Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why We Need More Government, Not Less

P.J. O' Rourke said it best: "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it."

Since January 2009, we've been hearing a lot about the debt and deficits—ever since the Democrats were in control of the government; but we didn't hear much about government spending when the Republicans had gone on a spending spree under George W. Bush. Since then, the GOP has had an attention deficit disorder.

Ever since Obama was first elected, the GOP suddenly became very concerned about a "debt crisis" and began worrying about our children and grandchildren—and the "burden of debt" they will have to carry—and then only later did a few complain about bailing out the big banks, insurance companies and automakers. Now they accuse Obama of "crony capitalism", when both political parties have been guilty of this.

But leading up to the government shutdown, every Republican politician and Tea Party fanatic has be railing against the government. But no matter what the Republicans and their Frankenstein offshoots say, government, more precisely, "good government", is actually a good thing for most hard-working, middle-class, working-class and poor Americans (not to mention the elderly, disabled and unemployed). It's really only the richest of the rich that feel they can do without most government services and programs. After all, if they need health care, they can just buy their own hospital.

Other countries that have despots for their rulers, and who might have oil production, opium plantations, human trafficking and arms dealing as their principal form economic activity, might also have what is considered to be "little government"—when the bulk of their country's GDP is flowing into the pockets of a few selected government ministers and politically well-connected individuals (drug kingpins, mobsters, etc.) — to those who profit the most from that country's trade, at the expense of the masses, who are left to their own devices to survive on nothing but whatever meager means they can eke out for themselves.

Those "government leaders" and their enablers, the people who rake in the bulk of the money and build themselves multiple palaces, and buy multi-million-dollar yachts and exclusive beach-front dachas, and who stockpile gold and keep offshore bank accounts—withholding the country's riches from their citizens so that they may live in deplorable and abject poverty—the "oppressed" who fear raising any objections, lest they be sent to prison or hanged. That is worst form of "government", by not feeding the poorest of their people. Feeding the poor is a "good" government service, and all major religions agree. But those at the very, very tippy top of the income ladder in America say this a "redistribution of the wealth", and that this is paramount to evil Socialism. They equate food stamps for feeding our poor to Russian gulags and genocide.

The only difference between a democratic form of government (such as the U.S.) and say, a Middle-Eastern theocracy, is that the people in the U.S. have a right to elect their leaders to promote a balance between those who would exploit labor and natural resources to benefit the few, and advocating and ensuring the fair distribution of resources among the masses. If left to do their own bidding, our corporate leaders would become America's despots (as they have been known to be in the past, with the robber barons and their monopolies).

That's another reason why we have taxes and regulations—not to take away anyone's individual liberties and freedoms; but so that others also have "a right to life" and are free to pursue happiness. Those such as Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand have promoted the exact opposite with their "survival of the fitness" mentality—to let the weak and poor perish, thinning the herd, and only allowing the strongest, wealthiest and smartest to have "rights" and prevail ("Underdogs need not apply".)

When we think of our "government", too often we might think of "big brother": conspiracies and black helicopters swooping down upon us and busting down our front doors. Or we might (rightly) believe that our intelligence agencies are spying on us too much. Or we might also think that Patriot Act has be depriving of us our most basic civil liberties and rights, and that those rights (in a fair and honest justice system) are being swept away. But "government" is far more than just the people we elect to lead and manage it—it's also "we" taking care of each other—where ethnic, ideological, religious and political minorities are also supposed to have a vote, a voice and equal protection under our laws.

As opposed to many other countries, we also have several levels of government—federal, state, country, city and local community rules—and people elect every level of leader that's not appointed (like a judge or sheriff, as is sometimes the case). The majority is supposed to rule, except where gerrymandering has happened. But voters are also losing their voices too—with money in politics and the corporate media spinning the facts to fit their own agenda—like the way the media has given so much time to Ted Cruz, as though he (in any realistic way) represents any real majority voice in America—except for maybe a few isolated pockets of the population in Texas. And the Supreme Court has also been politically advocating rather than just interpreting Constitutional law (they, not Congress, have essentially been writing laws).

But for the past 30-40 years, Republicans have been purposefully and successfully giving "government" (their government) a bad name in a deliberate effort to promote and advocate an ideology that runs exactly counter to what a true democracy is really supposed to be (and what made America great and exceptional). Just look at the way the GOP has been trying to limit voter's rights for almost the entire history of their party, with the Democrats (despite all their shortcomings, like the skewed tax code and allowing free trade agreements) as a counter-balance to the overall GOP strategy.

