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At Large
Trump and Twitter

The president’s tweets reveal his thinking on insurance-relevant topics.
  • Robert P. Hartwig
  • January 2019
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Robert Hartwig

The first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency have been a mixed bag for insurers. This is not unusual, as all new presidents seek to push through aggressive agendas.

Robert Hartwig

It's official. The first two years of the Trump administration are in the history books! It's now time to assess the impact on insurers. But where to start? To answer that question your author consulted the fount of all knowledge about the President's thinking—Twitter. President Trump's proclivity for Twitter—with some 6,000 tweets over the past two years—is revealing. The president has tweeted thousands of times on a diverse range of topics important to insurers, from health care to hurricanes. Turns out the 56 million followers of @realDonaldTrump are bombarded with insurance-relevant tweets. Here's my curated list of his favorite insurance-related Twitter targets.

Health Insurance: “Obamacare is a disaster” is an oft-repeated phrase in the president's tweets. And Republican rage for the better part of a decade over the Obamacare boogeyman made “repeal and replace” both a mantra of the Trump campaign and a first-order priority of his administration. On this account, Republicans scored an epic fail, having succeeded in neither repealing nor replacing the Affordable Care Act. Turns out most Americans appreciate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Plan B: An improvised, piecemeal dismemberment of the ACA. The elimination of the individual mandate, the halting of required payments to health insurers and a proposal to introduce cheap policies with skimpy benefits could starve the ACA of the healthy bodies and cash flows it so desperately needs.

Taxes: The lowering of the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% pursuant to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was a boon to insurers and all other industries, as the president reminded us with some 300 tweets. P/C insurer profits were indeed up sharply through the first half of 2018. Importantly, the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) provision of the TCJA materially reduced the tax advantage long enjoyed by foreign insurers with offshore reinsurance operations.

Judiciary: The president is frequently at odds with the judiciary, often blaming “Obama judges” for stifling his agenda. Yet Mr. Trump's most enduring legacy will likely be his judicial appointments. He has appointed 84 conservative, business-friendly judges to the federal bench, including two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, with an additional 148 vacancies looming. A business-friendly federal bench is likely to be favorable to insurers on issues related to casualty insurance and regulation.

Disaster Response: The president has been accused of lacking empathy for disaster victims and in harsh tweets has lashed out at local officials from California to Puerto Rico for flat-footed responses, while at the same time discounting all science related to climate change. Yet, he is right to point out that disaster-prone communities need to do more to manage their own catastrophe risk—rather than simply looking to Washington for bailouts.

Trade: With more than 350 tweets focusing on trade, America's global trade war has fast become a costly, dark horse issue for insurers. The industry has estimated that tariffs on auto parts will push up auto repair costs in the personal auto line alone by 2.7% or $3.4 billion.

The first two years of Donald Trump's presidency have been a mixed bag for insurers. This is not unusual, as all new presidents seek to push through aggressive agendas. Looking ahead, with the 2020 elections looming and a gridlocked Congress, expect more tweets, less transformation.

 

Robert P. Hartwig, PhD. CPCU, is past president of the Insurance Information Institute and current director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. He can be reached at robert.hartwig@moore.sc.edu.


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