Thursday, April 22, 2010

OPINION: It’s Best To Keep A Watchful Eye On The Government

Leftish Drivel
By Paul Krza

One the five Republicans running for governor blew through Socorro the other day, stopping long enough to complain about -- what else? -- government.
“Government should be a partner or advocate for industry, not an adversary,” says Doug Turner, PR guy turned politician, offering the let’s-get-in-bed-together approach.
Another GOP-Gov wanna-be, ex-military man Allen Weh, preaches that we need to “get government out of the way of private business” and “reduce unnecessary regulations.”
And teafolk were out in the streets at tax time, not liking government at all -- can’t we just make it disappear?
My first reaction to all of this was to think of Francesca, my two-year-old granddaughter, when she imitates her mother’s cellphone talk -- “Blah, blah, blah ...”
On the other hand, you have to take this persistent party-line poop on government seriously. And that’s their simple(ton) solution to our economic woes: Just mow down those “burdensome” regulations and get out of the way. “Bidness” will bring us jobs and prosperity, if only unleashed.
It’s interesting, coincidental and instructive -- that in the midst of all this anti-government talk, in West Virginia, 29 coal miners got gassed to death in what looks like an unsafe industry mine. I relate to these mine tragedies because that’s where my father and his father worked -- deep inside cold, musty and dangerous tunnels.
My grandfather died before I could hear him talk about mining, and I only remember only bits and pieces about my father’s underground experience. But one thing I distinctly recall is that he NEVER said something like, “gosh, if the government would just stop leaning on the company, we could get a hell of a lot more coal out of the mine.”
One word sticks in my memory that I heard him utter often when he talked to my mother about his day’s work: “Pusher.” Down in the mines, the company posted company people whose sole job was to keep up the pace, literally “pushing” the workers, making sure they weren’t sitting on their asses rather than digging the maximum amount of coal.
Government? Well, there was the state mine inspector, but as I remember, my father and others scoffed at him, an apparent company-sympathetic toady who most often looked the other way. Understandable in Wyoming back then (and now), an outback rural state like New Mexico, hungry for industry and revenue.
The feds? Not that I heard about, until decades later, when I began reporting about the mining industry. The only equalizing force back in my father’s day was the union, and it did what it could, up against the coal barons.
Predictably, bodies piled up in the mines, both from the immediate, West Virginia-like blasts, and from longer-term maladies like “black lung” that killed scores of retirees. Congress increasingly got involved with making mines safer beginning in the 1970s, but by the time George W. Bush became president, enforcement again took a back seat to production.
Light on regulation? A bunch of mining deaths? A link? What do you think?
Oh, this just in! “Government” is really Us -- you, me and our neighbors. We agree to do certain stuff collectively, things that individually we wouldn’t have power to accomplish. Like making sure that when we mine coal, we put safety above profits.
So, to quote another granddaughter, five-year-old Ceci, when asked what she would like to do the other day, says, “what are my options?”
If you follow the shrink-goverment, “partner” line put out by Turner, Weh and the Republican gang, life will be better: For business and corporations, that is. For most folks, the worker bees, not so much.
As for government helping business -- this, also just in! That’s what New Mexico has been doing for years, with mixed success. The Spaceport verdict is still out, but our deal with moviemakers seems to be working.
But the state (“we”) also lost millions when Eclipse Aviation went under, and we’ve been burned by the solar sector (we get detoured daily by one failed venture just off I-25 at Belen.)
Yet another option: Government control of key sectors, like finance.
When Obama was faced last year with a damned-If-you-do, damned-If-you-don’t choice in dealing with banks, he folded, mainly because he was getting so much flak about creeping “socialism.”
We need a financial system to deal with transactions and money. That’s all part of what we call “doing business.” But do we have to have a bunch of well-heeled Wall Street wheeler-dealers running it and making tons of money by playing the angles?
Bottom line: Government is not bad, and yes, it has a watchdog role. And we have to keep an eye on and participate in government to make sure it stays good.

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