(The usual blah blah: The deal with the syndicator means this appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2012
THE BAINS OF OUR EXISTENCE
BY BOB FRANKEN
Advisory: Next week’s column dated 5/29 will move on Tuesday instead of Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.
“I know what it means to meet a payroll,” Mitt Romney says. Unfortunately, during his leadership of Bain Capital, sometimes the way he would “meet a payroll” was to get rid of that payroll altogether. Then he and Bain would take the money left from the sucked-dry company and run.
Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemn the Obama Bain disdain. “Capitalism seems to be under attack,” he sputters, the same kind of demagoguery we get from Romney. Even some Democrats, like Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, kowtow to rich patrons. Booker called any such discussion “nauseating.”
The conduct and responsibilities of our plutocracy are exactly what we should be arguing about. It seeks to define what this nation aspires to be. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are on the same page, for a change, arguing that Romney's profit-at-any-cost business experience, is different from “the job of a president.”
It’s true we celebrate entrepreneurial success in this nation, but the country’s chief executive is in charge of a society that claims to protect those who haven’t had the good fortune to amass a fortune. Part of this intense campaign fight is over how much the lucky ones should pay back for their accidental privilege.
What truly is “nauseating” is how this issue is invariably presented in such a simple-minded way. It usually is depicted as an absolute choice between a stifling public sector and greedy private enterprise. It’s not either/or.
Obviously, the two must coexist. The real issue is how.
The relationship hasn’t been working. It seems like every day we witness our financial operators making huge blunders. Look at what a mess the Facebook IPO became. JPMorgan Chase, anyone? Those are not isolated examples. The economy is still struggling to recover from the inept game-playing that destroyed the dreams and well-being of innocent millions.
Yet the perpetrators continue to thrive. It’s no wonder they are funding a ferocious battle to prevent effective government regulation.
They do have a point: The biggest impediment to government regulation is government itself. Those who deny that regulatory paralysis can stymie any sort of accomplishment are smoking something or living a utopian dream. Or suffering from amnesia, forgetting their own encounters with indolent and haughty bureaucrats making their lives miserable anytime they seek the most rudimentary service.
Magnify that by the decades it sometimes takes for an agency to conjure up its rules, and it’s easy to see how some in the business community get fed up to the point that they’d love to take government out of the mix entirely. Understandable, perhaps, but not a good idea, given the inevitability that without controls the greedy thieves will be out of control. Is that profound or what?
The regulators seriously need to clean up their act. Somehow, we must impose efficiency on them, shutting down programs that are ridiculously redundant and slimming down a system that has become so flabby it can barely move.
These festering social matters also offer voters various moral choices, but also an opportunity to exploit our laziness and often the simple ignorance that begets fear and prejudice -- the campaign manipulators will flood us with their crude rabble-rousing. Sadly, they are doing the same with the all-important economic issues, substituting emotional name-calling where intellect is required.
What’s good about this election is that it is really about our vision for the United States. What’s bad is that those with a vested interest are successfully spewing their smoke screens, just when we should be clearing the air.
A democracy is infinitely more difficult to run than an undemocratic, hierarchical corporation. We need someone who can do more than “meet a payroll.” Our system of government relies on a meeting of the minds that is sorely lacking.
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.