After all of the GOP talk of “freeing businesses from government regulation” and “shrinking government down to a size small enough to fit in a bathtub,” it’s time to force a dose of reality down their loudmouth throats. No matter how much they rant about the “evils” of government, we need government to do a variety of things the private sector can’t or won’t.
We need government funding and oversight to build and maintain infrastructure – roads, highways, airports, seaports, and more. We need government to protect our borders; to control our monetary system; to negotiate treaties. And, although we live in a nation built on capitalism, government has always been needed to prevent private businesses from taking advantage of our citizens. Whenever new industries are created by business, government eventually has to regulate them in order to keep them from running amok.
For example, before Ralph Nader and his book, Unsafe At Any Speed, American automakers paid little attention to safety. There were no seat belts, no air bags, no crumple zones, no crash tests…no safety standards at all.
Before the Food & Drug Administration, there was no labeling of ingredients for packaged foods ; no bans or warnings for ingredients known to cause harm. Before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), large corporations felt free to dump toxic chemicals in our streams and in our drinking water. Before the EPA, large corporations spewed tons of toxins into the air we breathe. Before the Securities Exchange Commission, financial institutions could engage in insider trading and sell any junk securities people could be bamboozled into buying. Before the Mine Safety Act, most miners died from tunnel collapses and black lung disease. Before the US Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service, lumber companies felt free to clear cut our forests destroying critical habitat for many species and mortgaging our future. Before the Department of Labor, businesses thrived on child and slave labor.
Do you really want to go back to the days of allowing corporations to regulate themselves?
Would you buy meat for your family that had not been inspected? Would you drink water that hadn’t been tested for bacteria and other contaminents? Would you give your child pharamceuticals that were untested? Would you strap your child into a car that had not passed basic safety tests? Would you place your life savings in a bank that did not insure your deposits?
We already know what happens when you replace government functions with private companies. We have abundant evidence that contracting with corporations to operate prisons costs more than publicly-operated prisons. Private prisons have also proven to be less secure. We also know that, on the whole, students in private schools perform no better, and often worse, than those in public schools.
Contrary to President Reagan, government isn’t the problem. Often it’s the solution. Instead of trying to reduce government to some arbitrary size, we should be trying to improve it. Apparently, Teapublicans have never considered that.