Obama recently debunked the myth put forth by Ronald Reagan that "government is the problem":

"We hear all the time about how government is the problem. Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries. It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe. It helps folks rebuild after a storm. It conserves our natural resources. It finances startups. It helps to sell our products overseas. It provides security to our diplomats abroad. So let's work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse. "

This was also nicely explained in an article at a pro-Democratic website:

[Obama] made clear that the shutdown and the threat of a national default flowed directly from Reaganism, that the tea party Republicans are no fringe element, but rather represent the core values of today's Republican Party. Republicans have made it more difficult for government to work, and then complained when it doesn't. If we want a government that works, Americans must elect representatives who don't treat government like an enemy or sabotage its operations. The tea party does exactly that, and their anti-government extremism—which derives directly from Reagan's own anti-government extremism—is what caused the recent crisis.

Commentary: Government, like a corporation, is "people" too. The government is "us" and we elect government leaders to hire government workers to manage our interests through agencies such as the FAA, EPA, FBI, NLRB, FCC, FDA, CDC (etc) just to name a few. It's not that government itself is bad, but it can be mismanaged by bad government leaders, or it can produce shoddy work by slack government workers—just as in any other bureaucracy —but no more so than in the private sector. And there will always be some measure of government waste, fraud and abuse (just as in any large business), but it's not as rampant and out-of-control as the GOP will have you believe.

Capitalism actually requires government in many ways than most people don't usually think about. Read this excellent article that describes all the benefits that corporations derive from our government. Good government, if it's managed correctly, keeps markets fair and free and equitable—whereas, bad government allows for fraudulent and rigged markets (like we now have). So just like "government", "capitalism" itself isn't bad, only if it's mismanaged by inept, ignorant, corrupt, misinformed or fanatical government leaders—and is taken advantage of by greedy, unethical, unscrupulous and nefarious transnational businesses. That's where good government comes in, as the referee. And that brings us back full circle to the Tea Party (which is sponsored and financed by mainly by Koch Industries)—and supported by the Republicans who were too terrified to stand up to their fanaticism for fear of losing their own government jobs.

The U.S. has always had two opposing forces: the moneyed interests (e.g. banks and corporations aka "the job creators") and the people ("government" aka the people who work at these jobs that the job creators create). The government (the people) wants living wages and a safe place to live with a fair tax code to build roads and bridges. Whereas the job creator's only interest is to make as much money as they can and save as much money as they can by cutting expenses as much as possible with low or no taxes; low or no wages (aka slavery); and few or no restrictions---like poisoning the air. Democrats call this government regulation for the common good, while the Republicans and Tea Party falsely claim this a tyrannical restricting of "freedoms". (For decades the GOP has been using a variety of different tactics to get Americans to vote against their own best interests, sometimes using wedge issues as a mainstay divide and conquer the voters (right to life, same sex marriage, food stamps, etc).

For the last 40 years, from the peak of the middle-class to today: from the Powell Memo, to Ronald Reagan's anti-unionism, to the right-wing's plan of Starve the Beast, to George W. Bush's war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich, to the Tea Party uprising --> the "job creators" and corporate outsourcers have brought us the economic collapse, the housing bubble, high unemployment, low-paying jobs and an expensive health care system. The job creators have had record high profits and the CEOs are getting record high pay.

Meanwhile, many of the Fortune 500 companies have stashed over $2 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid paying corporate taxes, as everyone else's wages have stagnated and the labor force participation rate has plunged to a 35 year low.

The "government" (people) want Social Security and Medicare when they get too old or sick to work for the "job creators" any longer. The job creators want to privatize, then cut, these programs for more profits for and less benefits to us.

The "government" (people) want unemployment benefits when the "job creators" offshore their jobs to low-wages countries like China or Vietnam (like the tax avoiders, Nike and Apple), or when the job creators outsource their jobs to low-wage anti-union States within the U.S. (like Boeing, another tax avoider, or the automakers).

The "government" (people) want to earn fair and living wages as their productivity has increased—to match rising prices and inflation. The job creators can create jobs, but they don't want to create the accompanying wages or benefits (e.g. healthcare, paid sick days or vacation, etc.). That's why the job creators always automate, robotize and offshore whenever possible. That's why they might layoff of 1 worker for every 3 so that the other 2 can pick up the extra slack (creating more worker productivity)—to save money on payroll, with the savings going directly into the pockets of the job creators.

