At this moment in America, the United States Chamber of Commerce is fighting regulations on the handling of lead in older buildings. Once an umbrella group for millions of small businesses in our nation, the Chamber has become a magnet of irresponsibility and heavy industry excess. What is worse, for the Chamber, is that they are no longer on the leading edge of anything. They don’t fight for Mom and Pop businesses, nor do they represent anything resembling a coherent strategy for national business success. The Chamber of Commerce waits in the wings until their leadership hears what their masters in the conservative movement tell them to do.
Currently the message is simple; a vast majority of conservative outlets, from Fox to the Chamber, are all determined to saddle President Obama and liberals with responsibility for the Gulf Spill and its effects. Almost unbelievably, they are trying to saddle the federal government with the responsibility to fix this mess. The Rational Middle has no qualms with liberal anger against the Obama Administration concerning the Spill; liberals, after all, want government to take steps to prevent and/or mitigate market failures. But conservatives?
Your movement has spent years fighting “government intrusion” (read: regulations), and has avoided much relevant regulation outright. Your movement has screamed from the mountaintops that the market could deal with this; that government would only screw this up. Your movement worked to pass legislation limiting financial liability for screw-ups; that is right friends, the movement that thinks the market is responsible passed legislation limiting their responsibility.
Now, when the market has utterly failed. Now, when a corporate family of incompetence, greed, and reckless negligence has destroyed an ecosystem, fisheries, and the heart of a region’s tourist industry; now they want government intrusion. The concept is ridiculous, insulting, and dangerous. The first responsibility that the federal government has, is to gut whatever regulatory structure there was (apparently a system of glad handing industry stooges), and put some real controls in place.
Unrestrained deregulation, as a concept and practice, is a failure. There can be no debate on this topic. The financial meltdown happened in an atmosphere where some regulations were gone, and the ones remained were largely unenforced. The market was trusted with the unsupervised handling of our piggy bank, and they screwed it up. The Big Spill represents nothing more than a colossal test case for shoddy engineering, piss-poor execution, and atrocious management controls. I have read where the “problem” with education is that teachers are the only profession where bad performance goes unpunished; I sit then, in breathless anticipation for the wholesale firings at every financial house on Wall Street, and in the halls of B.P. and Halliburton.
All Americans by now, understand that the conservative political strategy has been to oppose everything proposed by the President, and criticize every word out of his mouth. But the movement’s stance in the aftermath of the Big Crash and the Big Spill is puzzling. Why, if you are a movement built on the unfettered marketplace, would you demand government action within the marketplace. I understand the ex-half-term’s lack of sophistication (Palin recently said environmentalists are to blame for the accident); I stopped giving her credit for problem-solving intelligence long ago. But the conservative media and political figures are lined up to criticize Obama for the administration’s lack of oversight. They are fighting for mike time to criticize Obama for the government’s inability to fix a market problem.
The Rational Middle isn’t looking for ideals to be abandoned, simply for responsibility to be acknowledged. Liberals, led by the actions of Carter and Clinton, admitted that over-regulation of transportation through the I.C.C. was bad for the country. Those two presidents were responsible for all but one of the major acts of deregulation between 1977 and 2000. Conservatives have the opportunity to fight for most elements of the free market, while demanding the existence of well-enforced, common-sense regulation. The blending of our political system (democracy), and our economic system (capitalism), can be accomplished. But this is only possible when responsibilities are well-defined.
If you movement conservatives insist on continuing your present course, then it is only fair to go all the way. Don’t hedge your bets with corporate welfare. It is your whole premise that government can’t fix market problems. So here is my suggestion, and it is nothing less than an honest application of conservative ideals:
- Get the government out of the process; B.P. and Halliburton can recruit market help to fix and contain the problem, but it is their problem.
- Get the government out of the process; part of competing in a free market, is accepting the risks of that competition. No more nanny-state limitations on liability. Anyone in the world (this did happen in international water) has standing to sue anyone in the chain of accountability…B.P., Halliburton, the platform contractor, the American Petroleum Institute; anyone. This is called a market response.
Of course, once the lawsuits take a few trillion worth of assets away from all of the companies in the direct chain, and once companies in the indirect chain are forced to defend themselves for being part of the market failure…well, I guess I should say good luck. I wonder what would happen to a Mom and Pop member of the Chamber of Commerce had something in their operation caused, say a fire that burned down a neighborhood or a food-borne illness that killed a few kids. Do you think that they would still have a business?
Do you suppose that Palin would come and defend them?
The Rational Middle is listening…