MUSINGS OF A CURMUDGEON
Jon's article is terrific. The most radicalizing course I took in law school in the early 1970s was Taxation, mostly because it included the concept of "tax expenditures," which was a backdoor way of spending tax money without appearing politically to spend tax money. Now the GOP and the other anti-abortion rights politicians are suddenly willing to discuss in public the concept of tax expenditures. Will they continue to do so in the context of the billions of dollars in tax expenditures that go to big business. Except for a handful of politicians like Marcy Kaptur, not likely.In any event, this is the dilemma we face when we use the government to advance social progress: The more the government is involved in otherwise private activity, the more that hot button social issues will result in attempts to press social "values" of one group on the rest of us. This is not a good or a bad thing in and of itself -- sometimes it will advantage the Right, sometimes it will advantage the Left -- but we have to recognize it as a reality.George Will has been making a variant of this point for years: The larger the government, the more corruption there will be because that is where the money is. For Will, that ends the discussion. Not for me. There are some things worse than monetary corruption -- notably failing to recognize our obligations to each other as a community. But this point should be part of the mix as we try to figure out the best public policy.David
After years of covering public policy from the viewpoint of conservatives, I almost began to believe them regarding these issues. Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that while in a vacuum private is better than public, we don't live in a vacuum. (If we did, wouldn't we be a lot thinner?)From what I have seen of the private and even nonprofit sector, there is waste, fraud and abuse everywhere. I mean, yeah, I would rather have Obama run GM than GM run GM. What it boils down to for me is that in the public sector, you have the news media and elections that can effect changes. Less and less so as the campaign process becomes more corrupt and as the media die off.