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Government and the private sector


Vince Orza September 3rd, 2009

At a time when many Americans are mad at big business, perhaps it's time to take a step back and get a longer view of what made our nation the only superpower on earth.  Capitalism is now a dirty ...

At a time when many Americans are mad at big business, perhaps it's time to take a step back and get a longer view of what made our nation the only superpower on earth. 

Capitalism is now a dirty word. No doubt there's a role for government to play in our economy. We want our banks examined, labor laws that serve a purpose and licensing that makes sense.

Farmers and ranchers like the government programs that pay them to plant, not plant and manage their herds. The oil and gas industry likes incentives that promote drilling and senior citizens love Medicare or Social Security. Oklahoma's elected officials are political conservatives who oppose socialized health care. Yet I'd bet none of them want to end Social Security or Medicare, which by any definition are socialized programs.

Most Oklahomans probably think our health care system is pretty good, but could be better. While millions of Americans and thousands of Oklahomans may not have health insurance, that doesn't mean they don't have health care. Just visit an emergency room and you'll see them getting the most expensive health care.

So the real debate should be whether or not health care is a right or privilege and either way, who should pay for it? If the government is going to provide 50 million Americans free health care, that means you and I will pay for it. Government economic development is paid for with our tax dollars: The Department of Agriculture supports Oklahoma farming and ranching, the Department of Transportation will be paying for a big chunk of I-40, and the Department of Defense supports Tinker, Altus and Vance. Whether you call these socialism or just good government, they all translate to dollars and jobs in Oklahoma.

The fastest way to lose a congressional seat is to oppose programs that translate to dollars and jobs at home. The current debate over health care has deteriorated into a shouting match and idiotic name-calling. Simplifying the debate by labeling all government programs "socialism" misses the point. Socialism and capitalism aren't the issue. We've had a mixture of both since the nation was founded.

The real question is whether or not a government program works efficiently. If so, stop worrying about the labels. In the private sector, the strong survive and the weak are forced out. Pretty efficient!

Just the opposite occurs in government. Few programs end and failing programs get more money. Hence, voters have reason to be skeptical of a new health care program, especially since Medicare is on the verge of going broke and Social Security will face the same problem a few years down the road.

When public companies and small businesses invest in Oklahoma, they create jobs, salaries and benefits paid for by the profits they earn " not tax dollars. In fact, the jobs they create and pay for generate income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and more. Capitalism, democracy and millions of hardworking Americans (and a lot hardworking non-Americans who live here) made this country the world's beacon of hope, innovation and prosperity.

Capitalism isn't perfect, but it's certainly been better than the alternatives. Unless we're willing to give up Social Security and Medicare benefits, let's stop all the pointless screaming about corporate greed, government bailouts, socialism, Nazis and charges we're destroying our country.

Government, like business, has to be about compromise, satisfying its constituents and, most of all, accomplishment " no matter the label. 

Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.

 
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