Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, Conservatives!
For the longest time I have been a bit perplexed by what “conservatives” really mean when they say things like they, “believe in smaller government” and “less regulation is better for business”. Do they really mean that they wanted to get rid of most if not all “entitlements” and many departments of government except the military? By the way, that is really a more libertarian position or even reactionary but not by definition “conservative”. After all, our government is a large part of the economy (especially of aggregate demand) and many businesses rely on government contracts to employ thousands of private sector workers and support other businesses as well. Haliburton and BlackWater both loved all the government money they got and still get from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Would the right really deny poor people, especially the disabled, basic healthcare via Medicaid? Do they really want to throw seniors off their well earned Social Security, keep poor kids from reading by eliminating RIF and allow Monsanto and the oil and chemical companies to poison the air and water? Well, yes, of course there are some social Darwinist conservatives that would certainly like this and there are some immoral, unethical and greedy conservatives that just don’t much care about others they don’t know, but being a progressive liberal (though I strive to be pragmatic too) I’d like to believe that most conservatives are not like this. They just have core beliefs that I can’t quite get my head around enough to understand their words (and vice-versa probably as they keep saying that liberals all want more and bigger government which clearly isn’t true). There are lots of good conservatives who don’t want those things if asked about them individually, yet they seem all to still utter the “smaller government” mantra like the legions of NS-5 robots in iRobot enforcing a human curfew.
Then a few days ago it hit me out of the blue. I think most conservatives may really mean they want less government bureaucracy when they say they want “smaller government”. The funny thing is that they seem to not mind or even quite like bureaucracy in large corporations. Then the waste and inefficiency (which is definitely there if you’ve ever worked for a large multi-national) is pretty well covered up by the profits generated by efficiencies of scale. If you ask them about that waste and inefficiency I’ve found the general response is that this is none of our business and it doesn’t’ matter anyway because the company is profitable. Unfortunately, this sounds a lot like China saying that human rights violations are “an internal matter” an no one’s business but their own. I think the share holders would beg to differ with conservatives that the bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency in our big businesses (and smaller ones for that matter) are “none of our business” just like the outsized pay for executives, especially the ones who fail and get golden parachutes. It is hypocritical to abhor bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency in government and thereby want to eliminate government, but not to recognize that these are traits of all human organizations. It is sheer stupidity though to deny this exists in our businesses as well since it is there to see for any person with eyes and half a wit.
If what conservatives really mean, along with many progressives, is they they believe in less bureaucracy and more efficiency in government, why only in government? Since large corporations (and large non-profits for that matter) have lots of bureaucracy they can’t very well say that because it might be interpreted as being critical of business, free markets and capitalism. From my 35+ years working in companies I have seen that companies definitely do have easier and more efficient ways of eliminating bureaucracy than governments do, though after doing work in several insurance and financial companies, their way of eliminating bureaucracy and streamlining things definitely does not always work well. I would hope at some point we could all agree that human organizations, whether they be for profit public companies, privately held companies, governments or non-profits all have many of the same weaknesses (and strengths) foibles and difficulties, though they are often expressed in rather different ways. I do realize that most conservatives don’t think t hey government should be in the business of feeding and housing people, protecting them from themselves and especially helping guarantee them good health, but if the government doesn’t do it who actually will? These are all goods that society can benefit from and if you can’t do it well for profit then that pretty much leaves the government to try to do it. Do they really believe that the government shouldn’t be in the business of educating people? Really? Perhaps one could argue that only the local governments should do these things (how well have block grants really worked) but are they saying that we really don’t need national standards for education in a globalized world? After all this is a nation not only of immigrants, but of movers who mostly have families spread from coast to coast and many children today don’t even settle in their college town, much less the town of their birth or childhood (if indeed there are only one or two of those), but often settle where the jobs are many miles or even states away from their siblings and parents. Both the society and business benefit from everyone getting a similar type, level and quality of education. Let’s all agree on making the way government functions more efficient (not the way in which we govern ourselves though as efficiency is often the road to dictatorship) and effective by learning from mistakes, studies, the private sector and applying common sense. Even eliminating programs and departments that are redundant or don’t work well. After all, I really do like the Texas Sunset law and I would LOVE a smaller government that did the same or more things government does today and does it better. Then we can have the further debate on what it is that government actually must do vs. what it should do or can do well.
And if you think that conservative and the Republican party has not changed dramatically in the last forty or so years just read Richard M. Nixon’s own words (to the Congress no less) on health care reform.
Oh, and while we are on it, it recently occurred to me that when conservatives, at least “good” conservatives who care about the society and the country, say they want less regulation or that less regulation will stimulate business and hiring what I think they really mean is that they want to eliminate regulations that are barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. Often regulations are set up or even written at the behest of established businesses that want no competition and no disruptive new technologies (or to control them themselves) to emerge. Also, bad or badly written, cumbersome or perverse regulations should be made better or eliminated. I do think a few conservatives actually would like to get rid of all air, water and ground pollution standards (effectively making us China – grey skies anyone?) so corporations can just pollute at will. Unfortunately, these and the regulations that mandate fairness to workers are often the regulations that the right goes after to try to eliminate rather than bad or inefficient ones. I do wonder why. I mean, find a conservative who thinks it is OK for chemical and oil companies to pollute the Mississippi in Louisiana in violation of Louisiana’s existing environmental regulations and it is doubtful that they would invite that same disregard of laws and pollution in their neighborhood. What is all that about?
One final thing. It is clear that there has been a significant structural change in our economy with respect to how jobs are created and eliminated. With globalization, outsourcing and the onward march of technology making many businesses more efficient and productive, once jobs have gone, almost no matter what you do, they will resist coming back. I do have a proposal to address this. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest. ,Many large highly profitable corporations pay almost no taxes like GE. Romney and the conservative want to lower taxes all around to 25% ostensibly to boost the economy and encourage the “job creators”. Let’s compromise. Let’s raise the tax rate on the top 5% (yes me included) and corporations to 45% and eliminate the loopholes and corporate welfare. We will however, provide one big loophole and incentive to get the rate down to 22.5% doing Romney one better. The one big loophole is that if indeed you are a job provider or better yet, job creator you can get your tax burden lowered up to 50% just by providing and/or creating jobs and proving it. One other caveat, the higher the wages you pay, up to a certain level, say $60 or $75K, then the higher the tax break you get. This will do at least two things; it will incentivize businesses and individuals to find ways to hire people and make them productive enough to pay their salary and expenses and then some and it will encourage them to create high(er) wage jobs to increase their tax breaks and raise median salaries in the U.S. I say this should be an excellent way to unleash the private sector on creating not only American jobs, but great paying American jobs. What do you say? Tell me what you think of this by adding your comments.