John Kolesar

John Kolesar is a veteran newspaper editor and writer.

Recent Articles

The Great Carjacking

Public outrage about auto insurance costs -- which almost derailed Christine Todd Whitman's re-election in New Jersey -- is symptomatic of a deeper problem that reforms typically fail to confront.

When New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman finally signed a long-promised auto insurance reform bill last May 19, she hoped that it would put to rest an issue that had almost cost her re-election just six months earlier. Whitman's opponent had made much of the fact that while auto insurance premiums nationwide have been rising at double the general inflation rate during the 1990s, New Jersey's rates are more than 40 percent higher than the national average. The new law mandates a 15 percent rate cut paid for by a crackdown on insurance fraud and limitations on the judgments that drivers can win in liability suits. Insurance companies predict the savings will be more like 3 percent, and they threaten to sue the state. New Jersey's recent experience -- and Whitman's narrow escape from election defeat in 1997 -- demonstrated not only the political potency of the auto insurance issue but also why interest group politics make the issue so difficult to deal with effectively. The $5...