Sunday, February 01, 2009

Eat the Poor Policies Proved Disastrous

Though you wouldn't know it to listen to wingnuts, eight years of dominance by Eat The Poor advocates brought disaster to the U.S. Now we are being told by the architects of financial industry meltdown that we mustn't act hastily and kill the business climate. Regulation, the mantra goes, will send the businesses we need as employer running helter-skelter for the third world where they can abuse workers and pollute.

Today Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, makes an interesting case against the point of view that insists regulations are bad for business.

The real stimulus debate hasn't even started yet. Congress will pass President Obama's stimulus package in the next two weeks, more or less as he wants it. The House has already done its part, and the Senate appears likely to follow suit. But when the economy starts to turn up again, perhaps as early as next year, the president will have the real tough decisions to make. He'll have to choose which spending will continue -- or whether any of it will continue at all.

Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton came to Washington with his own ambitious plans to reverse widening inequality, rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure, create an efficient and affordable health-care system and address the growing environmental crisis. But because of raging budget deficits and a towering national debt, he was unable to accomplish most of this. As his secretary of labor, I shared his frustration. Alan Greenspan, then Federal Reserve chairman, and most of Wall Street warned that the nation couldn't afford the risk of runaway inflation.
...structuralists like myself don't believe that the economy can fully recover unless these underlying problems are addressed. Without policies that put the nation on the path to higher median incomes, higher productivity, renewable energy and a more accessible and efficient health-care system, we'll face deeper and more prolonged recessions, followed by ever more anemic upturns. Bill Clinton's inability to do enough about these problems in the 1990s, followed by George W. Bush's negligent disregard of them, allowed them to grow to the point where any major triggering event can cause a vicious downward spiral.

The danger Dr. Reich predicts is that when the economy returns to prosperity, the fight for solutions to our biggest problems will take a back seat as happened in the years of prosperity under Clinton. As we learned then, the public forgets that its interest is the concern of government and that those who advance a cause other than public service are detrimental to this country.

Using high office to enrich friends and contributors undermines all the roles that democratic government is in place to represent. Authoritarians will not be calling themselves that when they want to be elected to offices they can abuse. Claims of compassionate conservatism fool the unwary. We have to watch what policies are being promoted, and fight those that oppose public interests. Labeling as 'Freedom Institute' and the like promotion of those policies that take away freedom and prosperity has to be exposed, and opposed, vigilantly.

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