How Wrong Is Paul Guessing?
How wrong is Paul Gessing? Let me count the ways. No, I'd need a two page spread like he had.
Just on the environment then. "Free Markets = Cleaner Planet?” Just ask the survivors of Bhopal or Love Canal or mountain top removal for coal in West Virginia. And how about the ExxonMobil campaign of disinformation about the impending climate crisis?
Strong government regulations are needed to rein in the corporations that rule and pollute the planet, not "embracing free markets."
View From the Right
This is one right-winger who found a breath of fresh air in Paul Gessing's article summarized on your front page as “Everything You Know About the Right Is Wrong.” My only disagreement isn't so much in what he said, but in his implication that the stated goals of the left are the actual goals.
Clearly embracing the free market is the way to achieve the stated goals of the left. My main issue in opposing the left's agenda is that its stated goals aren't its real goals. Nobody sane would oppose most of the stated goals the left claims it owns. Equality for all? Equal access? Peace and prosperity? I can't name anybody or any political position, except maybe a theocracy, which doesn't support these goals. However, is the left really in pursuit of these ends? I think not. All, or at least the majority, of the programs proposed or enacted by the left claim to be aimed at such ends, but really achieve instead just more control over others’ lives by creating dependency.
This isn't the place nor do I have the space to write many examples so let's take but one—the war on poverty element in the Great Society. This may be the landmark achievement of the new left from the ’60s. What do we, the inheritors of this program, have now after roughly 40 years of implementation? We have as much poverty as ever but also a multigenerational legacy of utter dependency on the state for existence. Those are the facts. If the left in the mid-’60s had been truthful, it would have stated openly that the purpose of the war on poverty is to create an class of dependent humans carved out of a previously independent, if economically disadvantaged, segment of society. In other words, the left found a vulnerable group of people it could exploit and it did so.
I suspect others here on the right call on the left to be honest with the rest of us. Examine the actual results of your programs and probable outcome of your goals and either start telling us the truth of your proposed (and enacted programs) or, if the the results really aren't what you intended, admit it and let's work together to achieve those societal ends we can agree upon.
I read Paul Gessing’s article and was struck by the misleading combination of right wing wishful thinking and the use of “facts” to support his perspective.
His most offensive and disingenuous argument is how free markets [create] a cleaner planet. He cites the improvements in the environment and credits free markets!? Bald eagles would be totally extinct if the GOVERNMENT didn’t stop the use of DDT which was poisoning them to oblivion (and probably lots of people who ate the exposed food). He cites L.A. as a clean environment thanks to free markets. I guess he forgot about the EPA regulations and the California environmental regulations that mandated cleaner burning combustion engines and a percentage of electric and hybrid vehicles. Free markets gave us the Hummer and other gas guzzling SUVs. It is what the people wanted. Only when gasoline reached nearly $4 per gallon did U.S. auto makers see the light and move to produce more energy efficient vehicles, also the result of government mandates that required improved mileage. And yes, free markets allowed our foreign government partners in oil to raise those prices to $140 per barrel. I’m sure Gessing is opposed to government regulations on the oil and gas industry, preventing the fouling of our ground water so we can drill baby drill.
He seems to claim that free markets have resulted in cleaner water. I hate to correct his revisionist history, but government regulation of polluting industries (the Clean Water Act) has resulted in cleaner water, not free markets. If we left it to free markets, they would still be doing what they did prior to the regulations. That is what free market means to many on the right. Any government regulation that cuts into my profits is bad. For Gessing to claim free markets have resulted in a cleaner environment is absolutely laughable.
Finally, I am sick and tired of the “right” bashing President Obama. He has been in office one year. It took Bush 8 years to get us in this mess and Gessing says ”Obama clearly wasn’t what the left was looking for.” How would he know? You don’t speak for me, Mr. Gessing. Your misinformation and manipulations to support your position are classic right wing revisions of history and facts. I do believe in the free market, but I believe in America and the democratic process that elected our president. Maybe if the “right” would try to work with Obama instead of opposing everything he is for, he could get things done. But the free market is more important to Gessing than the good things government has and can do. If only our “representatives” would put “country first.”
Appealing but Misguided
Paul Gessing's call for free markets to achieve health care reform and to protect the environment is appealing but misguided. As with nearly all issues, there is a role for the markets and for regulation. It shouldn't be an either/or proposition.
First, "free markets" are actually not free at all. A careful examination uncovers the public subsidies and policies that support different aspects of the market.
Second, not all government regulation is "bad." One example comes to mind. The regulatory emissions cap on sulfur dioxide in the 1990s has effectively reduced (some would argue eliminated) acid rain.
We know that we need to eliminate carbon emissions now to successfully address climate change. Gessing's free market approach just won't do it. We need a cap on carbon emissions.
Thanks to the petition submitted by the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Improvement Board will be considering whether or not to establish a carbon cap in New Mexico. A public hearing is scheduled on Monday, March 1, in Santa Fe. For more information, check out http:/
The article by Paul Gessing of the conservative Rio Grande Foundation claims that “free market capitalism” will solve all our woes and, in particular, will fix our broken health care system. I’m happy to agree with him about health insurance companies being a big part of the problem, but beyond that Gessing simply ignores the human dimension of this very human issue. Gessing's article never suggests how to provide health coverage to the 46 million Americans who currently lack it, even when they work full time.
In our country, purported to have the best health care system in the world, one person dies every 12 minutes for lack of insurance. Lack of health coverage is also the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Gessing doesn’t mention that inconvenient truth either. His only concern seems to be that people don’t “shop around” for the cheapest doctor when they get sick because they know their insurance will pay.
This is ideologically driven nonsense. None of us are going to comparison shop when we’re in the throes of appendicitis. Shopping for insurance coverage makes more sense, which is why the current health care proposals include insurance exchanges that would make coverage more affordable and allow people to compare plans intelligently. The pending reform bills are not what most of us wanted, but they are much, much better than the current system that leaves millions of us just one sickness away from medical and financial disaster.
Free market capitalism alone doesn’t offer a solution to this huge human problem and never will so long as profits are increased by denying care. Instead of taking quack ideological nostrums, we should urge Congress to pass health reform now and get started making our system serve people, not a market that makes a few big companies rich (record profits this year!) at the expense of average Americans.
Free Market Panacea
Everything I know about the right is wrong? I don’t think so. Of course, I sincerely wish to believe that the right is populated by more than just warmongers, Christian fanatics and upper-middle class frat boys—indeed I think it is. Unfortunately, Paul Gessing’s ham-fisted attempt at bashing his readership over the head with the ridiculous notion of a free market panacea was utterly ineffective in swaying my opinion.
To be fair, I did feel that some of his ideas on health care were intriguing. I’ve certainly never thought to “shop around” for medical treatment, and it’s an interesting proposition. Beyond that however, the article seemed to simply unravel.
Gessing’s paragraph on the environment is a travesty. Take for example his proposition that the automobile has increased urban cleanliness. During a time in which concern over vehicle emissions, holes in the ozone layer and the phantom of global warming, who can say with a straight face that automobiles have had a positive impact on the cleanliness of our Earth? If one invention has had a truly lasting impact on urban cleanliness it would have to be the sewage system. Forget Gessing’s example of horse manure littering the streets—what about human feces? Maybe he opted to ignore this obvious example because sewage systems were being implemented long before Adam Smith had even been born.
Gessing’s section entitled “How Wal-Mart (and Capitalism) Helps the Poor” is by far the most naive of all his propositions. I was impressed to see that more than 200 million people in China and India have moved above the poverty line since 1980—an effect that Gessing dubiously correlates to these two counties embracing of capitalism. However, there is a discrepancy here that is rather obviously omitted: total population and population growth since 1980 (please see the CIA world fact book for the following statistics). China has seen a population growth of over 300 million people since 1980! Furthermore, both of these countries have over 1 billion inhabitants each. Thus, the 200 million people that have moved above the poverty line in these countries is remarkably less significant when compared to the humongous populations of these nations.
Figuring Out Wal-Mart
Paul Gessing claims Wal-Mart, free markets, capitalism and corporations help poor people. That's a lot to chew on, so I'll just go right to Wal-Mart.
Mr. Gessing says it saves shoppers, including rich ones, upwards of $200 billion a year (a few years ago another advocate for Wal-Mart put the figure at $10 billion, merely $10 for $15 each low income family). Wal-Mart's financial reports claim $408 billion in sales last year, about 78 percent of which, $318 billion, was in this country. According to the 2000 census, the average U.S. household has 1.6 people. That would be a total of about 187 households, so households are spending an average of $1,700 a year at Wal-Mart. If people are really saving $200-plus billion by using Wal-Mart instead of local stores or other national chains, that's at least $1,070 for each household.
That is, Mr. Gessing claims what costs me $1,700 at Wal-Mart would cost me over a thousand dollars more at Target and Smith's. I don't believe that. He also left out adjustments for Wal-Mart's low wages and meager benefits (resulting in the government subsidizing Wal-Mart's payroll with assistance programs for the poor), reliance on products made in other countries, and devastation of local businesses, all of which costs all of us some money and diminishes the quality of our lives.
Yes, capitalism is quite a mover. It moves money from the poor to the rich. It moves resources, at bargain prices, from less developed countries to more developed ones. And it showers its its propaganda over everybody.
CLARIFICATION: [Re: Newscity, "Race Talk Boils in the House," Feb. 18-24] Rep. Ben Rodefer (D-Corrales) voted in favor of the Hispanic Education Act.
Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter. Word count limit for letters is 300 words.