurricanes. Some Republicans may resist spending political capital to fix a problem they may not get credit for tackling if a hurricane doesn't hit on their watch. Many Democrats will oppose any changes. Then again, Republicans will surely get blamed for premium and tax increases when a big hurricane hits.

Florida voters did the country a favor when they refused to send Mr. Crist to the Senate. Now Republicans have an obligation to clean up the looming fiscal catastrophe his policies have left behind.

Luckily, Governor Scott and the new Legislature are showing signs of willingness to tackle this difficult issue, but Floridians should insist that changes to the system be made sooner rather than later. Free-market reforms that level the playing field and shift hurricane risk away from taxpayers onto private companies may produce a short-term, methodical increase in property insurance rates. But that is a heck of a lot better than the alternative, which assures massive, disproportionate rate hikes for every Floridian for decades.

Hurricane season begins June 1. The clock is ticking.

(Full text of WSJ editorial may be found here)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tallahassee Young Republicans Resolution RE: High Speed Rail

Because the Tallahassee Young Republicans website is currently under construction, I've posted this resolution here.

On Tuesday, February 22, 2011 the Young Republicans Club of Tallahassee overwhelmingly approved the adoption of the following resolution regarding the high-speed rail proposal recently rejected by Governor Rick Scott.


Whereas, the United States government faces a staggering $14 trillion debt due to multiple years of budget deficits, and

Whereas, President Obama recently proposed the largest budget in United States history at $3.73 trillion, which includes a $1.65 trillion deficit, and

Whereas, President Obama’s America’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus” foisted at least $862 billion in additional debt on future generations and may eventually cost trillions of dollars over the next several years, and

Whereas, Republicans and conservatives across America united against President Obama’s stimulus plan, which was forced through the legislative process without a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives, and

Whereas, the proposed “high-speed rail” linking Orlando and Tampa would be overwhelmingly subsidized by funds appropriated from the aforementioned Obama stimulus, and

Whereas, historical data suggests that budget overruns are pervasive in over 90% of rail projects, and

Whereas, any budget overruns would be incurred by Florida taxpayers, and

Whereas, if revenues generated by “high-speed rail” are insufficient to cover its costs, Florida taxpayers would likely be forced to subsidize it in perpetuity, and

Whereas, if future lawmakers were to ever decide to dismantle “high-speed rail” due to cost overruns, underutilization, or any other factor, Florida would have to return the $2.4 billion to the federal government, NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it resolved by the Young Republicans Club of Tallahassee, a chapter duly chartered by the Florida Federation of Young Republicans:

That its leadership and membership support Florida Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of borrowed federal funds to subsidize a “high-speed rail” project between the metropolitan areas of Tampa and Orlando, Florida.

Be it further resolved that copies of this resolution be dispatched to the Governor, President of the Florida Senate, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, and to members of the media.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Epilogue to my struggle against Charlie Crist

Florida has had to deal with many crises in the last several decades--everything from catastrophic hurricanes and refugee influxes to the crippling economic effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Florida has been lucky to have had adults at the helm to steer her through those turbulent waters. For example, Governor Jeb Bush immediately convened a special session after the attacks on 9/11 to deal with the impending economic effects on the state. Targeted tax cuts and other measures were taken to offset the expected drop in tourism, revenue and the resultant economic slowdown, and Florida weathered that crisis relatively unscathed.

These past four years, on the other hand, paint a totally different picture. Florida was led by a blindly ambitious career politician who has never stuck with any of his several statewide political positions for more than one term. Instead of tackling the issues he was entrusted to confront by the people he professes ad nauseum to represent, Charlie Crist treated each and every position he has ever held as just another step in his perpetual career climb, leaving those tough decisions to others or subsequent officeholders. These past four years prove that Charlie Crist treated the honor of Florida's Governorship no differently. Proof of his dereliction can be found by merely comparing the state's current economic, unemployment, and even population statistics with those four short years ago.

So as Florida elevates Rick Scott as its 45th Governor this week, and in celebration of the fact that the adults have regained control of Florida's affairs, I wish to take the opportunity to explain my years-long contempt for outgoing governor Charlie Crist and why I felt it was necessary to expose him and hold him accountable the way I have these past several years.


Ironically, I was one of the first in Miami-Dade County to sport a "Charlie Crist for Governor" sticker on my car in 2005. I had the opportunity to meet with then-Attorney General Crist on several occasions at Republican gatherings and events. In 2004, I even drove Crist to the airport in the car that today dons a "See Ya Charlie" sticker. I always found him to be an extremely warm, friendly guy and one who made people feel important, especially when he remembered their names. As for his primary opponent, Tom Gallagher, I did not have much interaction with him. I did not dislike him, but found him to be a bit standoffish. Because I considered both men philosophical equals and I had a better personal rapport with Charlie, he initially became my choice for Governor in 2006.

