May 10, 2010

This Is Deregulation

One of the apalling things about all of these things: oil rig disasters, mine disasters around the world (and specifically in the United States) and out of control companies that are claiming huge profits but not hiring workers and hosting earnings calls where they tell their shareholders how well everything is going but they’re still ramping up charges to their customers and blaming it on the economic downturn, is that when the advocate of the people steps in to set things right, there’s a good number of people who would rather their fate be held in the hands of people they have no control over and have no voice with rather than the only body they do have a voice with.

When I see the pseudo-libertarian drivel “End the Fed,” where libertarians cry about how the Fed operates in secret from behind closed doors and are accountable to no one, I can’t help but wonder why those same laissez-faire free marketeers are completely fine with a corporate board deciding every aspect of their lives and being held accountable to no one (in fact, these same people weaken the government’s efforts to impose some oversight over the way these businesses operate when it influences the greater public) but refuse to allow a public body to operate without them being present. I understand that the big difference is that the Fed is a public body and should be accountable to the public, and I agree on that point, but it’s remarkable how much faith the free marketeers have in closed door capitalists in corporate boardrooms but nowhere else.

And all of that faith? Poorly placed. People in the 70s and 80s used to complain about how inefficient government was and how much bureaucracy there was – and while I think government today is more streamlined than it was (and yet still has leaps and bounds to go) it’s still pretty bogged down with red tape – but now you have the contrast of a corporate system where the high-power players and decision makers are accountable to no one, play fast and loose with the rules (and at times outright violate them), and the resulting victims are the general public, either with higher prices and costs that taxpayers have to pay out of their own pockets (which libertarians are okay with, as long as they’re not taxes – banks can bend them over with fees and then collude with one another so the so-called open market isn’t so open and that’s okay, but heaven forbid the government collect taxes for a road or school), with their jobs, homes, and livelihoods, or with the well being of their communities.

No finer examples are available of what happens when you let the foxes guard the henhouses – I mean, let businesses regulate themselves – as what’s happened in the Gulf of Mexico and in West Virginia in recent months. Mines collapsing and oil rigs burning, both costing the lives of the men and women who worked there and trusted their employers to look out for their safety.

Dave Johnson, writing for the Campaign for America’s Future, has this to say:

The terrible Gulf oil, West Virginia mining, Wall Street finance and government debt disasters all demonstrate the ongoing catastrophic and continuing results of conservative policies. Each of these is a direct consequence of letting corporate conservatives take over government and dismantle the regulatory and democratic protections that We, the People fought so hard for following the Great Depression — itself a previous demonstration of the failure of conservative policies.

How often have you had to hear that “the market” is the best way to run things? That is is “self-correcting?” That regulations are government “interference” or “meddling” in the market? That business/free markets/private sector always does things better or is more efficient than government? When you hear these you are experiencing the clash between a “one-dollar-one-vote” free market system — as we had before the Teddy Roosevelt progressive era and the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal — and “one-person-one-vote” democratic, We, the People system that brings the benefits of our economy and our country to the most people. But because of the power of money and marketing most people are hearing only one side of an ongoing argument between the wealthy few and the broad masses of working people.

For decades we have heard these pro-market, anti-government arguments repeated over and over and over and over and over and over. Big corporations have a lot of money to buy a big megaphone, so you hear that government is bad, business is good and the people ought to just keep their noses out of the marketplace and stop telling businesses how to do things. You hear that taxes are bad, “hurt the economy,” “cost jobs,” “take money out of the economy,” “just get passed through to customers anyway” and a million similar great-sounding slogans that fall down under minimal evaluation. They have been repeated over and over, until we forgot why we had fought so hard for strong government regulations and high taxes at the top.

After the disaster of Nixon the country learned about cracks in our democracy that let big money get their nose under the tent. But after Watergate we didn’t plug all of the leaks, and big money got into the tent anyway. They used their position to give themselves more power, and used that power to give themselves even more, etc. and now we have a system that is corrupted absolutely.

So with the conservative government of Reagan and then later under the all-out anti-government conservative administration of George W. Bush we have had the opportunity of seeing just what happens when these “free market” ideas are given free reign to replace democracy. Anti-government zealots were put into positions inside the government and used that power to take apart the protections that We, the People had painstakingly built.

He’s absolutely right. And this goes beyond the horrific, live-taking disasters we’ve seen recently – this comes down to your cable and telephone bill and the fact that you can’t just “take your business elsewhere” to another provider with superior service, your lack of small shops on main street but your abundance of Walmarts (which is a more complex issue, I know), and so on. When you let business regulate themselves and pretend to have the interests of anyone but their shareholders in mind, of course they’ll steamroll the public. They only thing they need the public for is money and manpower, and as long as they can get those two things, they’ll continue to abuse us mercilessly and break out the big checkbook and megaphone when the advocates of the public — government, namely progressive government — step up to try and defend us.

Johnson ends his piece on a somber note, that this “experiment in conservative ideology” has finally come home to roost, and they we’ll likely see the effects of it for a long time. I can only hope that progressive politicians and the public will work together to stem some of these systemic problems in our corporate system before they cost more lives, but when the Supreme Court goes and rules that corporations are people and give them carte blanche to write big checks to get the people who support them into office, I have a hard time believing that we’ll get too far.

[ Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was originally published at Not So Humble. Click here to read the post in its original habitat! […]

    Pingback by This Is Deregulation « Not So Humble @ AlterNet — May 10, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

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