Friday, February 12, 2010

Public vs. Private and Americans United.

Daniel Henninger, of course at the super pro-business Wall Street Journal, gets a great couple of things wrong in his opinion column today about the struggle that is taking place in the country between faith in government and faith in the free market.

Scoff at "the public good" all he wants, like the notion is some quaint nicety afforded "the help" by the country's true plantation owners, the noble, superior corporations, government's role is not to protect the public for corporations' use but from corporations' abuse. We've got three branches of government; we don't need a corporate branch.

Yet, that's exactly what we have. To the tune of paid-for politicians, a decimated middle class, an unworkable health care system, a barely-surviving minimum-wage class, and a warped social mythology that our businesses are what have made us great. To some extent, the rise of America's global corporations have aided American global dominance but for the most part I'm not sure that's something to brag about. Not when you consider what it's cost us.

Too many decades of letting these selfish, powerful entities run rough-shod over the world market should have taught us a lesson in the eighties. And the nineties. And the oughts. Yet, Republicans, Democrats and the courts have aided and abetted corporate gutting of citizen's pockets, standard of living, and rights.

It's a sad myth that market-running, unregulated corporations are our best national asset, a romantic myth akin to that of America's "greatest schools on earth" and "greatest health care system on earth" and "greatest God-fearing nation on earth."

As our economy sits in ruins and the good public suffer yet again with this recession at the hands of unchecked corporations, it's laughable that the myth still holds weight. If I could, I'd send Henninger and his fellow believers to work in a sweat shop in south east asia or a coal mine in Pennsylvania. Because what they fail to acknowledge is that the public is not just made up of corporate CEOs with private jets and multiple (un-foreclosed) houses. The public is not even made up of folks like me who have a college education and tap away at a "desk" job.

It's the hundreds of millions of forgotten Americans who have no ability to chose their way because they are slaves to the very same corporations who have just been given their vote. Bootstraps be damned; until we break the myth that corporations actually care about the public good - or are even above responsibility for it - we'll be using social program after social program to repair the damage they continue to do.

From the article:

America's Democrats and Republicans, crudely defined, are with this presidency and this Congress living today on opposite sides of a moon that they both call the United States.

In the universe inhabited by Justice Stevens and President Obama, corporations—the private sector—are a suspect abstraction, ever tending toward "the worst urges" which have to be "comprehensively regulated." The saints regulate the sinners.

If you think this way, what one does to the private sector, such as the proposed $90 billion bank tax, can never be wrong in any serious way, so long as the rationale offered is the "public good." Private-sector players are seen as barely more than paid galley slaves on the ship of state. So it is with the health-care bill's mammoth, comprehensive regulation of American medicine and insurance.

Mr. Obama seems genuinely perplexed that the opposition can't just, you know, sign onto it. What's their problem?

Evidently, the voters of Massachusetts have a problem with that and more.

In the past year, Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed a $787 billion stimulus, seized banks and the auto industry, embarked on a $1 trillion reorganization of the private health-care system, and passed a fiscal 2010 budget that put spending as a percentage of GDP at 24.1%. These are very large claims for the public good.

This public-private tension is an ancient and never-ending debate in the U.S. But what we are seeing this year, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, is American voters arriving at a tipping point over the scale and role of government. Most Americans still go to work each day inside a private economy organized around tens of thousands of corporations. Their basic view of the world and that found inside Justice Stevens's dissent and this White House are out of sync.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home