(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN NOVEMBER 2009)The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which seems to be slowly but surely becoming the Republican Party, is absolutely right about one thing -- there are few things these days in which big government and big business are not in agreement.
It matters not that the only solution the Tea Baggers and their ilk have for this state of affairs is to cut taxes. The problem is very real, is only going to get worse and threatens to undermine the recovery from the Bush Recession, the worst since the Great Depression, which will soon become the Obama Recession barring another huge injection of federal stimulus money or a miracle.
The myth that big business and big government are rivals persists, in my view chiefly among gauzy-eyed liberals, despite being an archaic notion even back in the 1930s when pundits argued that voting against Franklin D. Roosevelt was voting for big business.
That the myth exists at all in the wake of the Enron scandal is kind of incredible.
For those of you with short memories, the energy company grew from being a flyspeck to the seventh largest U.S. company in just 15 years. Enron's success can be attributed to two things -- an elaborate scam built on lies about its profits and level of debt and cheek-to-jowl involvement in a Washington culture with regulations so complex that it was able to hoodwink everyone while scratching the backs and fattening the campaign war chests of compliant politicians. Enron's collapse in October 2001 resulted in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
While George Bush had close ties to CEO Kenneth Lay and other Enron executives, the scandal could just have easily occurred on Barack Obama's watch. No matter. Bush certainly will be fondly remembered by big business as the president who handed pharmaceutical companies a ginormous Medicare prescription drug benefit, gave energy companies oodles of special tax credits and subsidies, and Wall Street in general and AIG in particular practically everything it wanted when its record profits and platinum-level bonuses were threatened.
Meanwhile, the nation's industrial base continues to crumble. Manufacturing and the jobs it creates just aren't as sexy as trading in high-risk financial derivatives that create no jobs to speak of, which goes a long way toward explaining why millions of jobs were shed during the recession and most of them will be lost forever.
Then there is the revolving door between corporate executives, lobbyists and regulators which continues to spin greedily on despite Obama's vows as a candidate to change the cultures of Washington and Wall Street, including injecting an element of transparency into their incestual acts.
In fact, as the federal government has become bigger and bigger, every major regulatory change, new tax law and spending scheme has been enacted to ultimately benefit big business. Even health-care reform as envisioned by Obama will do virtually nothing to check the power and profit-making of pharmaceutical, insurance and hospital companies, let alone reduce the runaway costs for which they bear most of the responsibility.
So if reducing taxes is not the answer, what is? A good start would be to debunk a few other myths:
The free enterprise and free trade systems are anything but free. Capitalism is really corporatism.
And the real biggie: There is no difference between Big Business Republicans and Tax-and-Spend Democrats.