Mikel KellyThe latest addition to the expanding list of things that get on my nerves is insurance companies.

Now, I must confess that this was all set off by something I myself did. I backed into a car in a parking lot last fall, and it cost more than $2,000 to fix my crumpled fender and a similar amount for the car I hit. Let me repeat, it was completely my fault — no question.

Of course, I turned in a claim to my insurance company, the same one I’ve been loyal to for several decades now (paying steadily increasing premiums every year, even though I never actually had an accident).

Last week I received a notice from my agent, telling me I was going to be paying more for my insurance at the next renewal period “because of an accident surcharge” resulting from my September parking lot incident. There was a lengthy explanation of why this was happening, but at the end it stated that, three years from now, if there are no more such incidents, my “accident free discount” will be reinstated.

Being a smart-aleck by nature, I sent my agent a note reminding him that what I told him on the phone several months ago — about how insurance companies seem as expensive, as worthless and as cowardly as banks and financial institutions — still appears to be true.

I know my allegation that insurance companies are evil is not exactly breaking news to anybody. And it isn’t as if I used to sit around pondering the many ways I loved the institution known as insurance — but it’s been elevated, in my own estimation, to the things I really, really don’t like about life on this earth.

You see, insurance companies have now joined the oil companies, the banks and pretty much the whole financial industry under the heading of Things We Don’t Seem To Be Able To Change But Which Make Our Lives Quite A Bit Crappier (TWDSTBATCBWMOLQABC).

The reason for my bad attitude, of course, is that all of these institutions:

A. Charge huge gobs of money to exist at all (this is often required by law).

B. Report humongous profits every year, no matter what else is happening in the world.

C. Tolerate no risk to themselves whatsoever (meaning they have the system rigged up front so they always get their money and, if costs should escalate, they then charge even more).

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but oil companies have never failed to make gigantic profits. It doesn’t matter if the economy is up or down, if oil is plentiful or scarce. They always report profits of something like 9,000 percent. Every year.

The same is true for the financial institutions. Remember back when those companies that were too big to fail came to us with their hats in their hand and our political leaders decided that we — the working stiffs of America, who just manage to get from one paycheck to the next — should give them even more money (in the form of taxes)? Well, even through that couple of years of “financial crisis,” in which they almost bankrupted the country, we later learned their CEOs, managers and top dogs all received monstrous bonuses and STILL declared record profits.

This is very much like a gambling casino getting the taxpayers to give it extra money, in the form of taxes, even though it clearly has set up its games so the house always wins — which, of course, it does. Oh, I forgot to mention that we all would be required by law to go to this casino a specified number of times.

The only way I can see to make it any clearer is to apply it to the business I’m in. I can promise you, you wouldn’t like it if the newspaper business was run this way.

First of all, there would be laws requiring that everybody has to take a local newspaper. Then, like the insurance industry, we’d have a guaranteed income stream. Of course, if you didn’t take a paper, you could be thrown in jail for breaking the law.

Then, to make things even more insulting, we’d rig it so we could charge whatever we want for our product. How does $10 per issue of the paper sound? Sounds pretty good to me. Of course, if we discovered that you were either not reading your paper, or even worse, reading it but doing a poor job of understanding it, we’d be able to raise the cost.

Too dumb to understand the news? OK, Bub, it’s now $20 per issue.

And, oh yeah — this thing of mine you just read about how irritated I am about this whole thing? That’ll be an extra $100.

Former managing editor of the Times newspapers as well as the Lake Oswego Review, Kelly is now chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.

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