You Can’t Have Healthy Businesses Without Strong Government

As much as conservatives want to pretend otherwise, you can’t have strong, healthy, prospering businesses without a big, strong government. The kinds of businesses that don’t want a big, strong government are exactly the kinds of businesses that We, the People don’t want.

Government Provides The Soil For Businesses To Thrive

Government creates the “public structures” that support smaller, innovative business. Government defines the playing field for business, right down to defining and regulating the money itself. Government creates the laws that define what business even is, and the police and courts to enforce that law. Government provides the infrastructure that is the soil in which businesses thrive — or whither and die. Government educates the employees and innovators. Government negotiates the trade agreements that let businesses sell outside our country, and is supposed to protect our businesses from being undercut by those in other countries.

Government keeps larger, ultra-wealthy businesses from dominating, monopolizing and destroying the newer, innovative, disruptive, creative businesses that rise up out of We, the People.

But government can only do those things for us when it is big and strong. And that is why the very people and businesses — and countries — that want to dominate, monopolize, cheat, scam and take everything for themselves at the expense of the rest of us don’t want our government to be big and strong enough to stop them.

Government Protects

Imagine this, though it might be difficult: some people are greedy and want more for themselves, at the expense of the rest of us. Yes, this is shocking, but true!

Government protects us from those who would take advantage and take too much. Government does this both domestically and internationally. At home it protects us from criminals and exploiters. Government also protects us from physical and economic threats from other countries. As I discussed last week in Why Can’t Apple Make Your IPhone In America? we as a country face an updated, economic-attack version of these threats to our national security,

China sees itself as a country, and we no longer do. China competes with us as a country. But our businesses see themselves as GLOBALIZED, not as part of a country.

So since we – at least our businesses – no longer see themselves as part of a country we are not responding to this competition. We are not mobilizing to fight back.

In fact, China has essentially recruited our own business leaders to fight against our own government.

Government Keeps The System Going

Our “system” generally works when it is in balance; consumers with jobs and money are customers for our businesses. When customers are coming in the door, companies hire more people to serve them. However, in a system the things that each individual wants to do can be bad if too many of them do those things at the same time.

An example of an unbalanced system: if every driver decided to drive on the same road at the same time no one would be able to move. This is where government is absolutely necessary to regulate the larger system and make sure it maintains balance.

Am economy example: all businesses want to reduce costs, and one way to do this is to cut the number of employees they have, increase the workload of the rest and do what they can to cut their pay and benefits. This is an example of something that each player in a system does that might be “good” for that individual player, but is really bad for the larger system if they all do it. When too many business reduce costs by cutting employees or paying less, the system collapses from lack of demand. Government is needed to keep businesses from laying off too many people or cutting pay. Sometimes government does this by stepping in and hiring people (or just giving them money like unemployment benefits), or buying things, thereby creating demand, causing businesses to hire. (See Actually, “The Rich” Don’t “Create Jobs,” We Do.)

Another example: When a business becomes powerful it uses that power to monopolize, to keep competition from being able to compete. Pretty soon there are just a few large businesses that can charge whatever they want. Without strong government to keep this from happening the system breaks down.

Taxes

Taxes are the payback We, the People receive from our investment in creating the public structures that protect and empower us and enable our business to thrive. Taxes pay for the protections, courts, infrastructure, education and all the rest of the system that creates the prosperity and redistributes that prosperity to all of us, thereby balancing the system.

These diagrams are from Tax Cuts Are Theft, (please click through for more.)

The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

virtual_cycle
A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.

We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper – the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us – through good wages, benefits and taxes.

But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

virtual_cycle_diverted

Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.

All Of Us Or Just A Few Of Us?

“We, the People” are the first three words of our Constitution. The writers of the Constitution were making a point, and to drive that point home they also made those three words the only words you can see from any distance:

“We, the People” was the point. This country exists for We, the People not for just a few people. We had fought a war to free ourselves from a system that was of, by and for a few wealthy and powerful people who controlled the levers of power, and we said, “Never again!” We designed a new system that was supposed to ensure that all of us prosper instead of a few people at the expense of the rest of us.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This Constitution is supposed to be for our benefit — all of us. The economy is supposed to be for the benefit of all of us. For our general welfare, not for just a few. And to protect us from the wealthy and powerful, government has to be big and strong.

When Government Is Weak

Conservatives, funded by the already-wealthy — the 1% and their giant corporations — say we need less government, smaller government, government out of their way. They say they want our government to be small enough that they can “drown it in a bathtub.”

Think about what they are saying when they say they want less government: they want less decision-making by We, the People. They want less protection of our general welfare. They want less infrastructure for our smaller businesses to thrive in. They want less enforcement of laws that protect our wages, safety, environment and rules against scamming, scheming, and defrauding us. That is what “less government” means in a country where the government is We, the People…

When government is strong we have more enforcement of a level playing field for all of us, more education for all of us, more security for all of us, more protection of our environment, more infrastructure so our own startup businesses can flourish and compete, more parks, more promotion of the general welfare.

