A big philosophical difference exists between Barack Obama and John McCain concerning their approach to our economic difficulties. The Republican (McCain's) approach is to ease the tax burden on corporations and businesses in the assumption that they will be able to grow their businesses, hire more people and stimulate the economy. The Democrat philosophy (Obama's) is to create government programs that benefit the public and employ a lot of people that way. Of course there are more elements in each candidate's platforms, but let's look at this fundamental philosophical contrast.
First, both points of view have some rational validity. It's true that Reagan's 'trickle-down' economics theory seems basically sound, and it's also true that the Democrat concept of government programs will work, as it did so well with FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. Both also have their flaws. Trickle-down economics works if corporations and businesses put the public interest ahead of profit in their list of priorities. Unfortunately it doesn't seem that this is likely to happen. The problem with the Democrat principle is that it results in "bigger government" (i.e. higher taxes) and more regulation.
When one considers these options one must also reflect on the history of our economic decline. There are, of course, innumerable factors, but a fundamental one that seems to sort of jump out is that corporations have had the opportunity to find a proper, or at least workable, balance between profit-margin and public interest values for decades, and have done rather badly, to say the very least. They might have observed the Native American rule that, when confronted with issues that affect the entire tribe, elders must contemplate the impact of their decisions on the next seven generations. Think about that for a minute. Compare it with our current world paradigm. The corporations had more than enough time to balance their priorities a little more on the side of sustainable viability and resource conservation, and a little less on the side of short-term profit, if they were at all so inclined, but they have far too often chosen the course of voracious greed.
There is always an inherent tension between the concepts of individual freedom and social responsibility. Anarchy would be an ideal lifestyle if everyone would cooperate and behave responsibly and honorably. Free trade would be an ideal business model if corporations were willing to balance their quest for profit with their moral responsibility to serve the long-term public interest. Well, people and businesses just don't always do the right thing - it's a fact. Some of us are monstrously selfish. Therefore, we need guidelines, rules, government, and regulation. For both people and businesses. And the degree to which we need them depends on the degree to which people and businesses exercise their freedom without regard for the consequences of their actions. Lately that's been quite a lot, so it would follow that quite a lot of regulation is
In an ideal world corporations would voluntarily shift their focus from profit-driven endeavors to those that settle for a little less profit for doing something that truly serves the public interest. They'd self-regulate. Creating jobs in the "green" industry and building businesses that produce valuable goods and services at reasonable cost would be a good example. Downsizing business enterprises so they can tailor their products and services to local needs would be another. Sacrificing immediate profit for long-term goodwill and sensible resource management
practices would be another. Unfortunately, we don't live on that planet. Corporations on this planet have had the opportunity to do this for ... forever, for as long as there have been corporations. What on earth... or anywhere else for that matter... could possibly make us think that the Republican policy of allowing businesses and corporations more freedom will result in a shift in the corporate paradigm profound enough to save the economy or our planet? Our recent experiences with a Republican administration and Congress prove unequivocally that relaxing government regulation on corporations, granting them favors and trusting them to "do the right thing," has had disastrous results. Perhaps some day our species might evolve to the point where we don't need strict regulation of commerce, but in view of our clear and present crisis it seems pretty obvious that a significant stiffening of the regulation of businesses must occur, and we must stop entrusting them with our future - they've broken that trust too many times already. Someone said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Obama's proposal, in line with the Democrat platform, is to establish government programs that will create (or encourage the private sector creation of) "green collar" and other jobs that serve the public interest (e.g. health industry, understaffed agencies and departments of the government itself, etc.), and a number of others in related infrastructures. This would not only stimulate the economy, it would move us quite a bit closer to that seventh generation concept. Of course none of us wants "bigger government" intruding into our lives... at least not in the way we're used to experiencing it... but a more benevolent government, one that has our long-term interests and welfare at heart, might be a bit more welcome, don't you think? And as for taxes, well, we get what we pay for. If we want a good government, it's gonna cost us, but the benefits will far outweight that cost. Cheap government is bad government, and look at how much bad government has been costing us! A whole lot more than higher taxes, in the short term, and in the long haul... some of our decisions are costing future generations more than we can possibly calculate. The choice seems clear to me, but I suppose many will continue to work to emasculate the government and empower greedy and powerful national and international corporations. It will no doubt be argued for some time yet, until we find that delicate balance between having enough government but not too much. In the meantime we'd better make a severe course correction or we're headed for the rocks.