Thursday, March 10, 2011

#13 The Predator State by James K Galbraith

The subtitle of this text is "How conservatives abandoned the free market and why Liberals should too." I have long argued that there is no free market, and began to like this book immediately when Galbraith begin to term the free market a theoretical construct. I could not agree more. The strengths of this texts are Galbraith's discussion of health care and education, two items which decidedly do not (or in some cases should not) exist in a "free market."

Galbraith's main point is that the talk of free market and efficiency on one hand and government waste on the other is a myth, but this myth has had dangerous effects. The chief among these is the constant demand for deregulation and balanced budgets, done on the backs of those who can least afford it. President Obama's health care bill is flawed to say the least, and I find it interesting that the very thing being challenged in court (the universal mandate) is the very thing that private insurers wanted in the bill. In other words, they did not want to compete with the government. Why? Because Medicare has roughly 1/3 the overhead costs per patient that private insurers do. Why is that? When was the last time you saw a football game, TV show or some other nonsense brought to you by Medicare?

Watching former governor Moonbeam back at work out here in CA fulminating about "balanced budgets" and other mantras, I think of schools. Public schools are one of the backbones of the U.S. Galbraith's most acidly written sections are reserved for those who pushed two sides of what I never recognized to be the same coin: No Child Left Behind and its countless tests and vouchers for private schools. Under NCLB, vouchers can be provided for poor students in "failing" schools to go to private schools. What has invariably happened is that the best students get the vouchers, simply because the private schools do not want trouble makers and people who would drive down the aggregate scores on the SAT or ACT. When these students are taken out of the "failing public school", test scores in the school decrease, leading to a cut in funding or firing/reassigning of teachers. Because, after all, it is the teacher's fault that the student in question cannot read at grade level, has to take care of siblings or work when he/she gets home, or is home alone and free to screw off for several hours a day. In Galbraith's take, "NCLB was to foment middle-class discontent with public schools" (135). College loans are now dominated by private companies, not by the feds. Take it from one who knows; the feds were more organized than any private loan group I have had the displeasure of dealing with.

What, in the end, is the "Predator State"? A state where elites of both left and right govern in a way that will destroy the lingering remnants of the New Deal. Privatization is the name of this game, that being either schools, Medicare or Social Security. Why? Not because of the free market; the market is a tool for them. They simply want your money. Government cannot be run like a company, because government is obliged to provide service to citizens, meaning ALL citizens, regardless of their race, creed or gender. A business provides service to shareholders. It is a false comparison.

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