News flash: Companies don’t want to lose money

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s “chief financial officer,” said that Farmers Insurance pulled out of Florida not because it was losing money there but because the company was “woke.” How that wokeness manifested itself, he does not say.

The profit motive is apparently a very shocking concept to the state official tasked with overseeing Florida’s financial regulation. But if he does “get it,” this would be the latest example of a right-wing Republican trying to undermine capitalism for political ends.

Let’s not dignify Patronis’ statement by calling it a “lie.” Nor is it just stupid. It is “shtupid.”

Because it is undeniable that losses are what’s driving some property insurers out of Florida, mostly due to massive flooding. And this problem is hardly limited to Florida. In Louisiana, 49% of which is below sea level, insurers are pulling back on offering homeowner’s coverage — or piling on the price tag.

State Farm has said it won’t accept any new applications for property and casualty insurance in California. Flooding is not the main reason. Fire is.

Allstate is also not signing new policies in the state. Why? The company says that the cost to insure new customers in California is “far higher” than the price customers are paying for its policies. When an insurer spends more paying off claims than it collects in premiums — that’s called losing money.

Rest assured that California’s reluctance to ban children’s books about Tango, a penguin raised by two daddies (apparently true), in no way influences its insurers’ decisions, one way or another, to cover properties there.

After decades of making good money, what’s causing insurers to report less-than-zero profits after paying claims? It’s the parade of cataclysmic weather events made worse by rising temperatures. There have always been hurricanes. But warming sea surface temperatures are already spawning more very destructive Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

The Biden administration is pushing policies to address this terrifying trend. Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis dismisses concern over global warming as “left-wing stuff.” Well, not dealing with that “stuff” certainly frees up hours to go after Disney and drag queens.

Let the grown-ups worry about how drought, floods, killer heat waves and related pestilence are hurting their economies. Never mind the human suffering, should these guys care.

DeSantis’ sharpest offensive against companies trying to make a living was his law forbidding them to require passengers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID. This meddling reached its nutty summit in the heart of the pandemic when DeSantis attacked the cruise ship lines operating out of Florida for insisting that passengers be vaccinated.

Face it, spending days stuffed on a ship with several thousand strangers, many carrying a potentially deadly disease, did not appeal to cruise patrons at the time. That went double for the older ones, who make up a large chunk of these companies’ business. Thanks to COVID, the number of people who took cruises fell to under 6 million in 2020, down from almost 30 million the year before.

Is it possible that these businesses insisted on the COVID shots because they wanted to keep their customers and, thereby, make money?

Back in the real world of both climate science and business judgement, warming temperatures have made home coverage anywhere near the water unaffordable, if not unattainable. The price of homeowners insurance in Florida now averages an amazing $6,000. Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel recently said “that kind of economic cost is probably not enough to offset all the wokeness in the world or even the taxes.”

Face it. Private companies don’t want — and can’t be forced — to lose money. It’s time right-wingers got “woke” to that.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.