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June 9, 2017

GOVERNMENT FOR THE COMMON GOOD?

I don’t have enough money or expertise to build or maintain dams, super highways or electrical grids, nor do I have enough money and expertise to raise armies or fund research or provide all the many services government used to provide in FDR’s New Deal era, an era that ended with the fictitious (and continuing “trickle down” economics of the Reagan era) and the disastrous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which opened the floodgates for unregulated big banks to again bring us another Great Depression (as they nearly did with Bush’s Great Recession, bailouts of insolvent Wall Street banks etc.)

Nor do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have enough money or expertise to fund and regulate the many tasks government can and should be doing. Ah, but that’s the rub, isn’t it, as in what “should” government be doing and how do we finance such efforts (core issues of the day along with wage inequality)? How and who do we tax and in what proportion and how do we divide the spoils our economy produces, and why? For the common good, or to satiate the greed of the few?

So what is the role of government beyond defense and protection of property (limits endorsed by libertarian radicals such as the Kochs)? The historical view of government is that its existence is essential since you and I and our fellow citizens can do things together that we cannot do alone that are for the common good. Thus we need roads and bridges to get to work and ship goods; we need clean power sources – the list is long. You and I as individuals cannot begin to finance even the most rudimentary services for our 21st century economy and our various roles both domestic and as a First World leader internationally as politics and economics become increasingly entangled in a globalized marketplace, but you and I together have ample resources to finance our efforts in such various roles. The problem is in reaching political consensus among various competing interests.

What should the role of government be in allocation of risk in the marketplace, rewards and punishments via the tax and other codes, regulation of corporate and other activities to prevent another Bernie Madoff and mortgage fraud experience etc.? Are we the people to act for the common good or for the greedy interests of the few in braving the threats of the bribed in the Congress to reduce the budgets of the SEC, the anti-trust division of the AG’s office, and other government cops on the Wall Street beat? Are we living up to our founding credo that government was instituted for the purpose of doing together what we cannot do alone and for the common good? Were the Madoff experience and the trillions of home equity by ordinary Americans lost during Bush’s Great Recession for the common good? Are two and two four?

The answer is so obvious that the question need not even be asked, but we have been propagandized so thoroughly by the rich and corporate class via their armies of lobbyists and lawyers in Washington and the business press in New York that we have lost sight of why we even have government, an idea based on doing together what we cannot do alone and as an expression of what we do based on the common good. We have a winner among competing interests today, and it isn’t you and me. Guess who?

So is government since Reagan with his back-of-a-napkin trickledown economics for the common good or for the greedy few, and how has it worked out for you and me? Again, the answer is obvious; we have suffered a cut in median wages, our economy is underperforming, we have run up deficits to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporate class, our infrastructure is nearing collapse in many places, and perhaps worst of all, the fees paid to Wall Street’s armies of lobbyists and lawyers to maintain and expand making America its free ATM machine are deductible, which means you and I are paying part of their costs in maintaining the status quo. Perhaps we need a new motto – government for the common bad.   GERALD     E

 

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