Friday, September 07, 2012

The Role of Government as Envisioned by the Parties

Back in the 1880s and '90s our free-enterprise economy was running rampant. It created an America with no middle class. There were a few people who were very rich - the business owners, the CEOs, the upper management - and there was the vast majority of rabble who lived off the crumbs of the rich - the workers who had virtually no rights. The biggest businesses merged and formed monopolies meaning they could charge anything for their products. The competition that keeps free enterprise going was nearly non-existent.

Thankfully, politicians back then, especially Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, put a stop to it. Congress enacted several laws and the presidents enforced those laws through the courts. Competition returned to the marketplace and the middle class began to grow.

But what if government had not acted? What would it have been like today if capitalism had been allowed to run amok throughout the 20th century? It would be like the whole country was run by a few giant pyramid schemes, with a few ultra-rich people at the pinnacle and the rest of us trudging around the base.

In the middle of the 20th century, our environment was in grave danger. Rachel Carson and others warned us about the silent springs to come if we didn't do something about air and water pollution. Big factories were belching toxic smoke into the atmosphere and dumping chemicals and sewage into the steams and lakes. Soot covered the newly-fallen snow, speckling it with black.

Then, the government stepped in and despite dire warnings that forcing businesses to clean up their act would drive them into bankruptcy and reduce productivity, laws were passed requiring factories to install scrubbers on their smokestacks. Regulations were put into place limiting the types and the amount of waste products that could be pumped into the waterways. Businesses complied and they did not go bankrupt. Profits continued to soar and the environment was cleaned up.

In the 1970s it became apparent, through scientific research, that chlorofluorocarbons were destroying the ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. These gases primarily came from aerosol cans and air conditioners. The government wanted to enact regulation that would outlaw these ozone-destroying gases and industry balked, claiming it would put them out of business or send them into bankruptcy because any alternative to these gases would be far too expensive.

But the government acted anyway. Regulations were put into place to limit chlorofluorocarbon usage in consumer products. Other nations joined in and signed a treaty, the Montreal Protocol, that assured the use of this damaging substance was seriously curtailed.

Had governments not taken control of the situation and put into place heavy regulations, we may not have an ozone layer today. We would all need to wear sunscreen or protective clothing even for the shortest walks.

The point I'm trying to make is that government regulation is good and proper and in many cases quite necessary. Republican politicians want to do away with nearly all government regulations and allow the marketplace to take care of business on its own. The GOP wants to lend a helping hand to those who have already become very successful. Those who have not can just try harder.

There is only one area in which the GOP would like to grow government influence - in people's bedrooms and doctors' offices. Here, they want to make sure that the government has the final decision on whether or not a woman can get an abortion or even use birth control. They do this because they want all of us, no matter what our religion or personal beliefs, complies with their version of biblical morality. It is a major step toward the establishment of an evangelical Christian theocracy in America.

The Democrats, on the other hand, want appropriate regulation where such regulation is proper. They want government to help lend a hand to those who are struggling. And they want government to secure the human rights that everybody is entitled to share, including health care.

Republicans don't care about anyone else's health as long as they have made enough money to take care of themselves. They say they believe in equality of opportunity, but they forget that opportunity does not exist for those who need a hand up and can't get it.

There is a role for government in people's lives, but it's not to force compliance with old-fashioned religious morals. It is to provide for the public welfare, like it says in the Constitution. Democrats want to do that. Republicans just want a government that will help their own best interests.

No comments: