On Corporations

“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I will take this one half-step further, because I am sure TR would agree: implicit in this statement is the contention that our aim is not to coddle or provide aid to corporations any more than it is to attack them for simply being corporations. 


GAO: Government Struggles to Track Money and Performance

Unaccountable Government: GAO Reports Show Feds Struggling to Track Money and Performance
Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
July 10, 2013

Pork Barrel BBQ
Pork Barrel BBQ (Photo credit: joshbousel)

Three more incidents that highlight management issues in the government, specifically the IRS, the National Park Service, and the Bonneville Power Administration. Naturally, these are anecdotal, but they hint at a more widespread problem.

Debates I have had with liberals have them suggesting that the real problem with government is not wastage, but too much defense spending and corporate welfare. When I have the same discussion with conservatives, they say entitlements are the issue.

The answer, I suspect, lies somewhere in the vortex between the three positions. First, there are programs for which the government should not be paying, and those exist in the pet projects and pork barrel coming from both sides of the aisle. But at the same time, there is a constant stream of evidence that we are wasting vast sums via poor management, ineffectiveness, and outright malfeasance.

This is not a matter of “what to attack first.” It ALL has to be attacked. We don’t need to expand government or contract government as much as we need to right-size the levels of regulation and expenditure. In order to do that, both what government does AND how it does it must be on the table.

A Quick Thought on Healthcare

Responsibility for pensions and healthcare need to be taken away from employers. There is no logical reason to place companies in charge of social welfare when we no longer stay with a job for our lifetimes. It is an unfair, cumbersome burden to employers, especially those of us trying to run a small business.

We should not forget that the only reason companies are saddled with this burden today was that in the wake of World War II, a small number of very large companies decided that it would be better for companies to control the social welfare of their employees than allow unions to do so. Whatever the logic behind that approach may have been, the result has been nightmare and expense for businesses of all sizes ever since.

The system must change, if for no other reason than to ease the burden on industry and help make us competitive again. Whether Obamacare is the answer, part of the answer, or a flat-out run in the wrong direction is unclear, and has been muddied by hyperbolic promises made by its supporters and Cassandra-like prognostications made by its detractors, none of whom are left with much credibility.

What is clear is that many of us are growing weary of the debate and would like to give the initiative a chance to succeed or fail on its own merits in execution. If it fails, kill it. If it succeeds without bankrupting the nation, keep it, and let companies get out of the social welfare business.

But even that is not enough. Fixing medical care is not a matter of a single silver bullet, regardless of the Obama administration’s lofty ambitions. It is going to be a long, incremental process rather than a Big Bang, and the sooner we can begin isolating or co-opting the special interests who are blocking the process, the sooner we can go about creating a healthcare system of which all Americans can be justly proud, and from which all of us can benefit.

The Snowden Affair: Three Issues

As I wrote yesterday, the hidden story in the Edward Snowden case is the rush to judge him, favorably or unfavorably, before we have a  clear understanding of exactly what he did, why he did it, and how he did it. It is early days with this story, and those who rush to call him a hero or a traitor appear to be more interested in scoring points for their own cause than understanding the matter at hand. This is a shame, because in the process they have made it harder for us to examine three distinct issues that each deserve careful and separate examination.

The first issue is the matter of civil liberties. Any American should welcome a healthy debate in this country about the permissible limits of governmental reach. Personally, I don’t want the government either in my pants or in my hard drive, but neither do I wish to see us blind-sided by any enemy, foreign or domestic, who might plot death and destruction right under all of our noses. We must pursue this debate with vigor and not allow our freedom to be eroded simply because we were not keeping an eye on our own government.

A second and separate discussion needs to take place about Mr. Snowden, one that must happen in the wake of public discovery. We need to better understand his method, his motives, and the process by which all of this took place, and evaluate all three. When we have done that we will know whether he should stand as an example or as a warning. As a nation, as a people, we have to know either way.

Finally, we need to examine our own system. We must ask whether we have adequate institutions to provide whistleblowers (both government and corporate) a legitimate channel to air their revelations here at home, rather than from a far-off land under cloak of a power that is at best ambivalent to the US, if not a latent enemy. A whistleblower who cannot speak out about government processes that endanger liberty represents as much of a national failure as sending a soldier to war with a gun that will not fire.

As this remarkable story plays out, we should make sure we are examining all three of these issues, not as a mish-mash, but as distinct matters that have separate and grave implications for the future of America.

Some Perspective on Drones


Picture taken during "Giornata Azzurra&qu...
Picture taken during “Giornata Azzurra” 2007 (Italian Air Force airshow) at Pratica di Mare AFB, Italy. RQ-1 Predator of Italian Air Force, 32° Stormo (italian for “Wing”) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flying Under the Influence
By @Drunkenpredator

Foreign Policy

Some perspective – from the “point-of-view” of a Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – about why many of arguments levied against the use of UAVs in combat fail to make an adequate case against them. There are issues with doctrine and employment, but let’s focus on those issues, shall we?

The truth is that in a day and age of falling budgets, the UAVs are – or should be – the future. The only two things that can stop them are misguided politics or Air Force officers determined to continue paying $300 million – $400 million for a single manned fighter.

What we need is well thought-out doctrine under which these craft can and should be employed, with a view to minimizing civilian casualties and to enhancing US prestige abroad, all without overly tying the hands of the warfighter.

Do Entitlements Kill the American Dream?

Entitlements (Photo credit: wstera2)

Right Fears Entitlements Are Killing American Dream : NPR.

National Public Radio (NPR) is running a series on the status of the American Dream as we move into the general election. The series is balanced to a great degree, something that I am certain requires some effort on the part of the Morning Edition team.

The program frames the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats as a difference between “opportunity” and “entitlement.” That may be the case, but if it is, it misses the point.

I haven’t taken any polls recently, but anecdote and experience suggest that the only liberals who disagree that the path toward prosperity is paved with opportunity are on the far left of the American political spectrum. In the same way, those who oppose any form of government assistance to Americans in dire straits sit on the furthest right extreme of that same political spectrum. What we need to do is to agree upon principles that will guide government’s approach to both opportunity and entitlements.

Ours are these:

1. Equal opportunity, not corporate welfare. Government should work to ensure equality of opportunity for all, without favor. Government should not be in the business of bestowing opportunity or of denying it, but of ensuring that neither government nor private entities can either bestow or deny it.

2. Entitlements should be a safety net, not a hammock. Government should provide entitlements only to the extent that they are necessary to ensure against the impoverishment or destitution of the citizen. Government should not be in the business of providing a comfortable life to its citizens, and the focus should be on ensuring that citizens are can provide for themselves.

The question, then, is how do we ensure equal opportunity and a social safety net, and stop both parties from spending tax dollars bestowing opportunity on politically connected corporations or politically powerful defenders of entitlements.

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