Friday, July 18, 2008

Corporate Socialism Destroying Social Services

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has one of the best, thought provoking local blogs, His recent entry “The Turkey Theory of Government and Lemon Socialism,” presented a whole new thought process for me, and one I’m going to ponder and write about in future posts. I thought you might want to see a part of Soglin’s nicely laid out post at

Years ago, like most city officials, I was confronted with the ugly reality that, by definition, governments were in the unenviable position of running money-losing services. After all police, fire, street and public health services do not make money.

To describe the situation, I used two terms. The first is what I called the "turkey theory of government." If a proposition or a service was a loser, government was expected to deliver the service. If money was to be made, conservatives in the private sector would rally together and try and force government out.

A current example of what was traditionally a public function that the private sector now wishes to operate is water systems. As long as the service is a turkey, the public sector can have it. If there is a profit to be made, enter the private sector.

That gets us to lemon socialism. While welfare systems, public subsidies for transit and the like are decried by the right wing as socialistic, there is no such cry when it comes to socialism for corporate America.

The best example was the public tab to bail out the savings and loans in the 1990's to the tune of $700 billion. Airlines and automobile manufacturers all were the beneficiaries of public money to save businesses that were poorly run, usually through a combination of greed and incompetence.

In any case, lemon socialism flourishes in this country, usually advanced by the most conservative critics of government services and high taxes. Unlike a public operator, the private owner focuses on short term profits and often neglects the long term conditions necessary to sustain the operation.

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