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Fix it 'til it's broke

By Lady Liberty
web posted August 17, 2009

The government doesn't really want to fix anything for real. What it wants to do is fix things in such a way that we can all know and appreciate the government's great value. It's a bonus, of course, if the fix itself causes other problems that require still more government indetermination. Not only does that process perpetuate government, it grows government.

So how is it that I'm so sure those earnest and compassionate (not to mention much smarter than all of the rest of us) politicians care more about their own egos and power than they do about said problems? Simple: If they genuinely wanted to fix things, they'd take actions that might actually fix things.

For example, after 9-11, the government wanted to fix it so terrorists would have a harder time getting into the country. What the government should have done is something it should have been doing all along: control our borders. What it did was institute a plan to establish a national ID card with requirements so onerous and so expensive that the people and state governments alike fought it. Almost eight years after 9-11 this plan still hasn't been implemented. It's still undergoing major changes, and remaining significant opposition tells you what a terrific idea it was from day one. The entirely incidental fact that it would be ineffective for its stated purposes is almost superfluous at this point.

What the government should have done to try to avoid future hijackings? It should have kept an eye on those passengers who fit a pretty well established description of suicidal jihadists, and ensured that pilots and their crews are able to adequately defend themselves and their passengers. What it did instead was conduct random searches of such obviously dangerous persons as five year-old children and white-haired grandmothers rather than be accused of everybody's favorite buzzword these days, "racial profiling." And when some in Congress actually lived up to their oaths to defend the Constitution (and incidentally us), others in power did everything they possibly could to make it difficult or impossible for pilots to have readily accessible firearms in the cockpit.

Barack Obama, who's hard pressed to find a liberal cause or socialist more he doesn't love, took a look at pollution and decided to push a program known colloquially as Cash for Clunkers. It may sound perfectly logical that getting low mileage and inefficient cars off the road would be a good thing. Unfortunately, that's pretty much like government did. As a direct result of the Cash for Clunkers program, we're seeing more new cars which results in more manufacturing which results in more pollution. We're seeing more old cars recycled which results in more recyclables clean-up and reprocessing which results in more pollution. We're seeing cars with better gas mileage on the roads which means more people are driving more which results in a net of—you guessed it!—more pollution.

Even if Cash for Clunkers breaks even pollution-wise (it can't), and even if Cash for Clunkers provides an additional stimulus for the automotive industry (it is at the moment, but the effect will be short term; more than half of the money already goes to foreign manufacturers because those are the more efficient cars being purchased), is it worth it? Not if you're somebody who can't afford a new car, even with a rebate, and not if you're a used car dealer. Selection is down since the used cars turned in under the program, although perfectly usable, are being destroyed. And check this out: In yet another unintended consequence, better mileage means less gas being purchased which means fewer tax dollars for the folks who caused the problem to begin with. Needless to say, our "friends" in Washington are already looking for a way to fix that problem as we speak.

What's the simple fix here? The free market. Bad companies, bad products, and businesses that do bad things will go out of business, as they should, thanks to public opinion. Efficiencies will increase dramatically and across the board when the free market demands it, and no sooner. (Some years ago now, I spent some time with people at NASA who were deeply involved in fuel cell technology. They offered the results of their research to Detroit. They offered to work with Detroit. They were turned down because Detroit wasn't inclined to fix anything that wasn't broke. Well, guess what?)

Cash for Clunkers, despite costing $3 billion (that's what's been approved so far), is small potatoes compared to what Obama really wants to do. He wants to institute a cap and trade measure. In the simplest of terms, that means carbon dioxide release amounts are capped. Companies that pollute less than their cap can trade pollution credits with those companies that are producing above their cap. Pollution is bad, so capping it is good, right? Well, not so fast. Aside from the fact that Cap and Trade would literally decimate our economy (not to mention bankrupt most of us who will be in a world of hurt when our fuel and electric bills double and triple), carbon dioxide output won't be appreciably reduced because industry isn't the only culprit. Livestock and the earth itself put out plenty of carbon dioxide without our help or our hindrance. And then there are the myriad other components of pollution to consider and which cap and trade doesn't address.

If government really wanted to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it would plant trees which love the stuff and inhale it even as they exhale the oxygen we prefer to breathe. Even more to the point, government would initiate a push for cleaner energy sources that are already well developed, well understood, extremely cost effective, and yes, safe, too. But when I so much as dared to mention nuclear power to an aide in my Congressional Representative's office, my worst expectations were far exceeded: He was horrified, and let me know in no uncertain terms I'm an idiot. Really? Lots of people who actually understand that sort of thing are on my side. But he would apparently prefer wind power (clean, but unreliable and inefficient); solar power (clean, but expensive and inefficient); or perhaps some kind of faerie magick (which despite being non-existent wouldn't be much worse than some of the other options he likes).

Billions of dollars in stimulus money has been released into the market to fix our economy thanks to the President's notions that the country would enter a depression without a massive influx of cash. Forget that the money is being parceled out in a bizarre and inefficient fashion to folks who typically latch onto the government teat anyway (complaints have already reached the public eye concerning stimulus dollars spent on the arts). The real bottom line here is that the free market is self-correcting. Injecting all of these "false" profits is only making any recovery slower and more painful. It's like pulling the bandage off slo-o-o-owly instead of getting it over with. I'm no expert on economics by any stretch, but Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is, and he's said all along that the free market represents the opportunity for a far better and more permanent fix than anything the Obama administration (or the Bush administration before it) is trying to do.

For the record, economic slowdowns have been "fixed" before. Ronald Reagan did it, and did it quite handily. Maybe the Obama administration should consider the simple fix for this complex problem: tax cuts. But no, that's actually been proven to work.

And now the government wants to "fix" healthcare. Healthcare represents a substantial segment of the economy and it has a bearing on each of us and our lives in an extraordinarily personal manner. The government has already managed to bankrupt Medicare, and I hear stories everywhere I turn from doctors who lament the yards of red tape and patients who are dissatisfied with everything from their ability to choose doctors (lots of doctors won't accept Medicare any more, and who could blame them?) to delays or other problems with treatment. You don't even want to think about the emails I've gotten from folks wanting to talk about VA care!

The current government proposal to "fix" health care will turn the entire industry into Medicare, and will do nothing more rapidly than ration it and then ruin it via extensive micro management. What should the government do instead? Tort reform. Deregulation. (Dr. M. Sidney Wallace also has some great, simple, sure fixes.) But Washington is filled with lawyers, including the one in the White House, so you can forget anything that makes any sense anytime soon. Our best bet right now is to prevent healthcare from being further broken—and from breaking the bank for individuals, small businesses, and pretty much the entire country eventually. (Don't think that'll happen? Look to health care programs in place in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, and then come back and tell me what a swell job government does managing health care and the taxes that must be collected to support it.)

Although government is big, and individually we are little, all of this works just the same way for us. We say that we want to fix government. We claim the system itself has become flawed with corrupt politicians. And what do we do? We talk about it. We rail against it. And then we walk into the voting booth and pull the lever for our usual party. The truth is that we can fix our problems, but we're going to have to take another tack. We're actually going to have to live up to the Constitution ourselves by demanding our politicians do the same with calls, letters, rallies, campaigns, and votes. We're going to have to actually take responsibility for ourselves and tell government we don't need its help and we don't appreciate its interference. Or are we more like government in that regard than we care to admit? Are we just going to say we're going to fix something? Or are we going to do it? ESR

Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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