Ryan's Follies: Back to Liberty
More on liberty from Ryan's reply to the President's 2011 SOTU. These are about that old Republican hypocritical favorite, “small government.”
”The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.”
What planet does Congressman Ryan live on? The Democrats have done very little to increase the size of Government. The measure of that is that the average annual growth in Federal Government spending is the lowest it's been in the period since Dwight Eisenhower became President. In addition, Federal spending as a percent of GDP is still extremely low compared to National Government expenditures by the nations mentioned in my last post, and has only risen about 5 percentage points from Bush Administration levels, in response to the economic crisis, which, remember, was caused by policies avidly supported by Paul Ryan and conservative Republicans.
In addition, the President, much to his discredit, has done all he could to keep Government expenditures revenue neutral or revenue positive, beyond expenditures for defense, the stimulus, and increases in social safety net expenditures resulting from the recession. His health care reform bill is a disgraceful attempt to bailout the insurance companies without taking them over, because he would not entertain Medicare for All, since it wasn't “revenue neutral.” Never mind that enhanced Medicare for All would have saved the private sector $900 Billion per year in Medical Costs, and that the stimulus involved in an additional $800 Billion of Federal deficit spending would probably have created an addition 2 million jobs, at least.
”We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds.
“Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.”
The history of America is largely the history of extending initiative from the economic sector to politics and gaining advantage in both sectors. We've seen that with the railroads, the steel and oil industries (including Paul Ryan's sponsors, the Koch brothers), coal, the mass media, telecommunications, the software industry, the FIRE sector, and most other industries that have scaled the economic heights in this country. There is no way to separate economic initiative from its extension into politics. The idea that these two can be separated is a myth to persuade Americans without much power that what is happening to them is due to impersonal economic forces, rather than the use of previously accumulated wealth and political power to rig the context of the economic system so that the already wealthy can reap even greater rewards in the future.
So, unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe that a company's success in America has nothing to do with politics. It, most often, is intertwined with either favorable political conditions, political influence, or both. Congressman Ryan knows that very well because he, and his Republican and Democratic colleagues, are the recipients of attempts to "fix" the political system, so that certain private sector businesses can profit.
So, I don't know whether Congressman Ryan thinks that's the “spirit of initiative” or not. But I think it's just as much, if not more, about buying political clout than it is about economic initiative, innovation, and '”free enterprise.”
Ryan goes on to blame Washington and Wall Street for decisions that caused the financial crisis. I certainly agree; But I also think that the wrong decisions made by Washington include de-regulating Wall Street, so that the spirit of “free enterprise” and the influence of the FIRE and energy sectors reigned supreme.
That happened during the Clinton Administration under the influence of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, and then the Bush Administration saw to it that the SEC would not enforce the inadequate regulations that still remained. Unregulated “free enterprise” produced unprecedented accounting control frauds and bubbles in the Real Estate markets which eventually led to the crash of 2008. Then the Obama Administration bailed out the banksters/fraudsters and until now has refused to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, while moaning about how we have to look forward and not backward.
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, along with Mitt Romney, are responding to all this by telling us that we need to back off regulation of the private sector, and that will make everything all right. But anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the only thing that will clean up the banking system, and restore public faith in it, is cleaning up the frauds and punishing the people responsible.
Why isn't Paul Ryan calling for that if he wants people to have faith in “free enterprise” again? He needs to keep in mind that there's no freedom without responsibility and accountability, and that his prescription, and that of the Republicans is to put responsibility and accountability aside, and to let working people bear the burden of the failings of the Wall Street FIRE sector and the corrupt Congresses and Administrations that failed, and still fail, to regulate them.
Finally, Congressman Ryan's plea for a return to limited Government would be far more credible if he were as much concerned about limitations on the size and intrusiveness of Government when it comes to privacy, a woman's reproductive rights, civil liberties, rights of habeas corpus, protections against torture, and the right to a speedy trial, as he is about the non-existent rights of businessmen to subvert markets through fraudulent activity hiding beneath the skirts of the ideal of “free enterprise. He would also be much more credible in his concern for liberty, if he were concerned that “necessitous men, are not free men,” and were willing, in the interests of liberty, to strengthen, instead of weaken, the social safety net by making its provisions as generous as the safety net in other civilized nations. He would, further, be still more credible, if his concern for liberty were great enough that he would support Medicare for All, so that employees in the United States would no longer be tied to jobs that they don't like, and were free to move to other employment without having to worry about interrupting or degrading their health care coverage, and risking their lives in the process.
He would, further, be even more credible, if his concern for liberty extended to providing a Federal Job Guarantee (see posts 42-50) to everyone who wanted to work, so that they had the freedom to do so. And he would, finally, be even more credible that that, if he recognized that liberty is not about small sized Government or big Government, but is, instead, about Government that is the right size, to do those things that will maximize the liberty of as many people as possible in our nation.
It's about recognizing that the liberty of individuals is often in conflict with the liberty of other individuals, and that you can't maximize liberty across all individuals by giving some people (big business people and FIRE sector people) complete economic liberty from any reasonable rules, when that means removing or restricting the liberty of many or most of the other people in the United States, by chaining them to the wheel of extreme economic insecurity.
Joe Biden just famously accused Romney of wanting to “let the big banks once again write their own rules. "Unchain Wall Street!” And then continued: “They gonna put y'all back in chains." Biden was right.
For most of American history, farmers and small businessmen have been chained to the banks. The New Deal ended that. But the banks are back, more powerful than ever, and they do want to chain most of us to the wheel of economic insecurity for their own profit. Ryan, Romney, the Republicans, and too many Democrats are their agents in this. They must be stopped!
Government does need to be limited, but only a simpleton can fail to recognize that its limits have less to do with its size, and much more to do with its having processes that are just and fair and maximize liberty, rather than processes which enshrine arbitrariness, favoritism, exposure to political influence, and special favors for one group, placing them above the law.
Does Congressman Ryan understand that it is not about size, but about justice and activities that maximize liberty? If he does, and if he were really interested in justice and liberty, then he would be worth listening to when he talks about limited Government, and his Party would gain the trust and honor among the American people that it has not had since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, and before that Abraham Lincoln.
But don't hold your breath waiting for either that interest in justice and liberty, and that understanding about size to happen. It's just not in the DNA of the 21st Century Republican Party, the party of injustice and of serfdom for the 99%.
(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)