Thursday, May 10, 2007

Well the strong seem to get more, while the weak ones fade

The Orange County Register can always be counted on to deliver the highest quality conservatarian spin, and todays editorial is a gem:

A pox on both their parties

I'm leaving the GOP, but not for the Democrats

Senior editorial writer and columnist
Last weekend, I announced my not-so-Earth-shattering decision to leave the Republican Party. In the era of George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I simply have had enough.

. . .It's long been clear to believers in free markets and limited government that the Democratic Party is committed mostly to European-style socialism. Ever fearful of the free market and hostile to the free choices individuals would make if left on their own (with the sole exception being what they call "reproductive freedom"), the Democrats ceaselessly advocate for more government control of the economy, more far-reaching cradle-to-grave social programs – never mind that such programs can't sustain themselves over the long term, and that government "services" are notoriously wretched compared with those offered by market-based companies in a competitive environment.

Always with the straw men, it never fails. When you frame the discussion in "Have you stopped beating your wife yet" terms, nothing sensible can be resolved.

First, no leftie I know is 'fearful' of the so-called free market, we just know that it isn't the magical beans Jack planted, with abundance flowing freely for everyone.

In fact, the free market as advocated by the right currently has produced some pretty big price increases for consumers, all in the name of greed:
A federal agency says big petroleum-industry mergers in the 1990s reduced competition, made it harder to get cheap, unbranded gasoline and contributed to high gas prices.

And here:
The five largest oil companies operating in the United States are ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, BP-Amoco-Arco and Royal Dutch Shell. They control 14 percent of global oil production, 48 percent of domestic oil production, 50 percent of domestic refinery capacity, and nearly 62 percent of the retail gasoline market.

These same companies also control 21 percent of domestic natural gas production. Since 2001, these top companies enjoyed cumulative after-tax profits exceeding $125 billion.

This control enables oil companies to manipulate prices by intentionally withholding supplies. Indeed, a 2001 Federal Trade Commission investigation into high gasoline prices concluded that oil firms intentionally withheld or delayed shipping oil to keep prices up. However, the government has done nothing to end these uncompetitive practices.

But Heaven forbid the government, in its role to "promote the general welfare", should stop these mighty Captains of Industry from fulfilling their manifest destiny, to make more profit every quarter.

Second, "far-reaching cradle-to-grave social programs – never mind that such programs can't sustain themselves over the long term" clearly means Social Security.

Even the Messiah of the Right, GWBush, has dropped that song from his set list. Too many people have figured out that it's a lie, and promoting the 'reform' of the program is code for giving the money to the Free Market, where Gordon Gecko can invest it in his latest hedge fund.

Third, "..."government "services" are notoriously wretched compared with those offered by market-based companies in a competitive environment".

Bullshit! From my friend Ezra Klein, one of the left's leading policy wonks on medical care:
Our country's entitlement programs are models of bureaucratic efficiency. Social Security spends less than 1 percent of its budget on administration; for Medicare, it's 2 percent. Compare that with private health insurers, who blow about 14 percent on administration.

A competitive environment spurs 2 things: one is innovation, but the primary is profit. In today's business model, profit, in the form of quarterly dividends, is the driving force.

Don't get me wrong, I like to make a profit on the work that I do, too. But when profit is the over-riding concern, there is simply no motivation to deliver a quality product. From Ford's famous 'Pinto' decision involving predicted death costs, to Vioxx being recalled from the market after too little testing and analysis, it should be clear that profit alone is no guarantee of efficiency and quality.

Here are some quotes from Thomas Jefferson (from Thom Hartmann) on the "Free Market":
"Those seeking profits," Jefferson wrote, "were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge."

He added: "I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. ... We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. ... [Otherwise], as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, ... and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers."

A totally "free" market where corporations reign supreme, just like the oppressive governments of old, Jefferson said could transform America "...until the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man."

As Jefferson realized, with no government "interference" by setting the rules of the game of business and fair taxation, there will be no middle class.

Although this may come as a sudden realization to many, we've really known it all our lives.

For example, every year, millions of Americans revisit Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" about Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob (and Tiny Tim) Cratchit. Yet somehow Americans fail to realize the subtext of the story (and so many of Dickens' other works). That subtext is that the middle class is not a normal thing: exploited workers are the norm. In fact, in the six-thousand-year history of the "civilized" world, a middle class emerging in any nation has been such a rarity as to be historically invisible.

But the Right-leaning OC Register will continue to print editorials like this, and shake their collective fingers at us like Scrooge admonishing Bob Cratchit.