Setting the Record Straight

September 19, 2008

Economy GOP’s Gift

Brass-Ring Chance for Democrats
     Finally, the economic meltdown is leading us away from subjects for sycophants and onto a real issue that should clarify the difference between Republicans and Democrats and define the race for president.
      As goofy as it sounds, relying on the marketplace to do the right thing without regulation is like relying on communism. Neither can work because both ignore human nature. Everything a child has to be taught should be factors to keep in mind when deciding whether and how much to regulate human activity.
     Most Republicans, particularly the ones who claim a fealty to “family values,” would be appalled if their children behaved crassly, displayed excess greed and selfishness and cried every time they had to conform with the rules of good behavior.
     Yet the same Republicans seem to believe it is all right for businesses, investors and the other money changers of our capitalist system to behave in a similar manner. U.S. political cycles are pretty clear on this subject—when Republicans are in power, regulations either come off or are ignored. When Democrats are in power, regulations go back on.
     Similarly common, the switch back and forth has predictable outcomes that are met practically every time. The cycle is so pervasive, even without change in regulation or the enforcement of it, the greed can rise or fall just with the knowledge a certain party is in power.
     Six months after Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, Enron made its first electricity trade, kicking off what would become an enormous scandal. The scandal was still building and had not erupted when Republicans gained control of the entire government in 2001. Enron executives were great friends and contributors and the White House rewarded them.
     Decisions that would lead eventually to today’s economic meltdown already were being put in place with the knowledge the big players had friends controlling the federal government.
     The Republican Congress eliminated entire regulatory regimes Democratic-controlled Congresses had put in place over several decades and amended many others in an attempt to at least declaw ones left in place so they were largely ineffective. The administration did its part by simply taking advantage of the basis of the American governing system—the legislature enacts laws, the administration administers them—and simply ignoring many regulations.
     The investors, business executives and others responsible for the economic meltdown were more than willing to step into the regulatory vacuum, the “aregulation” as it were, and begin earning their unregulated millions; make that billions.
     The Clinton administration might have wanted to restore some regulatory oversight, but without the cooperation of Congress it was largely impossible. The best the administration could do was step up enforcement of the regulations it oversaw.
     Democrats returned to power in Congress in 2006 and the House quickly responded with an attempt to fill in the holes left by their predecessors, but with a 50-50 Senate, there was no way to get much done during the past two years.
     Unfortunately, although this is the way things work, and worked, it is inside-the-beltway stuff that makes the eyes of the average ill-informed American voter glaze over. The meltdown should be used by Democrats to hit the public between the eyes with a 2 x 4 to get their attention on the problems they really have and away from the worries they imagine they have or are too ridiculous to be concerned about.



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