Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Twitter image via Matt Stoller

It's from a couple of days ago, but it's still a good one. After discussing the changes that have happened in our nation's capital in the last couple of decades, the increased defense spending, Medicare costs going out of control thanks to the program not being allowed to negotiate prices the way private insurers can, and the trend toward favoring the rich with tax breaks, Robert Reich concludes:
“Big government” isn’t the problem. The problem is big money is taking over government.

Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do — providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving our roads and bridges and water systems, and maintaining safety nets to catch average people who fall — and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy want it to do.

Some conservatives argue we wouldn’t have to worry about big money taking over government if we had a smaller government to begin with.
A smaller government that’s still dominated by money would continue to do the bidding of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies, big agribusiness, big insurance, military contractors, and rich individuals.

It just wouldn’t do anything else.

The Defining Issue: Not Government’s Size, but Who It’s For
People who talk about making government smaller have been selling, or buying, a bill of goods. We are the fourth largest country in the world based on population, with by far the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We, as a nation or as individuals, have economic and military commitments around the world that dwarf some countries' GDPs and defense establishments. Expecting our government to be small is an exercise in foolhardiness on that basis alone.

Image credit: Occupy Together/Twitpic

But the more obvious, and more telling point is that "small government" has really served as a shorthand for the rich serving themselves, by helping themselves to our tax money, our government revenue, and to its ability to make changes in our society. They have used the courts to make it easier to do whatever they want to their employees, reversing decades of reform. They are making it harder to put them in prison for their malfeasance, thanks to a weakened regulatory system. Every year or two they try to change the way the Internet works so that they can crowd out the small, independent voices and businesses by, in effect, charging them protection money to make sure their sites are served.

They already own any news organization large enough to matter. They managed to bribe the government into letting that happen, too.

They could do this with small government, too, and even more easily. Power and wealth tend to accumulate in the hands of the people who are aggressive and ruthless enough to take it. That is a lesson that's as old as civilization, and only outright fools ignore it. Government can be a way of minimizing that trend, but only if it works for us. It doesn't now, and it hasn't for a long, long time.

None of the people who advocate for smaller government have proposed a practical alternative. Which, I think, should tell you where their loyalties really lie, assuming they're not outright fools.

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