The CEOs claim they do this to be more "globally competitive", but disregarding the fact that these multinational corporate conglomerates hold no patriotic duty to America, their salaries far exceed those in other countries. They aren't competing with other countries, they either compete with one another, or one might buy out the other (like when Verizon bought out Vodafone for a cool $130 billion.)

The CEOs have argued that without their overly generous executive “incentives,” (usually paid as stock option grants), U.S. corporations would lose their global competitive edge. But corporations elsewhere pay their top execs far less, but yet they perform far better than those in the US. The Institute for Policy Studies has released a no holds barred report on CEO pay: nearly 40% of the top paid CEOs bombed at their jobs.

And many of these exquisitely compensated corporate executives (defense contractors, for instance) owe their good fortune directly to our tax dollars. While others benefit indirectly, such as those in the fast food industry. The typical fast food worker earns $8.69 an hour. Only 13 percent of fast food workers get any job-related health benefits at all. This means that many of the families of fast-food workers must rely on taxpayer-funded safety net programs to make ends meet. America’s seven largest fast food empires — McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic, Domino’s, and Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell) — collectively paid their CEOs $52.7 million in 2012. Fast food execs have essentially built a business that pivots on public subsidies. (These execs rely on a myth that fast food operates as a low-margin, low-profit industry. Ha!) So, they get taxpayer subsidies, avoid taxes, pays a lower tax rate on their capital gains. What a sweet deal.

The "government" (people) want to have access to healthcare and food if their jobs are outsourced or the job creators don't pay them enough to buy insurance. Right now 50% of all wage earners only takes home $27,000 a year (or LESS). This is Mitt Romney's and the Republican's 47%. If they are laid off from work, or are only paid minimum wages, they may need food stamps and/or Medicaid. The "government" (people) collects taxes from "the job creators" to pay for these government programs (which are really just wage subsidies for companies like McDonald's and Walmart). The "job creators" don't need these programs for themselves, so therefore, do not want to contribute anything to fund these programs (Remember: the job creator's only interest is to make as much money as they can, and to save as much money as possible by cutting expenses to the bone—like doing away with that Butterball® Turkey at Thanksgiving for their employees while giving themselves a big fat bonus for Christmas.)

The "government" (people) want lead-free and safe toys for their children; the don't want to live near toxic waste sites; they want clean air to breath and clean water to drink. They also want safe products that won't explode, crash or otherwise maim, deform, disfigure, cripple or kill them—whereas "the job creators" say government regulations are an attack on their freedoms—the word "freedom" being a right-wing code word for screw everybody else.

The "government" (people) want cancer research, police, sanitation services, air traffic controllers, border security, port security, a strong (but better managed) military, a power grid, infrastructure, public schools, and a host of many others things that they usually take for granted in their daily lives, but greatly benefit from. The Republicans and the Tea Party don't want any government (services and programs) at all —just more tax breaks for the job creators and less restrictions on the job creators—such as labor unions, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.

And the government (people) aren't asking for "tort reform", only the GOP is because the people know its just another way that the large corporations can screw them over without ever worrying about, or allowing, wronged American citizens to seek repatriation, redress and justice in the courts.

Believe it or not, the "government" (people) also want park rangers—but only here (does it seem) do the Tea Party fanatics like Ted Cruz and real people (the government) have any agreement.

We don't need less government, with an ever-ending growth in our population, we need a government to match its expanding needs. Our population went from 200 million to over 300 million in the last 40 years, but corporate taxes as a percent of GDP and the "effective" corporate tax rates have plummeted since "government" first put a man on the moon. The capital gains tax that the rich pay on their stock investments is also near it lowest in the past 40 years (details here: How Congress let's the Rich Pays Less) Note to Speaker John Boehner, "We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem."

We need more taxes and better wages from the "job creators" to pay for more government, and to strengthen our current government programs and to fix our infrastructure—stuff that the people want and need. But there are those in the Republican and Tea Parties that want to eliminate the IRS all together and have no taxes at all—or at the very least, severely cut the IRS budget so that they won't be able to audit the job creator's hidden profits in offshore bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. Note to Mitt Romney, "How much do you have in that IRA account?"

But the job creators claim that if they had no taxes or restrictions at all, they could create enough good-paying full-time jobs (19.93 million) that pays a living a wage so wage earners can buy their own health insurance and not need food stamps to eat. The job creators claim they can do this and more, if only we would allow them more "free trade agreements" too. Yes, let the job creators have whatever they want (no government or laws or taxes at all) and all the people will be so much better off....they promise, just like they have always claimed, since the very dawn of mankind.

After WWII and before the escalation of the Vietnam War, we had a pretty good government when we built the national highway system and had a race with Russia to get to space. Between 1946 and 1979, those were the best years in American history for the middle-class. But the last 40 years have only been a boom for moneyed interests, while the other economy (for the 99%) has remained stagnant or declined. Today, not only is MORE government needed, but also BETTER government—and that obviously doesn't include the Tea Party (the minority of the minority of one political party), because no matter how bad the GOP has made it for middle-America over the past 40 years, the Tea Party would only make it much, much worse.

And the corporate media only makes matters worse. Why does CNN always have corporate hucksters like Stephen Moore on their programs, who always perpetuates the myth that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, when "effective" corporate tax rates are historically low (and never saying, "Well, they can always un-incorporate" their businesses). When was the last time Fox News had Senator Bernie Sanders on Bill O'Reilly's show, telling the American people that under Obama, government spending has actually fallen more and faster than ever since the end of World War II? And one MSNBC pundit (Chuck Todd) didn't think it was the media's jobs to correct Republican lies. The Republicans and Tea Party are always complaining about government spending; but because, as "corporations", the media cable news shows are also looking after THEIR own interests as well, and not just reporting "news". If the mainstream media is just going to repeat what the right-wing think tanks or business lobbyists say (like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Business Roundtable or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), then why do they even need journalists?

Until we can get the brightest and most skilled to work for their government (instead of for a hedge fund , private equity firm or big bank), we are going to see a whole more snake oil peddlers in our politics, who are more concerned about promoting themselves rather than risking their own personal fortunes in the service to our country.

When we say "government", we are referring to ourselves...as in "We the People". But the radical far-right wing ideological and hypocritical fanatical zealots and anarchists want you to believe that we (the government and government workers—ordinary Americans) are all as evil as the Middle-Eastern dictators and despots.


  1. UPDATE:

    From the Huffington Post - Billionaires Against Social Security

    America's very rich keep trying to start a movement among college students to blame senior citizens for the sorry state of the economy that kids will inherit. Specifically, the billionaires keep trying to scapegoat Social Security. This is part of the public relations effort to create a "grand bargain" to cut America's (fast-declining) budget deficit.


  2. UPDATE:

    Robert Reich...

    "They (the Republicans) say the biggest problem is the size of government and the budget deficit. In fact our biggest problem is the decline of the middle class and increasing ranks of the poor...The deficit shouldn't even be an issue because it's now almost down to the same share of the economy as it's averaged over the last thirty years. The real triumph of the right has come in shaping the national conversation around the size of government and the budget deficit -- thereby diverting attention from what's really going on: the increasing concentration of the nation's income and wealth at the very top, while most Americans fall further and further behind.


  3. New York Times: Bloated Government? Federal Employment at 47-Year Low

    "In September, before the government shutdown, the government had 2,723,000 employees, according to the latest job report, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That is the lowest figure since 1966."


  4. Less People on Welfare:

    "In 2012, just 25 of every 100 poor families received TANF benefits, down from 68 of every 100 in 1996."


  5. Jared Bernstein:

    "Imagine a platform based not on deficit reduction but on the realization that lots more people need jobs that pay living wages, which means higher minimum wages, work supports, manufacturing/trade policy, full employment fiscal and monetary policy, direct job creation, and work sharing."


  6. The Guardian:

    "The majority of Democratic voters, unlike the Tea Party and its allies, have demands that are in line with the majority of the country. For example, they want jobs for the more than 21 million Americans who cannot find full-time work; they believe that everyone, not just the 1% who have gotten 95% of the income gains since 2009, should share in the benefits of economic growth. And they decidedly don't want any cuts in social security, Medicare, or the social safety net in general, in order to strike a "grand bargain" with the Republicans. In all of these views, they have the majority of the country on their side. 'Majority rule' in the Democratic party would actually strengthen it – unlike the disruptive influence that the Tea Party and its allies have had on the Republicans."


  7. The Economic Populist:

    "In point of fact, Barack Obama has presided over the slowest increase in the national debt since Dwight Eisenhower, both of whom came into office after a debt splurge brought on by an explosion in war debts...In fact, the Republicans are insisting that it not fix this problem, so the reality is the U.S. does not want to cut back spending in areas like defense, nor will it tax the wealthy or corporations in order to meet its interest obligations."