Sometimes you don’t have to look very hard to find a sterling example of an Orwellian white-is-black declaration. Exhibit A: The recent letter to the editor of my local paper from the executive director of the Insurance Federation of North Carolina.
If you live in North Carolina, and if you’ve got a wonkish turn of mind, then you know that there’s a bill floating around the legislature that would strip the state’s insurance commissioner of his power to set car insurance rates. (See my May 24 column, “No Flowers from good-time Tony,” for details.) Not surprisingly, the insurance industry doesn’t like the fact that car insurance rates are relatively low here. No, wait. That’s not exactly right. The insurance industry doesn’t like the process by which the rates are set. It would prefer a different system — one which could make rates even lower! And the industry would be happy for you to pay less!
If you believe that, give me a call. I’ve got some special investment opportunities for you.
It’s right there in Orwellian black and white: “Modernizing North Carolina’s rate-making system will benefit consumers by ending forced subsidies and removing the cost of unnecessary delays in the rate-making process,” says Joe Stewart, the federation’s director, in his letter to the editor. “Such a study might just find ways for North Carolina’s auto rates to improve from fifth-lowest in the nation to an even better ranking.”
Not only are those two sentences nonsensical, they also directly conflict with one another. If the industry believes that it is being forced to subsidize car insurance rates in this state, then that means it thinks rates are lower than they should be. How could consumers possibly benefit from an end to this alleged subsidy? What kind of ridiculous doublespeak is that? (Answer: Insurance industry doublespeak.)
Then, after asserting that the industry is being forced to subsidize North Carolina’s artificially low rates, Stewart goes on to say, approvingly and with an apparent straight face, that a new system could drive down rates even more.
That’s when my jaw drops in astonishment. Let me get this straight. The industry wants to strip the state insurance commissioner of his power to set auto rates so that North Carolina drivers could pay less to insurance companies? Are we really expected to believe that?
I think Orwell could have taken a lesson from these guys.