Cal Thomas’s Essay


Cal Thomas can write columns like Who’s the Extortionist? (Roanoke, VA Times 9/25/13) in his sleep. Dysfunctional government is the fault of Democrats in general and President Obama in particular. End of story. I think we can analyze the phenomenon a bit more closely.
Why is government dysfunctional? That’s closely related to the economic system. Politics runs, like most things, on money, so politicians go where the money is. Wealthy people and corporations tend to get what they want.
The 1950s were something of a golden age. Wealth was spread more widely through society than ever before, for several reasons: it was a manufacturing country, where you didn’t need advanced education to get a good job, and unions demanded that workers be paid a living wage. Government programs had built and rebuilt infrastructure during the Great Depression, and the GI bill had made college affordable for more people than ever. Then things began to change.
Manufacturing jobs began to move from areas where unions were strong to where they weren’t, and then to other countries. Jobs were lost, and the tax base got smaller. At the same time college tuitions were going up.
The process accelerated during the Reagan years. Wealthy people and industries got tax breaks. Industries got deregulated and unions busted. These factors spawned some interesting fashions.
In the 1980s one of these fashions was the leveraged buyout. Corporations used this to either dominate their industry or loot the companies they took over. Jobs from the looted companies were lost; some employees were able to find others, usually that paid less; others couldn’t. People were too old, too educated, or not educated enough.
In the 1990s the fashion became downsizing. Downsizing you expect when a company is doing badly. It’s a way to reorganize and become competitive again. But in the 90s companies making good, sometimes record profits were downsizing. Why? In my opinion because the companies didn’t want to share the profits their employees had helped them make. Profit had become the main, if not the only ethic.
At the end of the 1990s the Glass-Steagall Bill was repealed. This had been enacted during the Great Depression to prevent it from happening again, by limiting the size of banks and regulating their capitalization. No more than ten years later the economy had collapsed again. Banks had persuaded people to take out mortgages they couldn’t hope to pay back, then speculated on those mortgages.
Also during Reagan’s time began the bailout, with the Savings and Loans. The bailout returned in 2008, and this was where the government got the equation exactly backwards.
If you bail out the people who have lost their savings and jobs, they’ll spend money because they have to, and the money they spend will stimulate the economy.
If you bail out the banks who in large part caused economic failure, how do you know they won’t do it again? Wealthy people don’t HAVE to spend money, much less create jobs. They can easily save or invest in other countries.
Bailing out the people with underwater mortgages is one thing the government could have done. Another was to initiate a public works program, as was done during the Great Depression. Infrastructure, which everyone agrees needs to be rebuilt, would have been, people would have jobs who otherwise might not, and would spend money, further stimulating the economy. Why hasn’t this happened?
In large part because Republicans don’t want it to. They don’t like welfare (unless directed to them), but won’t take action to create jobs. Instead, they cut funding to services everyone needs: firefighters, police and schools. The people authorizing these cuts may not need these services. Maybe they can afford to hire private firms to supply themselves, but then they’re only representing constituents in the same fortunate boat. They’re supposed to represent ALL Americans. I don’t think THIS is far from extortion.
Mr. Thomas quotes the Declaration of Independence and suggests it’s time to rebel against the government. The American Revolution was pretty successful, but there’s been a revolution since then that wasn’t. The Confederate States of America thought their cause too was just. Mr. Thomas might want to be careful what he wishes for. What he says he wants might be good for him and those who agree with him. It also might not.
And besides the part of the Declaration that calls for rebellion, there’s another part. In that one the signers pledged their “…lives, fortunes and sacred honor…” to build a just government. There’s nothing honorable in sacrificing the rights of the powerless for your benefit.


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