Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3. Why do today’s conservatives mistrust big government, but not big corporations?

Because conservatives mistrust government, but not corporations, it is ok for corporations to be large and the government to be small. In fact, the conservative’s driving principle is that smaller government is better.

Progressives mistrust both. Progressives mistrust government particularly when it comes to waging war, tax policy that further concentrates wealth, extending ‘corporate welfare’ and under-regulating sectors of the economy. They are constantly worried about special interests, often (but not always) large corporations, which are in control of the government machinery.

However, because the government is the main counterbalance to corporate power in the progressive model, it must have comparable power. That the progressives want the government to be more powerful does not necessarily stem from the love of government, but rather the need for the government to have the power to direct corporate behavior to be more in line with national security (or public good). In fact, government is the only effective foil to the worst corporate abuses.

So, at the end of the day, it’s not that progressives necessarily feel that the government can perform the same task better than can the private sector, though clearly sometimes it does. It is rather that the progressives understand that if the government is too constrained, then large corporations will run amok, degrading the environment, shifting America’s manufacturing base overseas and exposing the nation to excessive economic and financial risk…as they have recently done...to the detriment of national security. To learn more see NewsGuides™ Top 10 Issues 2011 (available at http://www.uspolicy.com/).

Next Post—Are small businesses and large corporations the same animal?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2. What’s wrong with being an ideologue on taxes?

The main point here is that when you are an ideologue, you do not consider circumstances and context. Many people, particularly on the right, proudly proclaim their ideological purity. “I am a conservative and I am for the conservative principle of tax cuts.” We know that an ideological stance for tax cuts in all circumstances is not valid in commonly occurring conditions (context). So doesn’t this make ideological approaches invalid?

A splendid reference point is the Reagan tax cuts (1981-83), which, for many conservatives, provide a permanent justification for all future tax cuts. In 1980, the top tax rate was 70 percent (today it is 35 percent). There had also been nearly a decade of significant inflation, without any adjustment for tax brackets—“bracket creep” (tax brackets are now indexed for inflation). In addition, the national debt stood at a mere 33 percent of GDP in 1980 (compared to nearly 100 percent today). A sound argument could be made that tax cuts were the right thing to do then (although the tax cuts may have proved to be too large), particularly given the recession at the time. And so, the Reagan tax cuts of 1981 were passed lowering tax rates about 23 percent across the board over three years.

For the past 30 years, devotees of Ronald Reagan have sounded the refrain of tax cuts. Why? Because economic theory maintains that they would work in the radically different circumstances of today? For an ideologue, circumstances (context) don’t matter; all that matters to a tax ideologue is that taxes go down. But shouldn’t circumstances matter to a good, risk-managing conservative. Shouldn’t a genuine conservative weigh the impact on the debt versus the economic stimulus from tax cuts?

For more on the tax issue, see Chapter 7 on Poverty Income and Wealth in NewsGuides™ Top 10 Issues 2011 (available at www.USPolicy.com).

Next Post—Why do today’s conservatives mistrust big government, but not big corporations?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1. What is a Conservative and What is a Progressive? Launch Post

What drives the topics on the Progressive-Conservative Blog is the urge to assault, in a civil way, some of the dearest perceptions of familiar issues.

And what better target than people’s perceptions of conservatives and progressives? It’s clear that conservatives are the more interesting case, because there is such a vast gulf between “self-declared conservatives” (today’s Republicans, essentially, with their fulminators such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh), and the “theoretical conservative” who consistently aligns with a more standard, dictionary definition of conservative.

Theoretical conservatives. At the Progressive-Conservative, the “theoretical conservative” wants to reduce risk to the nation. S/he is conservative in his/her approach to risk and wants to weigh every major relevant factor that contributes to risks to America’s national security, prosperity and individual rights. These risks are environmental, financial, economic, social, etc., not just military. Science, economics, psychology, history and international relations are all disciplines that the theoretical conservative exhaustively explores to find the right path to minimize risk to the nation.

Self-proclaimed conservatives. These real world conservatives do not show much interest in science, or psychology, or even economics, and have, therefore, forfeited the main tools to manage risk to America. Their energy is funneled to ideological stances on taxation, national defense and wedge issues where context never matters. The ‘conditional’ size of government is the defining issue for the self-proclaimed conservative—government can be big when it chooses to wage wars and/or provides subsidies to corporate activities, including the outsourcing of jobs. But government must be small when it is protecting the environment, providing for the poor and regulating the financial sector.

Progressives. In the current political scene, reality and theory are a lot closer together on the progressive side. What makes the progressives seem somewhat out of line with the theoretical or ideal progressive is that the U.S. has swung so far to the right side of the political spectrum, that even people considered moderate might be labeled progressive, or “liberal.” They could earn this label just by entertaining the possibility of cutting the defense budget or expanding the public sector role in health care. In theory, a progressive would earn that label not by recognizing a particular problem, such as climate change or the increase in the number of Americans without health insurance, but by preferring a public sector alternative to solve a problem.

In an ideal world, the one it would be nice to move closer to, the theoretical conservative and progressive produce a constructive, dynamic tension. Because they are both logical and honest, both sides recognize the same problems and argue only about competing solutions. Two people, one conservative the other progressive, look at the challenges facing America, in theory, should come up with pretty much the same Top 10 list of Issues, right?

To read more about this topic see NewsGuides™ Top 10 Issues 2011 (available at www.USPolicy.com).

Next post—What’s wrong with being an ideologue on taxes?