Government and Markets

Glad you posted what had been a long email. Below is the response I emailed to you. I’ll just preface it by saying that I believe we need both government and business in our lives, in the proper balance. I think people will only trust business if the government controls business just right, so that innovation and profit making is possible and so that businesses cannot unfairly use the commons (that is, businesses need to be regulated so that they people can trust the air and water and food and other products we use and buy to be safe and trustworthy). And people will only trust the government if it uses its power and authority (and tax dollars) to help the citizens by regulating business correctly rather than getting in bed with business and worrying more about corporate profit than about the well-being of tax payers (or by so controlling business that it isn’t free to innovate or profit, and we are so far from that it need not enter the present discussion). Put simply, government should ensure that the market is fair and free. And far too often in America it is neither, and that is when people lose faith in government.

Given that corporations are currently sitting on record profits I’m not losing sleep worrying about giving them “best find a way to make a profit.” They’re doing just fine, thank you, and always have in America. And even if we granted you every insinuation in that statement, then the alternative is for citizens to be given best wishes at staying healthy and under a roof while the corporations pollute your air, food, and water with no consequences to them.
It’s all about balance. How do you make it as fair as possible for all sides, so that everyone has a shot and no one is left with only best wishes at survival.

I have no problem with market based incentives for a lot of things. I just don’t think they work for things like fire insurance, road building, public education, protecting our food and water supply.

I love that you keep believing there is some kind of new center. Stick to it! I know polls generally don’t show it, and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop promoting it! You can create it!
What Obama owes is especially to the young people who essentially got him elected in 2008 and then abandoned voting in 2010. He needs to win them back. It’s fine to say he has no responsibility to the liberal wing, and it’s dishonest to pretend he didn’t campaign hard going for that vote in 2008. If you think it is just fine to govern very differently than you campaigned, then Wisconsin has a governor for you.

I reject that regulations stifle creativity. I think that is a conservative meme, and I haven’t seen evidence to support it. (Same with tax rates. If what Republicans said about taxes was true, then between about 1940 and 1980 when the top marginal tax was was between 70 and 93%, we would have seen no innovation, no creative new businesses, and really, to hear them tell it, no rich people and no job creators. And actually, during that period we had plenty of rich people, plenty of job creation, plenty of innovation and creativity–computers, microwave ovens, color TV, automatic transmission, etc. etc. How on earth did all that and more possibly happen with taxes so high? Why didn’t those people just stay home and not do anything? Gee, maybe, just maybe, money is not the sole motivation for everything.)

I more or less agree with you on the ACA (and yes, good it wasn’t called an entity. I see that Obama himself has simply embraced “Obamacare” Turn the word to having a positive meaning). The exchanges will be helpful, if the law is still in effect by the time they are scheduled to take effect. (Remember, in the 2008 campaign, Hilary was for individual mandates and against the public option, and Obama was against mandates and for the public option. Granted, he may have gotten nothing passed if he’d stayed with that, and we shouldn’t rewrite history.) We can talk about markets helping health care, and for me we have to start with the fact that of all the industrial nations in the world, we are the only one that doesn’t provide care for all our citizens. We are the only country that runs health care as a for profit enterprise. We spend twice per capita what most other industrial nations do (even though 50 million or so of us are uncovered). And we have worse outcomes than every other industrial nation. (T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America is a great book on the subject). So right now we are the only country that runs a market driven health care system and we pay more and get less for it than anyone else. Maybe a market system is the answer, and I’d like to see evidence to support that, other than a general faith in markets.

You’re likely about right with Obama getting 58% in November. At least he’s a real person, unlike Mitt. And even those of us on his side, like me, who aren’t 100% happy with him, like him. I’m not sure any Republicans really like Romney. (I think it was Mario Cuomo who said once, “If you agree with me 80% of the time, vote for me. If you agree with me 100% of the time, seek help.)

We do need to restore faith in government. You may be right about that not being possible from the left, though FDR certainly governed from the left and certainly restored faith in government. I think what you call the ideology doesn’t matter. What matters is showing the government has integrity and works for the people. FDR didn’t have SuperPACS to deal with, so Obama’s job is much harder.


About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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