Despite the noise, government has a role

It was back in 1981 when the modern right-wing assault on the role of government in our society began. Then, newly elected President Ronald Reagan said this during his inaugural speech:
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
The attack continued through the Clinton years with a congressionally inspired government shutdown.
The Bush years gave us more, including the No Child Left Behind act, which undermines public education by making unrealistic demands for schools to improve every year despite dealing with different students, and a crippling law requiring the U.S. Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of future employees’ health benefits, something no private company would ever be expected to do nor is any other public agency required to do.
And, of course, it continued recently with another government shutdown driven by Congressional ideologues.
Of course, these recent attacks really just continue the earlier 20th-century right-wing battle against Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
To wit, Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury Ogden Mills complained about FDR’s policies in this manner:
“Our economic system cannot be half free and half socialistic … There is no middle ground between governing and being governed, between absolute sovereignty and liberty, between tyranny and freedom.”
Sounds like the Tea Party just last week, eh?
Let’s go back further to another President Roosevelt, Teddy, equally unpopular to certain business interests. He was known as the “trust-buster.” From nps.gov/history:
“Roosevelt therefore was focused on bringing big business under stronger regulation so that he could effectively serve all the people he represented. He sought to regulate, rather than dissolve, most trusts. Efforts continued over the next several years, to reduce the control of ‘big business’ over the U.S. economy and workers.”
The real American struggle all along has been between the corporate business interests, who naturally don’t want to be regulated, and the government that is necessary in capitalism to create a level playing field (fair rules of competition among businesses) and protect the consumer, the worker and the environment.
It’s no accident that Reagan is well-known for union-busting, and that more recently a corporate-funded group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has worked with conservative state legislatures to get anti-union and pro-private school legislation passed throughout the Midwest and South.
And here is a typical entry from a right-wing blog, sponsored by heritage.org, a conservative think tank (blog.heritage.org, dated 7/20/12), which I found simply by googling “strangling government regulations.” It blames higher customer bank fees on the Dodd-Frank Act, a basically toothless law Congress passed to regulate Wall Street after the 2008 financial meltdown that triggered the recession:
“Congress has proven, in fact, that it grossly misdiagnosed the factors responsible for the financial crisis, while ignoring primary culprits such asFannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But in its haste to appear relevant and on top of things, Congress has unleashed a staggering amount of new regulations that are actually harming — not helping — the economy. There’s a reason the financial regulation law has been called ‘Dodd-Frankenstein.’”
Note the blame shift to the government (the mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have federal ties), and the complaint about even modest regulation.
Now, I want to make clear I am completely in favor of capitalism. In most of the world, even here, I am a moderate who believes in a regulated free market with an adequate social safety net. Those beliefs do not make me a wild-eyed pinko radical.
Seriously, for our greater prosperity there is no substitute for the entrepreneurial spirit, for those with inspiration who are willing to follow through with the perspiration to make their ideas become reality, thus creating prosperity for many more than themselves. In today’s jargon, these folks are the job creators.
But as greater thinkers in history have noted, a central problem with capitalism is that capital tends to accumulate into the hands of fewer and fewer over time — immediately after the recession, the richest 20 percent in the United States owned 93 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to one source.
Those with that wealth are using it to accumulate more by doing their best, as they have for more than a century, to enter politics in order to limit government power to regulate their businesses, how they deal with their workers, make their products safer, and treat the environment.
This goal is really what all Tea Party and other right-wing political rhetoric is about, and what citizens should keep in mind when listening to the noise.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News

Bernard D. Kimball, 76, of Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)

News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Share this story: