Big government is bad; big business is worse | Rich Elfers

It’s wrong to blame Big Business for the nation’s economic ills.

Big Government invasively meddles into the lives of Americans with too many rules and regulations limiting people’s freedom. All the mindless expensive federal, state and local regulations make it difficult for businesses to make a profit and survive. We need to reduce the size and power of government so the nation can prosper.

The 2008 Great Recession was caused by the government, not Wall Street.

The above statements are the gist of what I have been hearing from some members of the community. According to them, I give government a pass on accountability and unjustifiably blame business for the ills of society.

My critics are right. I do tend to give a pass to government and I do lay much of the blame for the ills of society on the economic elites who control the country and the government with campaign contributions and the pervasive lobbying of Congress.

First, I will start by saying that much of what conservatives say about government stupidity and incompetence are true. In many areas there is too much bureaucracy and paperwork that cost businesses billions of dollars in unneeded expenses.

Some of the laws regarding business are not well thought out. Our state, for example, has a terribly regressive tax system for businesses where the government taxes them on their gross profit instead of their net. Our state business taxes are some of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation.

I taught U.S. history for 38 years. I saw both the pluses and minuses of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. I was awed by the new inventions and methods that came from the creative genius, grit and determination of men like Carnegie with steel, Rockefeller with oil, Morgan with business and finance, Morse with telegraph, Bell with the telephone, Otis with elevators. The list could go on.

I also saw the minuses of the Industrial Revolution: child labor, 14- to 16-hour work days for immigrants six and seven days a week, lack of safety devices on machines, workers thrown out on the street because they were injured on the job.

When workers organized to fight corporate injustice, the government protected the corporations with police and the army. In labor disputes the government on the state and national level favored the corporations over the poor – a perversion of “hands off” laissez fair capitalism.

Those “little” people became nameless and faceless and were forgotten as the 19th and 20th century’s robber barons bribed, intimidated and used the government to stop competition and to increase their wealth and power at the expense of the nation. Greed and amorality motivated these economic elite as they made millions of dollars in their drive to control whole industries and markets.

For these reasons, presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson and especially Franklin Roosevelt began to regulate business and to clean up corruption created by corporate criminals.

Child labor laws, public education, subsidized public colleges, the 40-hour work week, L&I, unemployment insurance, health and safety standards for workers, Social Security and Medicare all came as a result of government action. So did state and national parks and monuments and wilderness preserves.

All of these programs could be considered “socialistic” because they fly in the face of the doctrine of the free market. Which one of these would you, the average citizen, want rolled back to free America from the bondage of Big Government?

Much of the funding for research for new products has come through the government, including satellite communications; the Internet was first developed by the military before going public. Government-funded research grants help find new cures for diseases and to find alternatives to petroleum for our energy supply, which are national security, economic and environmental issues.

Allowing for tax deductions for home ownership has spurred our economy. These building incentives passed by Congress have created whole industries and made America stronger and more prosperous.

I tend to give the government a pass because of my study and teaching of history. On the whole, increasing government regulation has been beneficial to the welfare of the nation.

Yes, government can be Godzilla, but capitalism is a train wreck without regulation. It fulfills its intended role if we, the voters, are doing our jobs.

We are living in a 21st century age of the robber barons. The control of the government must be wrested from the 0.1 percent and given back to the majority. Philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” He was right.