In the first session of Congress, the government meddled in the free market by establishing tariffs to help local manufacturers and partnered with several private banks to form a national bank. In the early 1800s, the government gave away millions of acres of land to the railroads for free as well as saving the railroads from financial ruin by making government loans. The corporations got saved but not the thousands of Chinese and other immigrants who worked on the railroad. The laborers didn’t get any benefit from the government assistance. They still worked for small wages, no benefits and long hours in unsafe conditions.
This trend of government bailing out big business and doing nothing for the common worker carried over into the 1900s. During the Depression (the one in 1929), President Hoover refused to give aid to individuals because he considered it socialism. But corporations still received government subsidies. The “trickle down” theory didn’t work then and it didn’t work for Reagan either.
After World War II the government had to bail out the aircraft industry and subsidize the oil industry (which is still happening now despite their record profits). Then we all remember the Chrysler bailout and the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s that cost us hundreds of billions of dollars. After all these years, you would think we would want to try something different than corporate bailouts.
How about giving the money to the people who actually need it? Don’t take $700 billion and reward failed greedy and corrupt corporations but give it to the people who lost their retirement or their homes. The corporations deserve to fail and we should let them die.
What brought America out of the Depression was Roosevelt’s New Deal. Millions of people were put to work rebuilding our own country’s infrastructure. There was the Civilian Conservation Corps, artist subsidies to paint murals and write plays, as well as the start of Social Security and the GI Bill. This was a time of the government helping the people, not inanimate corporations, and it worked. Then, as now, some people called it socialism but any government is socialistic by its very existence. You have a government when people pool their resources together for the common good.
So forget the “free market” as the savior of society. The “free market” only exists because our government keeps on bailing it out. Our government is for the people and by the people and it should do what is best for the majority of the people. We need government intervention and regulation in the “free market” to assure that the most benefit goes to the most of the people.
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.