Only a couple of years ago, a few big financial institutions almost buried the U.S. economy. These lending and banking institutions were labeled “too big to fail.” Since Governor Jon Huntsman has dropped out of the GOP presidential race, no one has talked about these companies that are too big to fail.
They need to. It is politically expedient for right-wing pols to campaign against a vote for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and bailouts. It is not surprising to hear Bush republicans and Democrats repeat the mantra that sometimes you have to betray the free market to save it. But neither is a completely responsible viewpoint and neither is going to give republicans the kind of reputation that we are going to need to create a “permanent” governing majority.
The Tea Party is against bailouts; so is the loitering “occupy” movement. But what republicans are going to do something about it? The problem is that if an institution is “too big to fail” then it is too big. Republicans love capitalism because it works. It is sad when a company like Blockbuster Video goes out of business, but it is good for the American people when they only have to pay $1 to watch a movie rather than $5. Capitalism weeds out the week companies and benefits the consumers. The best companies win and the worse companies lose. The consumer should always win.
But what is capitalism if we have to ensure that certain institutions that are utilizing losing business models cannot fail? If we have to make the losers winners to keep the consumer afloat, what is it all for? This gives us the opposite effect of capitalism.
That leads me to my question, which republican presidential candidate left in the race cares about this issue, which candidate is willing to do something about it?
A preface: this isn’t about redistributing the wealth
Some of these financial institutions are, in 2012, bigger than ever. Some companies have still taken a huge risk on certain consumer markets. Many institutions still don’t have a large enough portfolio to take on the kind that almost sank them a couple of years ago.
This isn’t about success. Let me be clear, neither I nor any true conservative should give a damn about how much money these companies make in profits. I don’t care how much a CEO or Board member makes. Far be it from me to get angry at other people’s success from behind my computer. Americans that do get angry about these factors need to be ashamed of themselves. These feelings aren’t complicated; they are simply a matter of envy.
If you are mad about the middle class shrinking, then fight for a structure that makes it easier to succeed. Determine a method to grow the middle class. Don’t fight to take away success from winners, that only creates dependency. Facebook is said to have created 100 millionaires, Home Depot, even more.
America has been so successful that now days, even the lower class, or the “poor” have a telephone that fits in their pocket, a television in their living room and restaurants on every street corner that can feed a family of four for the equivalent of two hours of pay at a minimum wage earning level.
We have changed what it means to be “poor”. Why shouldn’t our main goal to continue EVERY class up a few notches every couple of years.
To argue that we fix inequality through “redistribution of wealth” is simply lazy. It is a solution for the American that isn’t willing to tackle the difficult issue in all of its complexities. When presented with an extremely difficult, complicated and convoluted problem, the intellectually lazy demand that we simply take money away from the successful and give it to others, while never fixing the problem to begin with.
My problem isn’t with individual success, or with the success of businesses. My sole and only issue, lies with institutions that risk our mortgages and livelihoods with reckless gambling. We have to ensure that capitalism acts to make the consumers winners as it always should when practiced properly.
I would love to hear someone, like . . . Rick Santorum, looking for an electability argument, to make the case that we shouldn’t clamp down on salaries or profits but instead should ensure that never again are the American people held hostage by a big lender or banker.
That is why I would like to see a plan that requires institutions with too much risk to be broken up. If they are too big to fail then they are too big. Or, why shouldn’t we require a more balanced portfolio for risk takers?
The guiding principal is that any business model must yield both risk and reward. If you want to own millions of home mortgages, that is fine. You are taking a risk and if you win you should be rewarded. However, if these companies cannot handle a loss without going under and taking the American people with them, they need to be broken up. That practice needs to be prevented through ONE, SINGLE regulation.
In this post-modern age, the government should not be a counter-weight to rich people and it shouldn’t be a pillager of success – business or personal success. But government, while remaining hesitant, should not be afraid to be a counter-weight to institutions that are so big that no one else can take them on.
For example, the federal government should not be in the business, in this century, of taking on businesses over wages, benefits, working conditions, etc. The people have ways of fixing those problems, through state legislatures, unions, and civil rights groups. We have a people-powered media that has all but overthrown the gate-keepers of the old media order. We can take on the Wal-Mart’s of the world. That is not to say that big corporations are our enemy. They aren’t. They benefit most of us more than we can possibly know. I am not talking about big businesses or even consumer business models of any sort. I am talking about lending institutions that really serve little purpose that smaller banks, properly equipped, couldn’t handle in our communities.
After three years, we still have no tool to counter act against, not big business, but omnipresent businesses, businesses like General Electric that not only make light bulbs, but that have their fingers in every sect of the American economy. Again, I have no problem with that, but WHAT IF they fail like Lehman Brothers or AIG or Fanny and Freddy?
Succinctly, what I’d like to see, is a republican presidential candidate that doesn’t engage in “class warfare,” but is willing to take a responsible approach to financial regulation, so that we never again have to make the decision between socialistic action and allowing “capitalism to fail”. Maybe it will include breaking up some big banks. Maybe it will put limits on lending practices. Maybe it will include companies to not over-invest in one market for fear that, the housing market for example, might one day collapse. Something has got to give and Dodd-Frank will probably do more damage than it is worth. The GOP is the party of ideas and the intellectually honest party, it is time for us to prove it on an issue that matters.
It would be irresponsible for us to spend another election cycle blasting bailouts, without offering solutions to bailouts other than “voting no”. For a candidate like Rick Santorum, trying to prove he is both a fiscal conservative as well as a mainstream electable candidate, this kind of platform is gold if you can articulate it. And let’s face it, Rick Santorum as of late, has been masterfully articulating conservatism. Whether it is Santorum or someone else, I would like to hear a republican that can outsmart Obama on this issue with responsible, conservative solutions for fixing our problems.