The Crime and Reward Theory of Government

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 13:52

The past year has revealed a comprehensive philosophy of government championed by conservatives and moderates when they oppose major progressive economic reforms. I call it "crime and reward." The philosophy is summed up as follows:

The flaw in progressive legislative proposals is that they don't give enough money to the corporations that caused the problem(s) which overall legislative effort is supposedly trying to solve.

It applies in all major cases. Check it out:

  1. The way to lower health care costs is to give companies that have increased health care costs even more money: As Olympia Snowe and many others have articulated, the problem with a public option is that it lowers the cost of health insurance rather than increasing the amount of money private health insurers generate in revenue. While one would think that the purpose of health care reform legislation is to lower the price of health insurance, it appears that for many the purpose is actually to make sure that the companies ratcheting up health care costs receive even more money from the process (ie, through mandates to buy their over-priced insurance and no lower priced, public option).

  2. The way to fix climate change is to give the companies that are the main cause of climate change even more money: As Collin Peterson and Claire McCaskill have articulated, the problem with climate change legislation is that it doesn't give enough money to the energy and agricultural conglomerates that are primarily responsible for global warming.

  3. The way to fix the financial crisis is to give the financial institutions that caused the financial crisis even more money: This one is pretty straightforward and has been covered extensively. From the Wall Street bailout program itself, to making sure that Congress doesn't pass laws restricting executive bonuses out fear that financial institutions won't take our money, the government's solution to fixing the financial crisis is to give the people and companies that caused the financial crisis even more money. The progressive alternative, temporary nationalization, should be opposed because it wouldn't make enough money for shareholders.
On the three major areas of public policy that were addressed by the federal government over the last twelve months--health care, climate change, financial crisis--the "moderate" solution has consistently been to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the corporations that caused climate change, the financial crisis, and skyrocketing health care costs. It is a crime and reward ideology. When powerful private sector companies cause major national and global problems, the "moderate" solution is to give those who caused the problem hundreds of billions of dollars.

Crime and reward. Through a conservative-moderate alliance, it is the system of government under which we live, even in the era of the Democratic trifecta.

Chris Bowers :: The Crime and Reward Theory of Government

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Minor disagreement (4.00 / 1)
I generally agree with the fundamental principle of what you've written Chris, though I disagree slightly on the issue of climate change.  Unlike our healthcare and financial crises, the sources of climate change are diffuse and except no single institution or individual.  Of course there are very small offenders and very large offenders, but ultimately climate change is driven by human behavioral patterns as particularly manifest in the destructive activities of a few institutions, primarily corporations like the ones defended by Peterson and McCaskill.  That doesn't make your point wrong, or the giveaways within the climate change bill any less egregious, just simply that the concentrations of power (and responsibility) within the medical-industrial complex and the financial sector are incredibly dense and should thus be (somewhat) easier targets for reform.  

I'd also add that the conservative-moderate approach to addressing those crises (no public option, bailouts) is fundamentally wrong from a progressive point of view; cap and trade is not fundamentally wrong.  If implemented differently, cap and trade could make for effective reductions in emissions within a context that progressives, moderates, conservatives and corporations  could at least tolerate, as I believe you've proposed previously.  I do not believe such tolerance could be found, certainly not among progressives, for a lack of a public option or for bailouts.

Gotta agree with you there. (0.00 / 0)
Whether it's right-wing or left-wing, shortsightedness on how we handle resources has existed since long before anyone developed the "wing" approach to defining ideology.

[ Parent ]
There are other examples as well (4.00 / 1)
Energy companies in particular.  They received massive tax breaks under Bushco, even as the price of energy continued to grow, and they were showing record profits.  Sure, a couple of sacrificial lambs (Ken Lay) were made in order to make it appear as if the government was doing something about corruption in the energy industry, but that was about it.  Billions were then channeled to Halliburton (as one example).  

They depend on government intervention: (4.00 / 1)
Under a free market, these behemoths would go bankrupt right away.

Their size is their strategy, not a business strategy, but a rent-seeking strategy. Only big players can grab the limited attention of a government over 300 million people.

The welfare state should be limited to one or 2 computer servers which send all Americans an equal check every month.

Simple, fair, inflationary.

Applies to agricultural policy too (4.00 / 1)
The big agribusinesses that are ruining our food supply and causing huge health problems are constantly rewarded by Congress with big subsidies and advantages in the market.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

Government ... (0.00 / 0)
Of The Corporate Polluter, By the Wall Street Con Artist and for the Greedy HMO

Wow! Great point, Chris! (0.00 / 0)
A correct observation of political reality. Now, how can progressives use that insight to their advantage? A public campaign that focusses on "no reward for bad conduct!"?


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