Of all of the huff-puffing attempts by political groups to catch up to and co-opt Occupy Wall Street, none are so awkward and laughable as that of the economic libertarians. At least when establishment Democratic supporters MoveOn or SEIU et al. fire up their mailing lists to say “us too!” weeks after the major cities have been occupied, they can truthfully claim to have been in some way part of the general struggle against the core problem of big business’s capture of our democracy.
But when the libertarian Cato Institute does the same thing, it’s comical, tantamount to an arsonist showing up to his own handiwork wearing a homemade fireman’s hat holding a dixie cup full of water.
Look at this Venn diagram published by Cato this week . It’s nothing short of a masterpiece of self-satire.
In it, we are told that the Tea Party and OWS are appreciably similar things. Yes, the Tea Party, that designed, funded, guided expression of the will of big business, astroturfed by corporate uber-lobbyist Dick Armey. Cato expects us to believe that the Tea Party movement (characterized by civics illiteracy, mau-mau images, guns and anger at taxation) and OWS, (characterized by civil disobedience, class consciousness, smart phones and anger at corrupted institutions) share a core premise.
The premise? It’s written in the Venn overlap region in the center: that “large corporations lobby for the government to have more power”.
Wait. What? More power? In what world is that true, and what color is the sky there?
Because in this world, what big business does is the precise opposite.
1) The fact is, big business feverishly lobbies for government to impose deregulation. That’s deregulation, meaning removing government power to regulate big business and markets. Big business wants government to have zero say in financial markets, and gets what it wants want at a frightening clip. For example, in 1999 when Glass-Steagall was repealed. GS had, since the 1930s, imposed market safety regulation, but its removal greenlit the multitrillion monster market in mortgage-backed securities that caused the meltdown of 2008.
The leader of the effort to wipe out GS was Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas. And who waved the pom-pons for this disaster while Phil took the ball across the goal line?
A chorus of anti-regulation libertarian think tanks, of course. Such as Cato’s ideological twin the Mercatus Center. Enjoy browsing the work of Senator Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy, Mercatus’s senior scholar. Take in the deregulation-paean video “The Cost Of Workplace Regulations”. Keep a tissue handy as Mrs. Gramm shows us the pain of oil companies in her article “EPA Speeds Ahead With Ill-Conceived Vehicle And Gasoline Standards”.
Yes, people such as this not only carry water for big business and lead the charge to beat back regulation and taxes, they produce Venn diagrams claiming big business wants the government to have more power.
Less is more. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
2) The next of Cato’s Orwellian perversions: big business lobbies against campaign finance reform. Campaign financing as it stands is the mechanism of normalized corruption of electoral politics and representative government. It is the implementation of the free market for political results – the only free market libertarians are uncomfortable acknowledging. Without its corruption of our representative democracy, big business has to face paying its taxes, reducing its pollution, economically developing instead of savaging the United States. As such, campaign finance reform is the last thing big business wants touched. Which is why Cato and libertarians are 110% against campaign finance reform.
3) Big business lobbies to obtain tax cuts and loopholes that reduce their obligation to fund the society they inhabit. To be fair, in this area, libertarian economics does not provide the majority of cover to big business, conservative think tanks such as Heritage do. But this is only because Cato never found a tax it found necessary. The power of the government to tax is anathema to Cato – and it’s no coincidence that the plummeting effective corporate tax rates in the US (in the case of General Electric in 2010, 0%) is an idea that Cato, to say the least, endorses. That is to say, again, less power for the government and more for big business.
So we’re supposed to believe, as we take to the streets to take back our democracy from big business, that Cato and the Tea Party are our pals?
Hey chief, there’s something funny about that firefighter over there. He smells like gasoline and there’s matches falling out of his pockets.