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The Real Deflate-gate: The Depressed State of Our Union

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 14
Publish Date: 
Thu, 01/29/2015

 

Aired-out uproariously on Saturday Night Live, “Deflate-gate” has been a national fixation since word broke that the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their Super bowl birth-clinching victory over Indianapolis. The alleged cheating controversy has even pumped up the lovability of the oft-despised Seattle Seahawks.

 

However, Think Again if you believe Deflate-gate is merely hot air. Though overblown, Americans’ disquiet reflects our fairness instinct and commitment to equality of opportunity – the ideal that all competitors in the race of life, no matter their status, can succeed on a level playing field.

 

Sensing a slanted NFL field, Seahawk Richard Sherman questioned the close relationship between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriot owner Robert Kraft, calling it a “conflict of interest.”

 

Sherman’s unease resonates in an America increasingly distrustful of society’s umpires. President Obama spoke to this anxiety in last week’s State of the Union address. “This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” he declared, labeling this “middle-class economics.”

 

Yet the story of our five-year-old recovery is how poorly working Americans have fared. With workforce participation at forty-year lows, “America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is the widest on record,” Pew Research recently reported. From 2010 to 2013, household incomes fell for all except the most affluent 10 percent, a 2014 Federal Reserve survey revealed, with the bottom 40 percent suffering disproportionately.

 

So while Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington boom, the rest of America suffers crisis levels of job insecurity, economic immobility and government dependency, with a record 50 million living in poverty.

 

That’s because our economy’s playing field is askew, warped by a cronyist system -- long in the making -- that is neither “middle-class economics” nor Thomas Jefferson’s ideal: “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”

 

Free to pursue their individual life objectives, American entrepreneurs -- and immigrants fleeing societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end -- transformed an agrarian backwater into human history’s greatest economic wonder. Between 1800 and 2007, economic well-being (real GDP per-capita) increased 32-fold in America compared to 14-times in Great Britain and 5-times in India. 

 

It’s not a miracle; it’s the free market where rivals meet in open competition, generating a continuous stream of innovation, choice and value. In return for pleasing customers and being good corporate citizens, entrepreneurs earn profits.

 

As government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting the free market with corporate cronyism -- the incestuous relationship between Big Government and Big Business that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.

 

Our tax code is a cronyist masterpiece, allowing well-connected individuals and big companies like GE to lobby for, win and exploit tax breaks, rendering their tax bills negligible and affording lawmakers unending contributions.

 

Equally distortive are corporate welfare programs sold as economic saviors -- the 2009 stimulus, cash-for-clunkers, farm bill, bailouts, Export-Import Bank loan guarantees and Dodd-Frank “Wall Street reform.” Each benefits well-connected private companies, forcing Americans who “work hard and play by the rules” to subsidize elites who don’t.

 

Then there’s cronyism’s granddaddy, Obamacare, “the product of an orgy of lobbying and backroom deals,” according to Steven Brill, whose new book “America’s Bitter Pill” details how the $3-trillion-a-year health industry’s largest stakeholders – drug and medical device companies, hospitals, insurers – profited, at taxpayers’ expense.

 

When profits accrue to those with the most to invest in politics -- and the most to lose in the free market -- wealth and opportunity shift from ordinary people to the government and its friends. That’s why Americans struggling to maintain living standards must contend with ever-increasing prices in government-controlled sectors -- housing, health, and education.

 

Most worrisome, the small business sector, which generates two-thirds of new jobs, is languishing. Unable to grow in a market that protects large corporations from competition, and disproportionately burdened by an explosion of regulatory red tape, small business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the Brookings Institution’s thirty-plus-year history of data collection.

 

So who are the greedy Gordon Gekko’s? Those who prudently risk hard-earned money to continuously deliver life-enhancing benefits – iPhones, 3-D printers, medicines, refrigerators – or cronies who relegate competitors, consumers, employees, and investors to the sidelines of a rigged game?

 

To protect our freedom and broadly share prosperity, shouldn’t we disperse power away from economic leeches, returning it to economic producers whose raison d'être is the fulfillment of needs and desires?

