Good comments about this column from you, JP. Here are mine.
I think she – Kathleen Parker – has a good handle on a centrist role for regulated capitalism, of which I am a big fan. I like the general way she approaches things, because it’s important to agree on principles before going to the specifics. And sometimes the specific examples may sound good, but – since one can frame and spin issues to suit a certain point of view – we are often mislead to seeing a complex issue as simple and one-sided. So, a balance of market oriented approaches whose problems are anticipated by regulation (usually set up by previous bad experiences) is desirable.
I think an example of a complex issue that has been oversimplified and spun by the right is “job creators.” The super-rich are not the job creators. They are the investors in stocks, commodities, and other paper wealth that have only a remote tie to job creation. I do understand that the public likes to see wealthy people as role models, but the actual odds of someone with a $40 salary realizing a pay rate 10 or 100 times that are pretty nil. The job creators are small businesses, the owners of which are most often below Obama’s definition of super-rich, or larger companies that expand their operations through research. A third job creator is the inventor or creative business start-up, and the vast majority of those people tend to have incomes somewhere under $250K too. The right media and Tea Party courtiers (some of whom are easily super-rich themselves) have convinced us to admire these stinky rich people. They are the ones that, with just cause, the left believes to be corrupt and shameful.
Another issue is the corruption of our lobbyist rulers. Lobbyists do rules us! They write the bills congress passes and sometimes reads beforehand. They are the “retired” lawmakers who know the system better than their younger replacements. Elected representatives are beholden to them in our complex world. This complexity makes the case the Tea Party makes that our world is over regulated. So they advocate throwing out entire portions (or more) of the tax and legislative code. While that may be true, but the world is truly complex, and the regulatory system should be correspondingly complex. Let the smart people see through the spin and oversimplification in the right wing press, paid for by the lobbyists!
Imagine someone with an average income, who is not particularly entrepreneurial, and simply needs a job to support a family. Should the American system still have incentives for that person? Absolutely yes. Capitalism for the middle class is great, but these incentives are hidden, clouded. They are visible only to the deep hunters, those with time to look, who are not hard at work at “real jobs.” Thus, the system preserves itself. What we both want, JP, are increased opportunities for regular people. When the rewards are so high, there is little incentive for the upper class to give away anything to the underlings. The über-class has successfully insulated itself and preserved its cocoon in nearly every way imaginable.
And that is where the Occupiers come in. The outrage is justified, but must stay positive, solution oriented and civil. We will all miss Andy Rooney – at least I will. But he made his living as a complainer, a curmudgeon. The good about his approach is publicity, and one hopes, a change in the national debate. For the Occupiers to do naught but complain falls short. As long as capitalism is working for the untouchables, then they will hang it over us as if it were still pure, to which we would aspire, but barely ever attain. We also agree that capitalism is broken, as I have described here.
What really can be done? Education is the most obvious answer. It pays off the best, and holds and spreads good values. But here is a counter-point to the legitimate left complaints. Education has become overloaded with regulations. Testing, accommodation and documentation have overshadowed educating individuals. Unfunded mandates have rendered good intentions as just that. Teachers are unable to reach their potential, and the unions that supposedly represent them are partly to blame. So is the government. The Tea Partiers blame the unions only; the Occupiers blame the wealthy only.
The next answer is regulation reform. It might be smart for the Tea Party and the Occupiers to join forces here. What comes to my mind is the program Al Gore conducted as vice prez, where he sought to find and eliminate government waste. That program is a way better model than, say, the Competitiveness group led by Dan Quayle, which paved the way for the K Street project.
Tax reform is right behind. Maybe John Boehner is now seeing the light, if we can interpret his comments today on the Sunday talk shows. Obama, the pols and the public are right on. This is not a Robin Hood mentality, it’s resoration of the Way It Should Be. Furthermore, this is the way it goes with campaigns. Obama is appealing to his base now, and he will appeal to the center once the Republicans get over their (delicious!) infighting. Tax the overlords. Define corporations as corporations, people as people (and fetuses as fetuses while we are at it!).