That all changed, however, when I became a Legislative Aide to a state representative. That gig landed me in Tallahassee during the 60-day legislative session in 2006. During that time, I witnessed the divide between conservatives and RINOs in the Legislature. The conservatives were essentially all with Gallagher and the RINOs with Crist. Although I'm not necessarily one to condemn someone for their associations alone, I witnessed firsthand how Crist's allies derailed good legislation or otherwise stood in the way of good legislation. One such Crist ally was Senator Alex Villalobos, who last year flaunted his true colors by endorsing Crist for Senate and Sink for Governor. I became concerned these characters would be empowered during a Crist administration... but I digress.

That, coupled with other things I experienced and witnessed made me reconsider my support for Crist, and so I switched over to Gallagher.

As we all know, Crist went on to win the primary and general elections. At that point, I took a step back and gave him a chance, as he was, after all, a "Republican." But that didn't last very long.


The act that sealed Crist's fate in my eyes was his selection of Jim Greer as Chairman of the RPOF. As someone who was a grassroots volunteer since his teenage years who later worked for the RPOF, I had institutional knowledge of the party and took offense that the incoming governor would have the hubris to appoint someone whose only qualification was being a crony of his (seems this would be an ongoing theme in the Crist administration).

I had no problem with previous governors "tapping" someone to be chairman, since they traditionally respected party leaders enough to choose someone from among the committee who was trusted by its members. Jim Greer had never served on the committee he was selected by Crist to lead, and the State Committeeman from his county even had to resign his post so Greer could qualify to run. I was there when the state committeeman from his county begrudgingly announced to the State Committeeman's Caucus in December of 2006 that the governor had asked him to step down so Greer could be the next chairman.

The election took place in January 2007 at the Annual Meeting. At that point, I did not have anything against Jim Greer personally, other than being party to the entire process by which he was being "selected" by Crist and company to head the RPOF. But at the Annual Meeting, Greer began to show symptoms of what would eventually be his downfall.

The money Greer raised for his chairman's race was seemingly spent almost entirely on a reception the night before the election. After a gaggle of politicians and Republican Club presidents gave their rousing endorsement speeches, Greer gave a speech of his own followed by a buffoonish performance of Elvis songs with the hired band. The lack of class and elegance made me wonder to what depths the Republican Party of Florida had sunk.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who shared that view since incumbent Chairman, Carole-Jean Jordan felt it was necessary to stand up to this madness and run for reelection. Despite raising and spending no money for her reelection effort and having the new governor literally endorse her opponent from the floor, she came within 7 votes of defeating Crist's sideshow court jester Jim Greer. I have always said that Carole-Jean Jordan deserves our respect and admiration for having the courage to challenge Crist, Greer and their enablers.

Greer moved quickly to change things at the party. He fired many staffers and replaced them with Crist loyalists. He also canceled the straw poll scheduled to take place at the RPOF Convention later that year. I personally believe he did it so John McCain--the one candidate RINO enough and unprincipled enough to consider Crist as his VP choice--wouldn't suffer an embarrassing, and potentially game-changing defeat, since many grassroots Republican activists were upset at him over his amnesty proposal at the time.

Additionally, Crist got the Legislature to insert language into an election bill that pads the RPOF State Committee with additional members appointed by the governor, thus diluting county grassroots power and safeguarding against future close chairman races. The bill also included language that would allow a state politician to run for federal office without having to resign his state position. This change in law would have come especially handy for Crist had he been--oh, I don't know--tapped for VP, maybe?


To say that Crist went on to embrace or otherwise support an anti-conservative agenda would be a gross understatement. In addition to the fact that many of us who were early Rubio supporters were exiled from our own party by Crist, Greer, and their enablers--and mocked for supporting a candidate "with no chance" at winning--these are some of the things Crist did to earn the ire of many conservatives and the praise of Democratic State Senator David Aronberg as "one of the best Democratic Governors Florida has ever had":

  • Socializing Florida's property insurance system by making the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation a "public option" for people to choose instead of private coverage. This not only violates every free market principle, but it also places the state one hurricane away from bankruptcy because Crist also forced Citizens to lower its rates artificially and against all tenets of actuarial soundness. If Citizens goes broke, Florida taxpayers will have to bail it out. But this doesn't matter to a politician who never sticks around for more than one term

  • Restoring felons voting rights, which dramatically increased Democrat voters in swing-state Florida.

  • Pulling RPOF funding from the campaign to ban Same-Sex Marriage after he signed the petition supporting the same-sex marriage ban amendmen

  • Campaigning against gambling expansion, yet expanded gambling dramatically. I'm not debating the merits of gambling, but rather exposing and condemning yet another one of Crist's lies.

