Monday, October 6, 2008

Regulation and Our Future

"Regulation and Our Future"

Last week Congress passed and the President signed a $700 billion financial package aimed at stabilizing the banks, restoring confidence, and loosening credit. A huge bailout that we hope will stop the failure of even more financial institutions.

All this taxpayer money isn’t expected to get us out of a recession, won’t provide universal health care, won’t improve our schools, won’t help young parents pay for childcare, nor will it build low-income housing.

Liberals and conservatives alike are mad because we are spending taxpayer money (which by the way is yet to be collected) to make up for the excesses of greed. We –the country—are like a family with an uncle who went out drinking and gambling, spent the family savings, mortgaged the house, and ran up a debt the family now must pay. One member of the family just sucked up all the dreams of the rest of the family.

Why did we let this happen? Yes, we let it happen. This financial crisis is not a natural disaster, it is man-made (and most of the actors are men).

The greed and “irrational exuberance” at the base of this disaster is troublesome, but what worries me the most is the rhetoric we have lived with for over 28 years that government is bad and that we need to trust in individual ingenuity. Individual ingenuity can create great companies but it also destroys great companies. Government isn’t bad—it is as good as the people who make it up. A government that is made up of people who don’t believe in the role of protecting its citizens will fail, and fail it has.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004 changed a rule that limited the amount of debt a large investment bank could incur, thereby opening up the opportunity to make more money but at great risk – risk not only to the bank, but as it turns out, to our economy and consequently to the wellbeing of all of us.

The last two weeks have demonstrated in a very costly way why good government is important to all of us. Not since Katrina have we seen such disastrous results of government agencies that don’t function. I want a government that believes in its role of protector of its citizens, not only from foreign invaders but also from the excesses of individual citizens.

Because we, as a society and as world, are so interconnected we need to have a government that is not afraid to regulate individual behavior. Whether it is monetary risk-taking, pollution, the safety of our food, or a host of other dangers, we need a government that has the tools to protect and is run by people who believe in its role to regulate for the good of all of us, not the profit of a few.

Ellen A. Bruce
President, OWL National Board

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