Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Safety Net

My ideological counterpart at the Toledo Free Press Don Burnard, wrote an interesting piece for this weekend's edition of the the paper (I was absent this weekend, but will be returning soon). I say interesting because there are parts of it with which I am in total agreement. 

That is not to say that we don't disagree on a few major points however. Mr. Burnard writes.: "One of the biggest differences between this recession and the Great Depression is that the Depression was a combination of government spending, regulation and the advent of World War II brought us out of it. Today, wartime spending is adding to the problem rather than helping." 

I would agree that our current level of wartime spending is not helping an already horrible situation; though I am sure that as is typical, military contracts are stimulating some parts of the economy. I would disagree however, with the premise that government spending and regulation brought us out of the Great Depression, as many economists now agree that FDR's policies in fact extended a crisis that would have corrected itself more quickly without the government's intervention. 

I find instead that one of the biggest differences between this recession and the Great Depression is that in 1929, the country was not already burdened with the crushing debt of the very "safety net" that he looks to for salvation. There was no Welfare, no food stamps, no Medicare and Medicaid, and no Social Security system to burden the federal debt at a far greater level than the "two wars" that we are fighting. 

 In fact, I would point out that according to the Obama Administration, we are not actually fighting wars, but Overseas Contingency Operations; but that's beside the point. I agree with Mr. Burnard that we have little chance of "emerging victorious" from either of these conflicts. No amount of time or money is going to change the culture of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, or most parts of the Middle East. There have been tribal wars going on in each of areas for thousands of years; and it is sheer hubris to believe that we can force an American mindset or peace on these areas by force of will. 

I believe in fact that the only responsibility that we have in any of these conflicts is that in Iraq, since it was only through our support and funding that Saddam Hussein was able to take power and make a mess of that country in the first place. I likewise disagree with the repetitive cheer voiced in the column that all of this is the fault of the Bush Administration. I believe that this ridiculous policy notion can trace its history back through many years and many presidents on both sides of the aisle, with such examples of Korea, Viet Nam, Panama, Grenada, and Nicaragua on the list of attempts at nation building or enforcing American values on a foreign population. 

I agree wholeheartedly that both parties have been the willing accomplices of special interests in the banking industry, among others. The efforts to subvert capitalism in recent years has been a truly bi-partisan effort; with little change between a Republican or Democratically controlled Congress, and with both Bush and Obama attempting to orchestrate the flawed process. Bush may need to take credit for starting this snowball rolling, but the Obama Administration must likewise take credit for its increased size and speed. 

The solution proposed is the worthy call to build a solid middle class (which cannot be done by the government by the way); but quickly becomes tainted, as its only purpose apparently would be to provide a "strong tax base" (code for increasing taxes) to fund the growth of this safety net. Forgive me if I cringe while reading those words. I have a copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution before me, and in no place is such an obligation of the citizenry therein established. The government in this country was created to serve the people, not act in loco parentis

I do not believe, as potentially accused, that Mr. Burnard is a socialist, a communist, or a co-conspirator in a global plot to take over the economy. (I chose not to wear my tin foil hat while writing this, though many say I look damn good in it.) I do believe however, that he is misguided in his proposed solution through drinking a bit too much of the progressive Kool-Aid that so many now seem to use as their primary form of sustenance. I believe that many of the problems that he cries out against, and that I agree need solutions, have been caused by the continued and increased interference of government in business. 

I would agree that banking bailouts are wrong and should never have been done, but so is the creation of a "salary czar" to insure some equitable distribution of monies between workers and management. I believe that bailing out corporations like GM and Chrysler is wrong, but so is taking the recompense due to legitimate bond holders and giving it to the UAW. I especially believe that adding to the already poisonous debt load that this country is burdened with in the name of expanding the safety net that Mr. Burnard sees as its salvation is without a doubt the wrong direction for this country.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Hear hear.

Well put and even better challenged/argued.

Bravo amigo!

Roland Hansen said...

Anyone have a few hours for my thoughts? And that would be the abridged version.

But, you know what, that is part of what we need in order to reach consensus. Good, honest, open, intelligent, respectful debate.

There are aspects of the perspectives of both Don Burnard and Tim Higgins with which I can agree.

Bottom line, regardless of political or ideological perspective, our goals are pretty much the same.