 

Think Again – It’s human nature to want competitive advantages -- whether tax breaks or deflated footballs.  That’s why a free society needs referees with only enough power to assure fair competition, not so much that they become self-interested players in the game.

 

 

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Wow, I'm a fan. This states

Wow, I'm a fan. This states what I have been feeling for years. This cronyism on steroids is a new and improved model of an incestuous relationship between government and powerful corporations. Intellectual liberals on college campuses have gone away from the old trendy word "fascism" to a new-old trendy word "oligarchism. They don't understand what has happened in the past six years. They think it is fat-cat owners of big business who must be Republicans. But owners' decision making power has long been ceded to Executive Management Committees who have the means, the methods and the motive to form mutually beneficial alliances with their compatriots in the highest levels of government. Their plan is to retire wealthy before we are able to dismantle it.

I agree with your article…the

I agree with your article…the tax code is a complete mess and no one really understands it. Simplify it.

I don’t know anyone who isn’t willing to contribute their share to fund our government, but when government employees are never fired for their incompetence and our elected career politicians feel they don’t have to live by the laws they pass, I say simplify the tax code with its thousands upon thousands of pages. Unburden small businesses so they can hire more employees without confiscatory regulations. Let people take risks and stop treating adult American citizens like children in a huge social engineering child care country.

Another terrific column

Another terrific column Melanie.
You are a natural with logical and well reasoned commentaries.
Just think if you or I were a Democrat and supported this President.
How would you possibly defend a record that is quite frankly embarrassing!!!!
Each day is worse than the one previous.
This Administration sure gives skilled authors like you plenty of subject matter.

This is one of the best

This is one of the best columns you’ve written, in large measure
because you show, in your quiet manner, that true conservatism
benefits the whole nation, not just the comfortable. You also
put yourself on the side of the average citizen.

Conservatives can sometimes appear cold and uncaring. You’re
neither, and you show it.

Looking forward to the next one.

I have forwarded this column

I have forwarded this column to many of my friends who struggle to discuss the state of the union. You have put it so eloquently and powerfully. I want them all to share your article with their children and grandchildren.....to evoke discussion about competition, freedoms we hold dear and take so much for granted, to also celebrate that we all have unique strengths and gifts and gladly are NOT all the same, that there is always something better, more interesting to strive for and that rewards are attainable at the end of the day.

Nice article and nicely

Nice article and nicely turned phrases.

I like to remind people, though, that cronyism is much broader than just corporate cronyism. Labor unions are recipients of huge buckets of government largess as are NGO's. All three groups feed that money back into the legislative and administrative processes that grant the largess. So it's really a threefold problem--not just corporatism.

It’s articles like this that

It’s articles like this that give me hope for the future.

As far as the ‘gap’ between rich and poor, 1099 all the gov. benefits and the poor will be in the middle class, IMHO.

It is known that the

It is known that the countries with the highest taxes have the largest gaps between rich and poor. But they CARE about fairness - and isn’t THAT what really matters?

I think this story is barking

I think this story is barking up the wrong tree.

To all of you sanctimonious, hand-wringing Patriot-haters who wonder what lesson will be taught to our children by this "scandal", here it is:

If you are successful in today´s America (like the Patriots), you will be hated. Any and all of your success will credited to "cheating", no matter how inconsequential or even factual. Any mistake or loss by you will be celebrated. If you call out such hated, it will be denied and you will be attacked.

(BTW, thanks to Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys are in the same boat)

Excellent article. Should be

Excellent article. Should be a must read, IMO.

Those who whine about "getting money out of politics" are either hopelessly ignorant, or are players in the cronyism game. The money will always go where it is needed, and as government gets bigger and more intrusive more money flows in. Some is to foster favorable legislation, and some is just in self defense to hopefully defeat something that would cause damage to the contributor´s own self interest.

To get money out of politics, you must get government out of our daily lives.

George Washington said something to the effect of.."Government is like fire; a dangerous servant and a fearful master".

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