You wouldn’t know listening to his detractors but according to The Washington Post‘s opinion writer E.J. Dionne, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a frighteningly principled man. Why? “He has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve.”
In his latest column, Dionne argues that Romney’s economic philosophy would revert a century of progress (regulation) and is rooted in the notion “that our difficulties would go away if the state simply got out of the way, allowed the market do its thing and counted on the success of the successful to lift up everyone else.”
Ridiculous! “Just like that, all would be well — as if we never needed the trustbusting of the Progressive era, the social legislation of the New Deal, the health programs of the Great Society and the coordinated action of the world’s governments in 2008 and 2009 to keep the Great Recession from becoming something far worse.”
Dionne cannot imagine a world in which the government doesn’t regulate the economy so he labels this vision, supposedly Romney’s, “radical” and “magical capitalism.” He doesn’t bother to explain just how progressive policies have helped advanced prosperity. It’s so obvious, it doesn’t need explaining.
Romney, in fact, isn’t all laissez-faire. As recently as two months ago, speaking about drilling for natural gas, Romney said there is a need for environmental regulation. But, “We want regulation that’s updated and modern and streamlined.” Hardly the words of a radical capitalist.
What’s further absent in Dionne’s column is any criticism of the historical instances of state activism which he cites. He doesn’t just neglect to explain how nineteenth century trustbusting was good for America; there’s no reflection on the morality of forcing private companies to break up, effectively putting a ceiling on how big companies can become.
Should the government be making that decision? There’s a good argument to be had on that question, except when you label people who might disagree with you “radical” beforehand. You effectively position them outside the parameters of intellectual debate.
Nor does Dionne reflect on the utility of trustbusting policies. If the Progressive era was supposed to end “too big to fail,” how come banks and car companies were rescued to prevent the financial crisis from becoming an ominous “something far worse”? And far worse how? He doesn’t say that either.
As for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which encompassed an array of new government agencies and initiatives designed to stimulate the American economy during the 1930s Great Recession, there’s no word from Dionne on how it helped the United States recover from the 1929 crash. Because it didn’t. The New Deal’s borrowing and spending on a then unprecedented scale deepened and prolonged the recession, making it a depression.
Also, no word on how and why the Supreme Court struck down the most overtly socialist of Roosevelt’s programs as unconstitutional.
As for the Great Society, Dionne saw no need to remind his readers that the “war on poverty” which President Lyndon B. Johnson announced in 1964 continues to be waged with markedly little success. The poverty rate in the United States has been fairly stable for half a century, despite huge increases in welfare spending.
Moreover, the legacy of the Great Society is what’s bankrupting America today. Medicare, which finances health care for retirees, and Medicaid, which pays health care for the poor, are among the main drivers of America’s ballooning debt.
Both programs are projected to run out of money in the next decade but Johnson’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his Democratic Party have so far refused to consider any reforms, let alone privatization for it would leave seniors “at the mercy of the insurance industry.” Can’t trust the market! Better to let the country go bankrupt than listen to the “radical” Mitt Romney who wonders whether it can’t go with a little less government.