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.
Taxes were cut to “defund” government in order to “starve the beast.” The strategy was create huge deficits so the public would later demand cuts in government benefits. In the meantime the deficits would be used as an excuse to cut government oversight, inspections and enforcement of rules restricting the activities of big corporations. But all they did was create huge deficit that added up to massive debt.
Katrina was the first clear, public demonstration of the governing offered by conservatives. When they talked about replacing progressive ideas of “we’re in this together” and “watching out for each other” with “personal responsibility” they meant it. And the country saw what that meant to real people in real trouble.
More recently we have been hearing about disaster after disaster and catastrophe after catastrophe, all caused by businesses running out of control, aided by conservative government that relaxed or just stopped enforcing regulations and laws. Each catastrophe is beyond the scope or willingness of private businesses to repair, requiring public intervention, at great cost. (But never any suggestion of “clawback” – or getting back the profits that were made while creating the catastrophe.)
We all certainly know about the Wall Street financial crisis caused by the big banks and insurance giants. We heard about the SEC ignoring warnings about Bernie Madoff and Goldman Sachs and all the others. We’ve seen hearings about the things that WaMu was doing, and loans going to people who couldn’t read, and brokers making up incomes on “liar loans” and ratings agencies giving top ratings to “designed to fail” bond deals that investment banks and hedge funds had put together so they could make huge “swap” bets against them when the loans went under… The government, under control of “free market” conservatives looked the other way the whole time.
They brought down the economy of the whole world, requiring government bailouts that added up to more money that has been spent by our government in the history of the country. And now they are fighting tooth and nail to keep We, the People from passing financial reforms to bring Wall Street back under control.
Just recently there was the West Virginia mining disaster caused by deregulation, sweet deals between the company and regulators and lack of enforcement. The CEO of the Massey Energy had literally bought himself a judge, who then voted in favor of Massey Energy. Corrupted absolutely, 29 dead later.
And now, the huge, huge catastrophe in the Gulf.
This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost, and I will be writing about the terrible price we are paying and will be paying for a long time for the failed experiment in conservative ideology.