The Republican Party, in statements by its presidential candidate and in its platform, has stated its basic tenets, principles that have not changed over the years. It believes that government is inefficient and should withdraw as much as possible from involvement in people’s lives. Government should be involved only minimally with the market system, with as few rules and regulations as possible. Taxes should be lowered, as government should do less. Finally, wealthy people should not be restrained by taxes or regulations, as they bring innovation and prosperity to the economy that trickles down to benefit even the lowest economic strata.
I should note, parenthetically, that I have not outlined the Republicans’ position concerning women’s rights, abortion rights and gay rights, as they are currently underemphasizing these issues as their positions on these issues are unpopular with large segments of the population. It is also, perhaps a bit hypocritical to simultaneously demand less government intrusion in peoples’ lives while at the same time denying women the right to make choices regarding their own bodies and denying equal rights to people regardless of sexual orientation.
The Republican Party’s call for a laissez-faire relationship of the government to the economy is born of experience, garnered during an earlier time in the nation’s history – that period from about the end of the Civil War, the 1870’S to the end of the 1920’s. This period of history was a period of rapid growth and expansion in the US. The country expanded and developed the West. There was a seemingly unlimited supply of natural resources. It was a period when adventurous capitalists could and did make vast fortunes in railroads, steel and mining. After World War I, in the 1920’s, with Europe in tatters, a non-interventionist Republican Administration allowed the further unprincipled growth of the economy and an unregulated stock market, and that experiment ended in the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression.
The United States, in the 80 years since the Great Depression is very different from the United States in the half-century that preceded it. The frontier is closed. Natural resources can no longer be squandered and are not cheap; they must be preserved, are expensive, and often must be imported. The country has matured, and as such must conserve and manage its resources wisely, and cannot rely on future growth to solve today’s problems. Also, as even the recent recession has shown all too clearly, government is required to intervene to help regulate and control abuses in the market, and where it does not, the resultant fallout can be disastrous.
Republicans are only partially right in mistrusting government efficiency. When Republicans get control of the government, they often muck it up. Two cases in point – George Bush Jr. inherited a government with a budget surplus of $236 billion, and then proceeded to run the economy into the ground. Moreover, since 1957, during the 8 Republican terms, the number of private sector jobs increased by 1.02% while during the 6 Democratic terms the number of private sector jobs increased by 2.48%.
The Republican theory that allowing wealthy people to become wealthier by easing taxation will result in a trickle-down effect that benefits all is negated by the recent report that the world’s super-rich have secreted between $21 and $32 Trillion Dollars in offshore Swiss and Caribbean banks. This money is not invested in enterprises that increase the wealth of the economy.
A recent report showed that 47% of Americans are dependent upon Social Security for their livelihood. The Republican Party plans to dismember the recently enacted health care program, dismantle Social Security and end Medicare. If they carry out their nefarious plans, they will have doomed the weaker half of the American people to even greater misery and poverty.
The times today demand and require a government that prevents an unregulated banking system from gambling irresponsibly with their depositors’ money. The weaker sectors of the economy require responsible governmental programs. The Republican call for a return to Economic Darwinism is sinister and would result in unconscionable suffering. Their political and social theories may have been acceptable 150 years ago, but they are not appropriate today. Their time has passed.