The idea that the private sector should do everything is
yet another bad Republican idea. There are some things that the
market does well, and there are some that it should not do.
The market is not good for
schools, healthcare, welfare, eldercare, early childhood care, prisons, military, pensions,
vacations, sick time, ...are all shrinking, expensive or
disfunctional in the US. This has happend
because Republicans have successfully
asserted that government cannot do anything well, have worked
tirelessly to weaken the public sector, and made it a self-fullfilling
The market, as currently constituted, does not need a lot of
the people who are in the workforce. The less it pays, the fewer it
uses, the more profitable it is. There is always, however, plenty
of work to do. Since many people need work to survive, the
government can certainly be an employer of last resort, Since the
private sector strongly dislikes competition, it consolidates to
drive out competitors whenever it can, and it tries to shut down
public activity whenever possible. About the only activity that
government can engage in, then, is for infrastructure or for the
military. That is another reason we have military Keynesianism and
the victory of the military/industrial complex.
It should be clear that the market is not good for
the environment. Republicans tend to be in denial about this,
and, with corporate money backing, they continue to deny
environmental damage from green house gas pollution, nor do they
recognize that we have reached peak
oil and need to look at the
consequences. Without considerable technological improvement, the
automobile economy may become unsustainable.
growth is not possible, and, at
some point needs to be restrained. Probably human population has
already grown beyond the carrying capacity of the earth.
Consequences are spelled out at environment.htm
The market resists, at the moment, any mechanism or inclination to
handle this crisis. Cap and trade might help, but that will have to
be legislated sometime in the future. Conservation will be prudent
on account of runaway energy prices. 'Conservatives', as they call
themselves in the US, don't believe in conservation.
The market does not work well when there are few
participants, as in monopoly or even an oligopoly. We
used to have anti-trust remedies, but Bush
Republicans chose not to use them. US media
has serious problems that might be dealt with by being sure that
there are more participants (you can count on your fingers the
companies that control almost everything that you see or hear.) The
Bush FCC pushed mightily for further media consolidation. Bad
policy, bad economics, and an information stream that probably no
longer supports democracy. See media.htm
Privatization takes functions from public
accountability. That's what 'deregulation' is all about.
It is the corporate way of getting government off its back. What
you get though, as you should have seen recently, are toxic
products from Asia, suspect food from factory farms, drugs that
have passed FDA through bribery, workplace procedures that are
unsafe, and more. Particularly gruesome are privatized prisons,
which are where some of the procedures that surfaced in Abu Graib
and Guantanamo were developed. Also troubling are the mercenary
armies, like Blackwater, that could morph into a praetorian
Republicans were keen to privatize Social Security, which a
huge majority of Americans oppose, but it would be a bonanza for many
brokerages. Regressive Republican policies have brought back
another gilded age, like 1929. Growth went to the wealthy at the
expense of the less comfortable. This is symptomatic of a banana
republic, particularly when the growth is funded from offshore
debt. Can you estimate
how much money has been used to bail out banks ?
The global marketplace is NOT a level playing
field. Where the US has laws against sweatshops, child
labor, pesky environmental laws, many other countries do not.
That explains some of the motivation to remove jobs from the US to
really low wage countries. (Disney was paying too much in Haiti, so they moved their factory to Asia.
This is the point at which we want to start talking about
healthcare. GM moved its small car manufacturing to Korea, and of
course they now say that health care for their employees is
unaffordable. All of their union employees were bought out. Solves
Formerly, did you try getting health insurance from the 'free market'
How did that work out ? Any pre-existing conditions and they wouldn't
take you. Do you comparison shop for a medical or dental procedure
? Do you get full information about outcomes at your local hospital
? Can you have a free market in healthcare without such things
If you watch the '60 minutes' news program on Sunday, you
might have seen a group that normally works in third world countries set
up a medical facility in a southern state, and
they were overwhelmed with crowds that waiting for service. In
an affluent country like ours that's disgusting. Among developed
countries, universal public health care is the norm. It works well, and is
not near as expensive as ours. Ours is rationed by price, excluding
a large fraction of the population. Its outcomes are not too good
either. Pharma is doing very well though. Privatization does not work well for health care. See
The Constitution, remember, is
also to "promote the general welfare" and the functions that are
best served by the public sector include health care, education,
and vigorous regulation of the marketplace. Those bank bailouts are
going to cost taxpayers plenty. (No, I don't think our public
health is going to improve anytime soon, but there is considerable
risk in that because sick people that are not identified may
become a problem for everyone.) There is such a thing as a
common good, it seems that Republicans don't care to recognize it
The best economy is a mixed
one: the private sector should do what it does best, and the
public sector likewise. As for heatlh care, recent history
demonstrates dramatically that the private sector cannot handle the
problem. The insurance companies should be out of the loop, and a
single payer system implemented. (I know, it's not going to happen,
but the system will continue to be inferior.) The Scandinavian
countries are doing a much better job of taking care of their own,
AND they are contributing their share to
international aid. (See these comments on
Denmark is rated the happiest country in the world. ) Results matter.
I got an e-mail from a group called 21st Century Democrats,
bemoaning the fact that a recent poll shows that 55% of likely voters
said that the word "socialist" describes Obama and his
Obama should have pressed for single-payer national health
Obama should have nationalized Citicorp and Bank of America,
rather than bail them out.
Obama should have favored breaking up the rest of the big
so they couldn't destroy our economy.
Obama should have forced any banks taking federal bailout
to freeze foreclosures for at least a year and freeze interest
rates on mortgages and credit cards.
Obama should have proposed redistributing income from the
wealthy to those who really need it by raising the marginal income
tax, and the capital gains tax, and the estate tax.
Obama should have proposed a transaction tax on every stock
so as to curb speculation.
Obama should have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10 an
hour, as Ralph Nader has proposed.
Obama should have replaced Ben Bernanke at the Fed with Nobel
Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Obama should have come out for democratizing the Fed, as
Kucinich has recommended.
Obama should have proposed a public works program to put every
American who needs a job to work.
Obama should have ordered every federal building to be
with a solar panel, and almost every car in the federal fleet to be
a hybrid or electric car.
Obama should have proposed opening federal grocery stores in
areas that are food deserts.
Obama should have addressed the cruel problem of poverty in
Obama should have proposed 12 months of paid maternity and
paternity leave, mandatory paid sick leave, and federal child
Obama should have advocated the nationalization of the
companies, as Sen. Robert La Follette did back in 1924.
No decent socialist would have implemented policies that have
left unemployment at over 9 percent and foreclosures at record
No decent socialist would have let the banks get off so
No decent socialist would have been caught dead praising the
CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and justifying their
obscene salaries the way Obama did. ("I know both those guys; they
are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people,
don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the
No decent socialist would have left the health insurance
industries in the driver's seat.
No decent socialist would have empowered a panel to advocate
cutting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
No decent socialist would have expanded the war in
a hopeless war being fought by the sons and daughters of America's
So, no, Obama isn't a socialist. Not even close.
But we'd be a lot better of in this country if he were.