Archive for November 14th, 2011

by Pete Talbot

I shrugged it off the first few times I heard it or saw it in print, “government picking winners and losers.”

Now it’s everywhere: Republican debates, news stories, op-ed columns and even comments here at 4&20.

It’s directed at Democrats, for the most part, from President Obama (health care, Solyndra) to Missoula’s City Council (Play Ball Missoula).

The irony is that all parties, in all areas of government, from city councils to state legislatures to Congress and the President, have picked winners and losers.

They’ve subsidized railroads and airlines, oil and coal, highways and electrical distribution systems, NASA, mining and agriculture, baseball, basketball and football teams … it’s a long list.

Winners and losers are chosen by the powers that be all the time. There are no-bid defense department contracts for Halliburton, Raytheon and Blackwater. There are tax code revisions that pick winners and losers. There are decisions on food stamps, Social Security and Medicaid that have winners and losers.

It’s a cool sounding mantra, this “government picking winners and losers,” no doubt generated at some Karl Rove or libertarian think tank using focus groups and polling, and distributed to key leaders in right-wing politics, whence it trickles down.

There are no doubt abuses in this system. But the idea that every aspect of American life should be subject to the invisible hand of the free market is unrealistic and anachronistic. And the Republican cry of “crony capitalism” is about as hypocritical as it gets. The art of crony capitalism has been a mainstay of the Republican Party.

It’s dishonest to call all government spending “socialist” and lay the blame at the feet of Democrats. Picking winners and losers has been going on since the founding fathers and is as American as apple pie.

It just depends on who’s doing the giving and getting the rewards that gets the teeth gnashing and pundits whining.

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