Big Government or Big Business
The perfect day. A sunny September in Tennessee, a group of energized
Young Democrats, a delicious lunch and Garrison Keillor on the ride
home. The event was the Southern Conference of Young Democrats and
I was there to pitch a dream, Draft Gore. Driving home from Chattanooga
through the soft rain, an idea of David Keith kept turning in my
brain—"you are going to have one or the other—big
government or big business."
David Keith is a loyal Tennessean, orange to the heart, who can
be observed frequently on the sidelines cheering his beloved Volunteers.
He is also an actor with a list of credits stretching out the door.
He has bumped into just about everybody who's anybody in film from
Robert Redford to Robert Duvall. He is probably best remembered
as Richard Gere's suicidal boot-camp buddy in An Officer and a Gentleman
(1982). At the luncheon in Chattanooga, Mr. Keith changed my mind
about actors and intelligent political thought. He gave one of the
most inspiring "get out the vote" speeches I have heard
in quite some time. Woven in among the threads of party loyalty
and pride was the following controversial idea: "There are
those who believe that commerce is the fairest and best arbiter
of public policy, but Enron shows otherwise. We only have two choices
in this country—big government or big business. You are going
to have one or the other. Personally, I’d rather have big
government because at least I have an opportunity to vote them out."
Hmmm. As they say down here in the South, "Let me study on
that for a spell," and I did for most of the way home. Is it
really one or the other? Is supply and demand the best referee in
the game of governing? To hear capitalist dogma, you would believe
so. "Keep government out, let the free market system run its
course and the world will be a better place." Their world,
perhaps, but history tells another story. The Gilded Age rested
on the soot filled lungs of bone weary workers. You only have to
read Mathew Josephson’s classic work, The Robber Barons to
have misgivings about government by quarterly earnings. In a review
of The Robber Barons, a reader tendered the following irony, "But
remember, even the most admirable Barons also bribed politicians,
abused their workers, and cheated ordinary investors by manipulating
their own stock. Many of their actions would be illegal today."
Wealth run unrestrained has a kudzu affect on the welfare of those
down below. For example, after the savings and loan industry was
deregulated in 1982, 650 savings and loans capsized in a churning
sea of fraud and greed. In 1984, cable TV rates soared after deregulation
and between 1986 and 1990 the cost of basic service rose 56%--twice
the rate of inflation. Capitalism is a plan of self-interest and
only the most idealistic and self-serving among us would let it
grow without regulation. And that is where big government comes
in. Any successful nation must have a regulatory bicep strong enough
to hold the vices of human avarice in check. I think it is one of
the greatest ironies of this decade that the current administration
promotes weaker, smaller unregulated government while at the same
time embracing the Christian belief that Man is in the shackles
of sin, a philosophy of one of its dominant constituencies, the
In the past, business abuses were curbed by the federal government
in order to protect American workers and the environment. It should
be remembered that the regulations as well as unions came after
the abuses. A great deal of progress has been achieved due to governmental
oversight and we have some of the safest working conditions in the
world. It is also of interest to note that these protective regulations
have not restrained healthy profits. Now, however, we are seeing
a slow erosion of regulatory power by the federal government , and
that erosion is giving big business new opportunities for abuse.
It is also giving rise to a new political class of robber barons.
Consider this example gleaned from Forbes Magazine ("Buying
Justice", 7/21/03) and reviewed by Democracy N.C.: "Money
Rolling In From Corporations As Chamber of Commerce Prepares for
"Under a new program, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending
millions to oust judges who aren’t biased enough in favor
of business interest. So far, it has won in 21 of 24 judicial elections
in eight states—and prevailed in 11 attorney general races.
As voters in 28 states prepare to elect more than 60 Supreme Court
justices next year, the Chamber of Commerce says it will be there.
Chamber President Thomas Donohue says the Chamber will be stepping
up its court election campaigns: "We led. We succeeded. Now
the money is rolling in from drug companies, heavy manufacturers,
large retailers, insurance companies, even banks." Donors,
who could chip in $50 million or more, include the American International
Group, Daimler Chrysler, and Home Depot. …The Chamber and
its allies will work to oust at least 10 incumbents next year, including
justices in Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.
Target states are recommended by the Chamber’s Institute for
Legal Reform, using detailed grades of each justice’s rulings
to determine which ones are most friendly to business. "
Yes, the money is rolling in and America, defender of the people,
is rolling over. We have reaped a bitter harvest from Ronald Reagan’s
seeds of deregulation and the thorns of that "Me generation"
are scattered everywhere. So take your pick because David Keith
is right—it is either Big Government or Big Business.
To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get
comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts
on the matter?
opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do
not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet