The Texas Freeze illustrates some of the shortcomings of the conservative economy as a basis for the public good. The nation’s problems will only get worse as we pretend that private solutions are best for all situations.
“In Texas, everyone agreed that everyone needed a robust power grid. But nobody wanted to pay for it. “
But notice something important: The mainstream media never discusses the fact that a failing economic system is at the heart of so many of our nation’s woes. And they won’t either, because they are the public relations arm of the owners of this system and the owners are bandits. So we have to discuss the issues ourselves.
The first problem with conservative economics is that it wants to imagine that only private economic interactions are legitimate, and that public intervention in the economy is illegitimate.
The truth is that public goods are goods that benefit everyone, but for which it is difficult to attribute individual ownership of the benefits. This makes it difficult to collect individual payments for services. The result is underinvestment in public goods.
Hurricane Karina in New Orleans in 2005 exposed the failure of inadequate investments in public infrastructure. In this case, it was in the dikes which were supposed to protect the city, but which had not been sufficiently maintained, for years.
An adequate investment would have cost tens of millions of dollars, but would have avoided tens of billions of dollars in damage. Private motives made these allowances unprofitable. More than 1,800 people have died and the city has yet to fully recover.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed chronic underinvestment in public health infrastructure. The US response to the pandemic has been one of the worst in the world, with nearly half a million deaths as a result. We see its effects, even today, in halter testing and vaccination programs.
The damage to society caused by the pandemic and the failure to respond has been untold, although we can calculate that 2020 has been the worst year of economic performance in 75 years. Tens of millions of people have been injured, many seriously, with poor and minority communities – those with the least economic power – bearing the brunt of the costs.
A second problem with the conservative economy is that it wants to maximize private profits in the short term, and therefore fails to invest adequately in the long term.
“The Republican response is quintessentially Republican: It was the Green New Deal, which only exists as a concept, and AOC, a member of Congress for a second term who lives in another state. “
In Texas, everyone agreed that everyone needed a robust power grid. But no one wanted to pay for it. We know since 2011, the last crisis, that this kind of frost would inflict this kind of damage to as many people. But rather than bear the honest costs, Republican authorities up and down the state simply kicked the box.
We are now on the right track and the effect is catastrophic. The Republican response is quintessentially Republican: It was the Green New Deal, which only exists as a concept, and AOC, a member of Congress for a second term who lives in another state. It is more than irresponsible. It is immature and reckless.
The deindustrialization of the US economy over the past four decades is a case where issues one and two, above, come together. Private parties have dismantled the world’s largest manufacturing base to maximize short-term private profits. It devastated the economy and society in general, causing the seething rage that is Trumpism.
The United States has an unambiguous public interest in a vibrant economic base. But that is compromised by leaving so many essential decisions in private hands. The fallout – Trumpism, and its efforts to overthrow a national election – threaten our democracy, a negative spillover from the economy to the constitutional basis of our society itself.
A final flaw in conservative economic thinking is that one resists adaptation to change unless the benefits can be captured by those who already hold power and wealth.
This is why it is impossible to reform the American health care system. We pay twice what other industrialized countries pay for health care, but we get inferior results. People suffer higher costs and worse outcomes, while the nation bears a GDP burden of around 10%, making the whole economy that much less competitive in global markets.
This 10% of GDP surplus, which amounts to about $ 2 trillion a year, goes into the pockets of the very rich, who own the pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance companies. And media companies. They invest billions in politics and media to protect billions in profits, which means things are virtually impossible to change.
Likewise with climate change. The science is clear: the pumping of carbon from the atmosphere threatens cataclysmic planetary damage. But the oil companies have a deadly stranglehold on Congress, so something as beneficial as the Green New Deal is being used only as an epithet by the Tories rather than as a boon that it could be.
If we cannot, do not want to adapt to a changing climate by changing our energy choices, we will inflict existential damage on the planet and all life forms on it. And this, to protect the stratospheric profits of a few dozen oil companies and the few hundred families who own most of them.
“If we cannot, do not want to adapt to a changing climate by changing our energy choices, we will inflict existential damage on the planet and all life forms on it. “
Underinvestment in public goods. Maximization of short-term profits. And resolute resistance to essential change. These limitations of our conservative economic ideology inflict trillions of dollars a year in costs on the US economy and all of its members. Unless changed, they will continue to weaken, weaken and drain the economy, constitutional order, society, and ultimately the planet.
The mainstream media will not tell us about these failures because the system works like a charm for its owners. They were swallowed up by the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. This is the economic news that the media should be talking about.
Don’t hold your breath. We need to start changing our core ethic, from “I get mine.” Fuck you ”to“ We’re all in the same boat ”. Because we are. Pretending that we are not, in order to satisfy a destructive ideology, does not change the results, or reduce the temperature. Just ask the people who are freezing in Texas.