We’ve all been subjected to talk of the end of our society as we know it over the past year and a half. Listen to the tea partiers and we’ll be goose-stepping down Pennsylvania Ave. real soon. A fairer health care system, it’s Nazism. No wait, it’s actually Marxism. No wait, what about those signs with Obama sporting a Hitler mustache? But that can’t be because he’s a socialist. It’s amazing; the man actually exists on both sides of the political spectrum. He’s a Nazi (far right) and he’s a Marist (far left). Kind of like Stephen Leacock’s cowboy who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions.
Let’s get real, folks. Capitalism isn’t going away. Obama may make policy decisions that aren’t right but it’s not just so we’ll have a socialist society. Taking over GM may or may not have been a good idea but it isn’t on the same level as Hitler taking over Germany’s car industry. The idea of taking over GM was to stop an avalanche of job losses and company losses that might have come from letting GM go under (people were terrified that our economy was going to collapse and we’d enter a new Depression, if you remember). Should it have gone under? Time will tell, but it wasn’t saved just so the government could own it and produce little People’s cars.
What we have going on is a rebalancing. Things got out of whack. Wall Street and other financial institutions treated other people’s money like play money. It was the Wild West. Big bets, big returns and let the chips fall where they may. If someone’s making a billion dollars then the system is perfect. No one wanted the devastation that followed but greed, a sense of entitlement, and the idea business would take care of itself left all the poor schnooks out there sitting on thin ice. The market system didn’t work. The safety valves didn’t operate well.
So now we’re trying to fix it. Not by going to another economic system but by putting the one we have back in balance. We’ve all experienced things going out of balance. When viruses become more prevalent in our bodies we feel terrible and take pills to get things back in balance. When debts outweigh our income we feel insecure and cut back to get things back in balance. Even something as simple as the décor in our home shows this. How many times have you looked around the house and felt it was outdated and didn’t feel right. You update and things feel better. Balance has been restored. You don’t however say, “Honey, the house feels outdated, let’s burn down the house”.
I’m willing to bet that rebalancing will probably go too far the other way, but that can be worked out. Capitalism is a great economic system but it’s not perfect. It has flaws. Greed, as we’ve seen, can be a strength but also a weakness. Putting limits on some activities is going to make some people unhappy but it will protect the public. You can’t expect to dangle tons of money if front of people and expect them to always act rationally. There needs to be a breaker system or at least a slow down system to make sure the dazzle of billions of dollars doesn’t blind businesses to what’s really important, the public. Why give a seven hundred dollar a month mortgage to someone making nine hundred dollars a month just because you’re able to ship that mortgage off to a bunch of investors.
Change, of course, means someone is going to lose out somehow. But that doesn’t make the change wrong. Even if you say bankers will get less money that doesn’t mean better regulations still aren’t important. I wonder how much of this hue and cry about socialism and Nazism is partly because some people won’t be able to do as they please, the public be damned.
It’s the same with health care. There are abuses and they need to be fixed. Losing your insurance because something bad happens and insurers find some loophole (or create the loophole) to kick the policyholder out isn’t right. Neither is denying people with a preexisting condition. It’s all rebalancing. And you know it’s needed. Look at the auto insurance industry. Your premiums can go up simply because your credit score goes down even though you haven’t had an accident. I realize that hasn’t anything to do with health care, but it shows how if you let things stay out of balance they can lead to ridiculous things.
Rebalancing isn’t going to happen smoothly. The powers that be will always make it seem the world will come to an end if things change. They have a stake in the old way. It’s been that way for millennia. Listening to them you’d think the old way of doing things is the only way, forever. They do have knowledge and it must be taken into account. They are, after all, in the business. But when obvious failings occur we have every right to fix them and not rely on promises it will never happen again.
This country does need some changes and Tea-Partiers aren’t all wrong in calling for it. They too are looking for a rebalancing. But we can’t go off the deep end. The maudlin demagoguery of a Beck and the quips of a Palin aren’t helpful. They paint our democracy as one of the weakest on Earth. Anything sends us sliding into some totalitarian pit. We are actually resilient and can do the things necessary to protect the public and our economic system without giving up our values. Flexibility and tolerance make up those values.
So skip the Nazi talk, the Joker images, and the hammer and sickles and get on with thoughtfully making wrongs right and putting the public first. Rebalancing. It’s really never-ending and a noble pursuit.