Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Current American Political Economics

New Donkey dot com takes on today's David Brooks NY Times Editorial for his sloppy characterizing of present American liberal and conservative positions. In so doing, he also provides what I find to be a well-written and much more accurate characterization of the two positions.

The mainstream of American liberal economic policy has never been thoroughly "Social Democratic" in the European tradition; one of its hallmarks has been support of an "American Model" that combines strategic public investments that promote growth, along with relatively small "social supports" that prevent mass impoverishment and promote upward mobility, and the maximum degree of entrepreneurial freedom consistent with genuine competition and key social goods like a clean environment. That's certainly where most Democrats this side of Dennis Kucinich want to take our economic policies today.

Moreover, the rise of the contemporary Conservative Movement in the U.S. has led the Right towards economic theories that abandon this "American Model" in favor of a monomanical commitment to lower taxes for high earners and lowering business costs regardless of the social costs--an "American Model" only if you think of Mississippi circa 1975 as a model for anything other than economic self-abasement. And to the extent that today's conservatives can be said to embrace the true "American Model," it's via the deeply dishonest method of engaging in massive public borrowing to sustain a social safety net the public demands, and to finance strategically targeted tax cuts aimed at favored constituencies. Brooks spends a lot of time in his column deploring the huge level of public debt in European countries today. Exactly which party, and which end of the ideological spectrum, is associated with the happy accumulation of public debt in this country? It ain't us donkeys, David.

Also today, Steve Clemons points out one way the conservatives are failing to make strategic public investments that promote American economic Growth.

This article in USA Today captures one dimension of the battle between the Bells and local communities who are trying to invest in local infrastructure on behalf of their citizens and companies.

Here are the lead grafs:

To hear BellSouth talk, high-speed fiber lines are the way of the future. So why is it so determined to stop Lafayette, La., a rural community in the heart of Cajun country, from installing its own fiber?

Joey Durel, Lafayette's mayor, has been asking himself that same question. His city plans to build an advanced broadband network to offer voice, data and video to its 116,000 residents. But local officials claim BellSouth is trying to kill the project. And they say it's getting help from Cox, the local cable-TV operator.

"We have the opportunity to do something great for this community -- and in a state that needs a big win," Durel fumes. "They have to get out of our way."

It's the dark side of the fiber story.

The regional Bell companies have made much of their billion-dollar plans to run broadband networks across the USA. Yet they're also quietly trying to erect hurdles that would make it hard -- or expensive -- for anyone to compete with them.

Besides municipalities like Lafayette, the Bells are going after their phone rivals, Internet carriers and major metro areas -- anyone with an interest in building services that might compete with the Bells.

Critics say the Bells' efforts are an attack on competition and that consumers could be the big losers.

The financial and political costs to America if telecom competition erodes further and Baby Bells are permitted to carve out spheres of impenetrable control and influence will be staggering.

What ties these two items together is the utter short-sightedness and selfish greed of the conservatives currently making US government policy. Steve Clemons points to FCC Chairman Powell as handing whatever he can to the businesses to FCC regulates (like the phone companies) so that he can cash in with a really high-paying job when he leaves government.

I think it is even broader than that. Modern American conservatives refuse to even look realistically at the needs of the overall community, so they are setting government policy in accordance with the demands of would-be monopolists who do not like the rigors of competition. Once they have done that, like Powell they will leave government for the high-paying jobs they have used their government jobs to create. They are modeling themselves on Dick Cheney and G. W. Bush, both of whom made their wealth out of government connections and manipulations.

In the meantime, then are not doing the things government needs to do to continue growing a productive economy, like establishing a broad-band infrastructure that everyone can tap into easily and cheaply.

No comments: