- Local time
- Today 7:20 AM
- Nov 21, 2007
- Michigan/Indiana, USA
INTPs are a fun bunch. I'm interested in your opinions (but only after you read the whole thing).
On replacing voters with clients and citizens with customers
The business of America is business. We don't make anything anymore. We don't build much of anything and we barely bother to keep what our grandparents built in repair. We grow less and less. We create fewer and fewer better mousetraps. And the only reason we make, build, repair, grow, and create the little that we do is to sell it at the highest possible price. Our economy is based on everybody doing business with one another. It's based on buying and selling. It's based on all of us looking at each other as potential customers, which is to say that it's based on all of us looking to take advantage of each other to make a profit of some kind.
It doesn't matter what is being bought and sold. It doesn't matter if anything real is bought and sold. All that matters is that money changes hands and that more of it lands or stays in my hands than in yours.
I don't know how we got to this point, exactly. All I know is that a country that was built on the backs of slaves, expanded through the theft of land from its original inhabitants, and increased its wealth by lurching from gold rush to gold rush of one kind or another---the housing bubble makes "sense" when seen as what it was, a gold rush in which people treated their homes as rich veins of ore to be mined---isn't likely to have developed into a country that truly values or ever practices charity, thrift, compassion, or self-restraint.
So here we are, all of us dependent for our daily bread on the constant buying and selling of whatever happens to be raking in the big bucks this month, with a government that sees one of its responsibilities as keeping us all buying and selling because one of the jobs of governments of all kinds, from time immemorial, has been to keep the local economy chugging along---to keep piling up the national wealth, usually without worrying too much about who winds up with most of that wealth so long as the rulers get their cut. When we were a nation of farmers and small shopkeepers, the government was sympathetic to the interests of farmers and small shopkeepers. When we became a nation of manufacturers, the government was sympathetic to the interests of people who made things, including, depending on how much clout Unions had at a given moment, workers as well as owners. Now that all we do is buy and sell the government is sympathetic to...well, nobody. Only to the movement of money. Which means that it pays most attention to the people who move the most money around.
This explains why we are having a debate about health care that centers around "costs" instead of around how wrong it is that there are children who never see a doctor or a dentist and that people routinely die of diseases that could be successfully treated because treating them doesn't make anybody rich.
This explains why Max Baucus, who used to think it was a good idea to get children to the doctor and the dentist and save people from dying from lack of insurance, a virulent and contagious disease, now sees the point of health care "reform" as making sure that all the buying and selling involved, even the unnecessary and the inefficient and the wasteful, is not just preserved but increased---mandates and subsidies and co-ops are all about buying and selling, not about helping sick people get well.
The point is to make sure that whatever happens profits are maintained, lots of money changes hands, the nation's wealth is increased and never mind who winds up with most of that wealth in their pockets.
You can say that Baucus and the other Blue Dogs have been bought off by the insurance industry. But it's probably more accurate to say that the insurance industry is rewarding them for understanding how things are supposed to work. Whatever the supposed issue Congress seems to be working on, the real job of government is to keep the buying and selling going. Baucus and the Blue Dogs and plenty of the so-called moderates set to bargain the public option away understand that it is in the nation's best interest to ensure that the economy, which is based on everybody being a customer or client first and a voter and a citizen, and a human being, not necessarily last but way down the list, thrives and grows. The way to do this is to make more customers.
The public option is all well and good. It does in fact make customers. It increases the number of buyers. But since the seller is the government, it doesn't make enough other, potential sellers rich.
Now, if we had a different sort of economy we'd have a different sort of government, possibly one that saw that the business of America was creating a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our posterity, we wouldn't be having a debate at all. The idea of a public option, since it's based on buying and selling, on encouraging competition as a way of reining in costs---that is, since it is about money first and healthy children and lives saved as a side-benefit---would be the conservative position. Conservative to the point of being reactionary.
How in the world, sane people will ask in the future, did those people (us) let the question of profits into the question of how to keep the country healthy and individuals alive and well?
Nobody expects the army to make a profit or the fire department or the highway department. No sensible person whose heart is in the right place expects our schools to make money. We don't make money off each other by protecting them from our mutual enemies or by saving them from burning buildings or by sending them out to work or to the store on safe, well-kept roads. We don't make money off each other---or shouldn't try to---by teaching each other's kids to read and do math. Why then did those people (us again) think they should make money off of keeping each other alive and well?
And the answer is because our economy is based on our treating each other as customers and commodities not as fellow citizens, not even as fellow human beings. If it fell to us to write the Constitution or re-write it, the preamble would be changed to "We the Consumers of the United States, in order to purchase a more perfect union, pay for the a criminal justice system, buy and sell the weapons and equipment necessary for the common defense, make money off of insuring domestic tranquility, get rich off of promoting the general welfare, and secure for those who can afford the high price we're going to charge the blessings of liberty for themselves and their lazy, arrogant, good for nothing but asserting their own status and special privileges progeny, do agree to this contract, please read the attached terms and conditions and check the box marked 'accept'."
Bruce Bartlett, a deputy secretary for economic policy under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has written the kind of post that liberals like me can nod along with in a spirit of Amen and Preach it, brother. At the moment, Bartlett is despairing of his party, the Republican Party, because there are no true Reaganites left. He means sensible conservatives who understand that it is the job of government to keep the economy working efficiently and profitably. But the fact is that one of the reasons the Republican Party is poised to become a permanent minority party---assuming the Democrats don't save them from that fate through self-sabotage, incompetence, and pusillanimity---is that they aren't Reagan's party anymore, but the rest of us are.
The debate is between those who think the job of the government is to make the already rich and powerful more rich and powerful, the Republicans, and those who think the job of the government is to make more of us rich and powerful. It's between those who think the job of government is to serve the interests and protect the money of rich businessmen and those who think it is the job of government to increase the odds of more of us who want to wheel and deal, buy and sell, becoming rich businesspersons. It's between those who think that the government shouldn't get involved with the business of buying and selling except in the cases when it's to save the money and privileges of those who've already made their wads from buying and selling and those who think that the government should always be working to increase the buying and selling of everything and anything because that's the way to spread the money around.
"A rising tide lifts all boats."
Wealth trickles down.
The more rich people there are, the richer we all are.
Supply my side, and the rest of you are welcome to whatever's left over.
The Washington Media accepts this as a religion. The Blue Dogs believe in it whole-heartedly. The moderates are resigned to the idea that this can't be changed without the kind of revolution in thought that the moderates aren't up to trying to bring about, partly because its against their own interests.
This is why I'm predicting that whatever the specifics of some passages are, however well he delivers it, no matter how effectively he appears to have made his case, the gist of the President's speech tonight is going to be, "Maybe we ought to consider a few things besides how much money this is going to cost or make. I'm sorry. Did I say besides? I meant along with."
But this is also why I don't blame the President or the Blue Dogs or even the insurance industrialists as much as maybe I should. The fact is that they are all doing the job we have come to expect of the government since we re-elected Ronald Reagan in a landslide.
Lift my boat. Help me be the one who get trickle down on the heads of others. Make me one of the millionaires.