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Republican Role: Defend Capitalism?

In an MSNBC story today Senator Jeff Sessions, from our neighboring state of Alabama is quoted:

Fellow Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions also opposes helping the auto industry. “Once we cross the divide from financial institutions to individual corporations, truly, where would you draw the line?”

Just a second here. Line? What line? Look in your rear view mirror. That thing way back there, practically out of sight? That’s the “line.”

You see, congress may have passed a law providing relief to “financial institutions” but the actual money goes to–you guessed it–corporations. But the line was crossed many years ago when the government decided to rescue Chrysler, after which Lee Iacocca was known to run about posing as a champion of capitalism.

I’m not a purist on capitalism, but I do think we need to realize what we’re actually doing. The most socialist actions we’ve taken recently are not proposing minor chances in the structure of redistribution as provided by the tax code. It’s in these gifts of capital to private industry.

It’s good that Republicans are working on opposition to this type of activity, though I don’t think they will be very successful. There’s too much fear in our economy right now. I noted during the election that I was in kind of a reverse of the rest of the country. I thought I’d give McCain an edge on the economy and Obama the edge on foreign policy–not that McCain had a large edge.

So what do I think ought to be done? Personally I would not directly aid these industries at all. We have a problem in this country regarding deficit spending, but most importantly we carry out deficit spending on projects that will not produce anything later. In other words we borrow money from our children and grandchildren with no prospect other than that we will have to borrow some more from their children and grandchildren in order to pay them back.

But deficit spending is not necessarily bad in the short term. What is bad is when deficit spending becomes essentially eternal, when we will carry on building the deficit even when an emergency is past.

Two elements would be necessary in any plan for me to feel unqualified support for it. (Note that I’m aware that nobody is waiting for my unqualified support!) First, it would have to accomplish goals that I generally think can be accomplished well by government, such as building infrastructure. (I include basic education as an infrastructure issue, so building schools would be acceptable.) Improving this country’s infrastructure would have the potential of improving our economy down the road, providing those infrastructure projects were well chosen.

Second, we need a commitment to ending the spending, and making a corresponding reduction in either taxes or in the deficit (depending on how the work was financed) when the mission was accomplished. I have little hope that such a commitment would be made and kept, but since I’m writing almost entirely about fantasies–nobody’s going to do this stuff–why not fantasize about that as well.

In the meantime we’re going to be stuck with debates on whether we are giving money to “institutions” or “individual corporations” carried out by people who ought to know better. Or perhaps they do know better but don’t feel like admitting it.

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One Comment

  1. My comment is a little more narrow in scope than your post, but this is one issue that is setting my teeth grinding.

    I cannot believe that the government is even considering handing any money to the “Big 3” automakers. I used to work in the automotive industry at one of the Big 3 and at a supplier to the Big 3 and other automakers. I left the industry 4 years ago because I believed they were heading for a collapse regardless of the economy. The idea that any sort of loan is going to somehow turn these companies away from the structural business problems they have is insane! They lived a lie believing that the SUV and truck market would never go away, even sacrificing car profitability to maintain that market and now they are left with nothing. They don’t have anything to offer and are incapable of competing with other companies that do offer cars and other products that people will actually buy right now.

    Giving money to the Big 3 right now is asking the american people to subsidize health and retirement plans that practically no one else in the country receives, and it is asking them to subsidize inept business planning and execution. That is wrong on so many levels it makes me sick. What’s worse, it ignores the efforts of other automakers who employ workers here with good wages and good benefits who build cars that make money and who develop the kind of new technology we need.

    Is it going to be ugly if this many people lose their jobs in this short of a time frame? Yes. But tell the government to save it’s cash and use it to help those who are displaced to retrain or put them to work on infrastructure projects as you suggest. But don’t spend our deficit dollars on companies that aren’t viable.

    (whew – that helps to get that off my chest for a while until I turn the news back on).

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