If you have ever read The Octopus, by Frank Norris, or The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, or even any of the social critiques by Sinclair Lewis like Main Street, Elmer Gantry or Babbitt, you will find echoes of those books in the rhetoric of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. In its April 20 edition, the Wall Street Journal carried an editorial ripping on Crist for reckless endangerment of his state’s finances by pushing increasing amounts of risk onto Florida taxpayers in his confrontation with the insurance industry. Yesterday Crist fired back in a WSJ op-ed piece, invoking the name and words of the great trust-buster, the Roughrider, the inspiration for the teddy bear — Theodore Roosevelt himself, and let us note, TR is of the same vintage as the authors mentioned above.
Here’s a sample of Crist’s style:
While I applaud and welcome the motivation of business to profit, I will not abide profiteering on the backs of the people. Perhaps in time, the insurance industry will return to competitive free-market behavior without the need for government intervention or stimulus. In the interim, this responsible, bipartisan approach to a crisis threatening both personal quality of life and continued economic expansion was and is the only right thing to do. The "Trust Buster" would have done no less.
It’s hard to figure how state residents are the big winners in this battle Crist is waging, when they get man-sized portions of risk slopped onto their plates and are left to choke it down if a big hurricane season hits. That will sure show the insurance companies: let’s compete with them by making the state-run insurer take on lots of new risk, and at the same time force articificially low prices so that we make no money on running the insurer, and are left to pay losses out of taxpayer and homeowner assessments. Let’s also be honest about it: the reductions in premiums state residents have seen so far have been pretty minimal, not at all what folks were hoping for.
I recall reading an economic study of the great newsweekly magazines of the first half of the 20th century — Collier’s, the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look — all of which began to suffer circulation and revenue declines in the 1950s as other media began to meet consumer demands. I think it was Collier’s that reacted by going all out, mouth-foaming mad to raise its circulation, and it did. One problem: Collier’s was losing money on every copy it sold, so selling twice as much just drove them into the ground faster. The magazine quit publishing in 1957.