And when government is weak we end up with a very few greedy, ruthless billionaires and their giant corporations controlling the economy, stifling competition, scamming and defrauding us, and consuming the environment and resources for their own short-term profit.

What Government Does For Us And Our Smaller Businesses

Protect:

  • Law.
  • Police.
  • Courts.
  • International agreements.
  • National Security.
  • Regulate and balance business activity.

Enable and empower:

  • Education.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Define and regulate money.
  • Redistribute – keep the top from having too much and the rest of us from having too little money, power, etc.

Invent and innovate:

  • Public universities.
  • Scientific research, esp. basic research for our businesses to apply.

Sustain:

  • Protect the environment and resources from those who would use them up for their own profit.
  • Fight monopolies so new businesses can innovate and compete.

Help me fill in this list. Leave a comment.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Obama’s Radical Agenda

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.
Conservatives are constantly talking about Obama’s “radical, far-left agenda.”
“At last!”, I said. Hearing their whines and complaints I became hopeful that our government would finally serve We, the People instead of the big corporations and the wealthy.
But then, looking around for the change that conservatives were denouncing, I couldn’t find any signs of it at all! What in the world have they been talking about?!
Finally I came across a whisper of change: The Quiet Revolution | The New Republic,

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for–but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. … Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

OK, I get it. Obama’s “radical agenda” is to undo the failed conservative radical agenda that destroyed the government and the economy, restoring the government to minimal operation.
Well, that’s something, anyway. Sigh.
But my own gauge of a return to actual governance by rule of law is when I open my morning paper here in Silicon Valley and see that the government is going after a few companies for age discrimination. Never mind prosecuting people for torture, illegally invading a country, crony capitalism, or destroying the country. No, I’ll believe that radical change is beginning when they are willing to take on something so blatant , obvious and wrong as the firing of people when they reach 40 or so that is going on here in front of everyone’s eyes out here.

Conservatives Opposed To Rule Of Law, Our Constitution And Good Education

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Conservative leader and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich writes about the California court ruling that children – even home-schooled children – must be educated by credentialed teachers, saying it is an example of “Judicial Supremacy.” In his article he quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial calling the ruling a “strange new chapter” in the “annals of judicial imperialism.” Later in the piece he writes,

The decision represents yet another case of a special interest — in this case, the education unions and bureaucracy — using the courts to get what they can’t get through the popular vote.
This is yet another example of judicial supremacy: Rule by an out-of-control judiciary rather than the will of the people. It joins court rulings such as the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance on a long list of usurpations of the freedom and self-determination of the American people.

Lets take a moment to examine what Gingrich is really complaining about here.
Here’s how the American system of law and justice is supposed to work: We have a Constitution and we have laws that we are all supposed to follow by mutual agreement. And we have in place a judicial system for interpreting our Constitution and laws, again by mutual agreement. So when there is a dispute we take that dispute to the courts, and the judges rule according to the Constitution and laws. And then we agree to follow their rulings.
Newt Gingrich and the conservatives complain that this is “Judicial Supremacy” and “judicial imperialism.” Wow, this sounds pretty bad! But look at the meaning of these negative-sounding words. Isn’t “Judicial Supremacy” really just another way of saying that we agree to follow “rule of law?” When Gingrich uses language that casts a negative frame on the concept, isn’t he undermining public respect for the rule of law? Gingrich and other conservatives are happy enough with our American system when it works in their favor but when it rules against their agenda they launch another anti-government screed.
This post is not written in opposition to home or private schooling, but to point out the importance to all of us that we all operate under the same set of agreed-upon rules. At least in California, another agreed-upon rule is that our children should receive the best possible education. Article 9 of our California Constitution states that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” The wording at the beginning of Article 9 is as follows:

A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.

To this end Article 9 describes how California will manage a system of free, public schools. And Article 9 makes it clear that to this end our children deserve qualified, “credentialed” teachers.
Once again, We, the People of California have decided that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” This is what we want. Just what is it that Gingrich and other conservatives want instead if it doesn’t involve qualified teachers providing education to our state’s children?
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Ford’s Mistake

Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, which prevented a full criminal investigation and trial. He felt it would help to heal the country, which had been through assassinations, riots and the divisive Vietnam war. But the pardon had the unintended consequence of creating an impression that those in the highest office really aren’t accountable to the public if their actions violate the law.
Four years later the Reagan administration picked up right where Nixon’s had left off, and got caught. Other select insiders made the decision not to pursue Reagan.

As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be “good for the country” to put the public through another impeachment trial.

At a time when thousands were being sent away for years for smoking a joint or doing a line, the country was learning that things really are different for those at the very top.
Bush1 then pardoned everyone involved, especially those being pressured by Lawrence Walsh to testify against him for his own possibly criminal part in it. The public got the message clearly that time.

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