Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Robert Reich and "Rigging the System"

Perennial leftist Robert B. Reich has a piece out on "rigging the system" and "The Real Divide in America."

After doubting the sincerity of GOP candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and their rhetoric against "fat cats" and the "rich and powerful" he admits that things have changed.
It is likely that in coming years the major fault line in American politics will shift from Democrat versus Republican to antiestablishment versus establishment.

That coming divide will pit much of the middle class, working class, and poor, all of whom see the game as rigged, against many of the executives of large corporations, the inhabitants of Wall Street, and the establishment billionaires, who are perceived as doing the rigging.
What chaps like Reich cannot seem to understand is that everything that government does amounts to "rigging the system." I've been reading Eric Foner's Reconstruction, a blow-by-blow account of the ten years after the Civil War. It was a disaster, and the disaster had mostly to do with the fact that everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted the government to rig the system in their favor.

Let's take one issue: railroads. In the 1860s railroads were like green energy today. Everyone wanted the government to get into it. They proposed grants and subsidies, and many state governments went into debt to help finance railroads in their states. But when the railroads were up and running then the farmers got all pissed off because they didn't like the sky-high freight rates and the discounts that were only available to big shippers. So they wanted government to rig the system in their favor and give the farmers lower rates. (Never mind that before the railroads there was no way to ship farm products except by water and by horse and cart.) In other words, Americans are shameless. They want the government to rig the system in their favor, and they are enraged when the government rigs the system for somebody else.

The problem, Robert Reich, is not the big establishment players rigging the system. The problem is that we the people open the doors to rigging by voting for the government to do stuff. As soon as you allow the idea that it is beneficial for government to spend public money on some worthy purpose you are opening the door for moneyed interests to lobby for the government to subsidize their purpose.

The consequence is that privilege gets piled on privilege, system rigging follows system rigging until the whole economy is bound hand and foot with special carve-outs for everyone -- or at least everyone that can get the attention of a politician.

Could that be a credible explanation for the anemic Obama recovery?

The problem, Robert Reich, is that liberals like you have sanctified a particular form of system rigging, the kind that creates jobs and power for credentialed experts and political activists and distributes benefits to the "middle class, working class, and poor" in the form of social services. Next thing you know, the "executives of large corporations, the inhabitants of Wall Street, and the establishment billionaires" show up to "help" deliver those social services. That's why Obamacare was a total sell-out to Big Health and Big Pharma. If you want to give free health care to Nancy Pelosi's artists and writers then you have to write a check to the folks that will actually deliver the health care to those deserving voters.

But why do I have to tell you that, Robert B. Reich? Surely you are smart enough to figure that out for yourself.

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