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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ode to Eliot 

Paul Winston, editorial director of Business Insurance, has written some lyrics in honor of Eliot Spitzer. He calls his song "Carol of the Smells," and it is to be sung to the tune of the "Carol of the Bells." If you don't know that tune, think of the Andre champagne song.

I reproduce it here, in its entirety, for your holiday reading pleasure. Hum quietly to yourself if you are at work, but sing robustly if you are at home or in a Starbucks (if the latter, please report on the reaction of other patrons in the comments section below).
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

One seems to hear,
words of great fear
from ev'rywhere,
filling the air.

Brokers expound,
as if dumbfound,
o'er the loud wails,
needing details.

Buyers dismayed
trust was waylaid.
Time to renew,
their brokers, too.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

Insurers claim
they're without blame,
but can that be?
It's their money.

Officials, too,
seemed to eschew
a closer look
what brokers took.

And none was strong,
to say it's wrong,
`til Eliot
had filed his writ.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

Now, time to look
at the playbook,
set a new course
all can endorse.

Pay above board,
no one to hoard.
Fair play in bids,
fraud it will rid.

But above all,
heed an old call:
For your welfare,
buyer beware.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. WRONG.

Eliot Spitzer is a populist in an almost tradition sense. Like all American populists, he is quickly piling up enemies in the business community. If money were still hard, he would want to make it soft.

My chief complaint about Spitzer does not relate to the substance of his prosecutions, although I certainly think that some of them have demanded and obtained remedies that run counter to the best public policy. My objection to Spitzer is that he has used his office as a state official very cleverly to undermine national regulation of matters that should be consistent within the internal free trade zone that is the United States. It is as simple as this: Spitzer's prosecutions disrespect the legacy of John Marshall.

The insurance industry, however, is at least arguably getting what it deserves. For obscure and obsolete reasons, virtually all regulation of insurance is a matter of state law, rather than federal. The insurance industry has, until now, preferred the more corruptible state regulators to any federal alternative. That is why there is no equivalent to the Securities and Exchange Commission for the insurance industry.

Looked at that way, in going after the insurance industry Spitzer is (for once) doing the job he was hired to do.

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