Saturday, June 26, 2010

Realilty Check

For all those who worship at the altar of the capitalist free market, the reality of America's economy these days should test their most deeply held beliefs. (*) Far from creating the rising tide of wealth that lifts all boats, the past three decades in America have been a time of increasing concentration of wealth for the few and immiseration for all the rest. And now, the nation faces the difficult task of picking up the tab for years of excess by business and the wealthy, paying for a party from which most were excluded.

But the public gets the bill for it all. Simply look at the financial bail-outs, loan guarantees and (virtually) free credit and tell me that those so-called private investment decisions did not come at the public expense. Yet, when it came to taxes to provide for know, "general Welfare" (it's in the Constitution with a capital W), the rich bankers and all the rest of the monied elite were well sheltered by tax cuts, exemptions an financial shelters.

The bankers are hardly alone. Listen to the platitudes of big business as its spokesman asserts that government remain on the sidelines of the national economy as the pile up profits while workers lose jobs, homes and savings. Here too, the concentration of wealth ably assisted by 30 years of no-tax, no-government ideology has wreaked the lives of many to the advantage of a few. Speaking of Ivan Seidenber, Business Rountable chair and chief executive of Verizon Communications, Steven Pearlstein writes in the Washington Post
...[W]e now have plenty of experience to indicate that even when taxes and regulatory costs are cut, companies are just as apt to use the money to increase compensation for top executives, or pay out higher dividends to investors, or mindlessly bid up the price of other financial assets, as they are to invest in genuine growth-enhancing new products and processes. Nobody should understand that better than Seidenberg, whose industry managed to vaporize hundreds of billions of dollars of other people's money during the telecom bubble of the 1990s.

Readers here should not be surprised that I side with the public, acting through elected government, to regulate and control business and finance. Few activities are as central to a healthy society. A just and fair economy is a matter that is appropriately the interest of many, not just the few. The nature of any economy is that at any given time, some will have an advantage in resources and influence over others and, like all human beings, they will have every reason, save for their own conscience and moral code, to use that advantage and influence to their own ends. History has taught me not to trust in others' conscience, so I look to my government to provide a check on human nature.

It's a risky choice, I know. But the alternative--relying on good will and good intentions of he corporate-monied class--is even worse.

(*) Okay, I know it won't. The nature of ideology is that it will always find a convenient explanation whenever reality fails to validate their promises.



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