Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reich: From Regulation to Restructuring

In the second article by Dr. Robert Reich that caught my eye recently, the good doctor is actually criticizing BO and his gang. BO is not being assertive enough and thus the problems that both BO and Reich want to “solve” are not receiving the best solution, according to Reich.

First, Reich addresses the failures in the financial reform bill in Congress. He reiterates the criticisms that I mentioned in my last blog, i.e., that banks are being subsidized to cover their derivative activity (amazingly he includes the AIG transactions, which were actually straight insurance purchases).

But Reich’s primary criticism is that the banking system is not being “restructured”. Reich wants the major banks to be broken up and prohibited from reaching a (unspecified) size. (I wrote about that issue in a previous blog where I pointed out the very drastic consequences for the U.S. and world economy.) His reason is that he does not want them to be “too big to fail”, and thus be bailed out by the federal government if, rather, when things go bump again. Reich is not willing to consider the notion that maybe the government shouldn’t be bailing out banks or anyone. No, he thinks that part is fine. He thinks that the government is “protecting” the economy by bailing out people. Reich wants to break up the banks. I liken it to wanting to play tinker toys with real world businesses.

He does recognize that there may be adverse competitive consequences for U.S. banks, but he brushes those objections aside. This part of his argument is very strange. He says, “…since when is it up to taxpayers to guarantee profitability at America’s largest banks relative to foreign ones?” But, the Dems have never suggested that they wanted to undercut American businesses. Their claims before have always been that their “solutions” for the American economy have been beneficial to all. Reich is propounding a new attitude, a new policy that says that American businesses, and thus its citizens, should be “restructured” in spite of the obvious disadvantage that results.

To further make his case for restructuring, he turns to the healthcare industry. He says, “Similarly, the underlying system of private for-profit health insurance is a key driver of America’s bloated and ineffective health care delivery. We can try to regulate it like mad, but no amount of regulation will cure this fundamental problem.” Similarly, in this case, the problem is the “private for-profit health insurance”. Again, we need restructuring, i.e., a single payer system, socialized medicine.

Regulation for Reich is an attempt to “mend” capitalism. Instead, “The only way to have a lasting effect on industries as large and intransigent as banking and health care is to alter their structure.” And he further lets the cat out of the bag, “That was the approach taken to finance by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, and by Lyndon Johnson to health care (Medicare) in the 1960s.” The former maintained a depression that lasted over a decade and LBJ can be thanked for the current mess in healthcare in the U.S., which no one, either Democrat or Republican, is willing to admit. So, all of the past attempts to deal with capitalism’s failings have themselves failed.

Reich’s criticism of regulation, especially in the two industries that he is using as his examples in the article, is that lobbyists and the industries can wiggle out of the intended consequences. He says, “A regulatory approach allows for more bargaining, not only in the legislative process but also, over time, in the rule-making process as legislation is put into effect. It’s always possible to placate an industry with a carefully-chosen loophole or vague legislative language that will allow the industry to continue to go on much as before.” That is, the victims can try to make some decisions of their own and try to run their own lives and businesses. He says, “And that’s precisely the problem.” The problem is that there is some semblance of freedom. That is unacceptable.

The problem in the American economy, according to Reich, is structural. What is the structure now, in Reich’s view. It is capitalism. It is for-profit. It is what the bankers are doing, basically by themselves, without Reich’s approval. The solution is for the government to mold the structure of the economy. Mold the activities of the people. Mold the people themselves.

As I said at the beginning of the first of these two posts, Dr. Robert Reich is a Marxist economist.

This article is unusual for two reasons. He explicitly proclaims that the actions of government should not be considered for their benefit for the economy or business but should be taken in the face of adverse consequences. He is admitting that the left’s solutions should be taken regardless of consequences. Instead, he calls for sacrifice (my word) for the benefit of the “taxpayers”. Second, his demands that the economy be restructured signal a new strategy. Regulation is now something that will be regarded as merely a accommodation to capitalism and rogue businessmen. What is needed is structural change, changes that make the government the direct controller in the economy. Regulation tends to be set up in terms of what business can’t do or what it must do to assure safety or fair play or some supposed good. Reich’s articles are pushing the government to become the primary force in determining the make up of businesses and the economy. Next, it will be the five year plan.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. From what you have noted, his influence on public policy is truly frightening. What's even scarier is that this man is teaching students the same ideas.

    Its interesting, the titles of his last two books - Supercapitalism and Reason. I've never read either, but I would be willing to put money that he distorts the definition of both.