  • Sucking up to leftist enviros like Sheryl Crow, Robert Kennedy and Castro sympathizer actor Robert Redford to Advance their leftwing global warming hysteria; Publicly crediting Al Gore and his discredited movie with raising his own global warming awareness; implementing through executive order California-style emissions standards and a Cap-and-Trade scheme that will only serve to exacerbate Florida's economic problems. All this made him the Trotskyite Left's favorite pet Republican, but then he backstabbed even them in an attempt to fool Republican primary voters with short memory spans.

  • Lying to Giuliani when he told him he'd endorse him for president, instead endorsing John McCain the weekend before the presidential primary in Florida. Considering Romney and McCain were in a statistical dead heat in the polls leading up to the election, Crist's endorsement of McCain essentially handed the Republican nomination to the most liberal Republican in the field of contenders.

  • Sitting on his hands after he was not chosen for VP and allowing the state to go for Obama. In fact, after consulting with the DEMOCRAT leader of the Florida House--not the Republican Speaker or Senate President, mind you--Crist extended early voting hours, which clearly helped the Democrats throughout the ticket.

  • Squandering the opportunity to tilt the Supreme Court to the right, and instead appointing liberal supreme court justices such as James Perry and Jorge Labarga, who both later voted to strike Amendment 9 relating to ObamaCare off the ballot.

  • Figuratively and literally embracing the phony Obama Stimulus, which conferred it the false illusion of bipartisan support. Some perspective: had Crist been a U.S. representative, he would have been the ONLY Republican to have voted for the stimulus and only one of four in the Senate (along with Snowe, Collins, and Specter, who at the time was still a "Republican").
    SIDE NOTE: When then-Attorney General Crist was campaigning for governor in 2006, he and his campaign manager George LeMieux decided to snub the sitting Republican President by not joining him and other statewide Republican candidates for a rally in Pensacola. Yet, while Republicans nationwide were fighting Obama and his stimulus proposal, Crist came out to support Obama and his stimulus proposal.

  • Permitting Jim Greer to run amok. Despite countless Republican activists, party officers (and more party officers), donors, (and more donors), elected officials, and concerned Republicans calling for his resignation, Jim Greer dug in his heels and defiantly refused to go for months. Jim Greer himself validated my belief when he confirmed that Crist had instructed him not to resign. Let's be clear: if it was up to Crist and his enablers, Greer would STILL be there destroying the RPOF. Why? because it's about them and not about anyone else.

So if it was always about them to the detriment of the party, its candidates, and its principles, why should the rest of us follow them off the cliff like a bunch of lemmings?


These are all acts of treachery that Charlie Crist committed BEFORE he switched parties. This is why I reject the notion that Charlie Crist suddenly became a traitor to the Republican Party the day he switched to a No-Party-Affiliation candidate and that everyone who supported him up until that moment had no idea he would do such a thing.

Can anyone really claim deception? Anyone?

Senator LeMieux, put your hand down. That was a rhetorical question.

Anyway, the answer is no. No one can claim deception. All the signs were there. Charlie Crist was a back-stabber opportunist long before April 29, 2010.

A true philosophical conservative could NEVER support a candidate who did even half of the things that Charlie Crist did prior to his party switch--much less in a Republican primary that provides a clear alternative.

Moreover, no Republican--conservative, moderate, or otherwise--with the party's best interests at heart could nor should support a candidate who would allow his own handpicked chairman to continue humiliating the party and living high off its coffers merely to continue having one of his cronies in such a position.

These are some of the reasons I have utter contempt for the back-stabber Charlie Crist and a select few who enabled him to undermine the principles that I hold dear and destroy the party that I have given so much of my time and energy to since I was 17 years-old.

Courage is rarely convenient. "Abandoning" Crist once he explicitly and literally abandoned the Republican Party on April 29, 2010 is hardly the definition of courage. That was the convenient, politically expedient thing to do.

On the other hand, putting ones self in political harm's way and denouncing Crist and Greer while they were both still in power and in a position to continue damaging our party: that's courage.

This is why I will continue to support candidates for public and party offices that have a proven record of commitment to the party under whose banner they run and the principles that unite us under that banner--courageous candidates who have a record of doing what's right for the party, including challenging and standing up to the kind of destructive and oftentimes treacherous behavior I have outlined here--not those who "toted the party [boss's] line" when the party was hijacked by a bunch of traitors and criminals with no sense of principle.

I salute those party leaders and elected officials who had the courage to stand up to Crist and Greer early on. The party and its members throughout Florida owe them a debt of gratitude.

As for Charlie Crist, Jim Greer, and his enablers, they leave their high positions of power worse off and in some cases disgraced. May they serve as a lasting example of what not to do--or tolerate--in politics.