Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
A good example of this reasoning appeared in a commentary by Alan Cobb, vice president for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation — a lobbyist group paid for by the very prosperous ("Don't buy canard about spending," Jan. 31 Opinion). Billionaire David H. Koch presides on the foundation's board of directors and has funded the organization with millions of dollars.
This group claims that the best way out a recession caused by tax cuts and lack of oversight on financial institutions is more tax cuts and less oversight.
According to Americans for Prosperity and the many other conservative groups designed to make the rich richer, problems in the economy have only two causes — government intervention and taxes. Get government off the backs of corporations, as Ronald Reagan said famously, and the free market will solve all of its problems.
For this to be true, one would have to believe that the depression of 1839-41; the on-again-off-again recessionary periods of 1887, 1890, 1893, 1896, 1900, 1902, 1907, 1910, 1913 and after World War I in 1918, 1920, 1923, 1926; and finally the Great Depression of 1929 all were caused by too much government regulation and too high taxes.
All of those panics, recessions and depressions occurred when taxes and regulations were almost nonexistent.
The Great Recession we're in now started in late 2007, after several years of deep tax cuts and major repeals of government regulation in the financial market.
As for the notion that the free market would solve all our ills if government would just get off its back, one wonders why it has never solved the problem of full employment. Official unemployment figures now stand at almost 10 percent. But even when employment falls to half that, millions of potential employees have given up finding work that will pay them a living wage, and they are uncounted in the statistics.
If free markets really solve problems, why are American workers the most productive in the world yet work more hours and earn less than workers in other industrialized countries? Why has the productivity of the American worker risen spectacularly, and yet wages earned by that same worker have fallen dramatically?
Why does the unseen hand of the marketplace, in its infinite wisdom, give million-dollar bonuses to the CEOs of mortgage institutions who drive their companies into bankruptcy, while millions of Americans who do their jobs honestly and competently are laid off?
These questions cannot be answered with "too much regulation, too high taxes."
The solutions are in rethinking how our economic system works, in restructuring that system so that productive work is rewarded and arbitrage and speculation are penalized, and in rebuilding the middle class to make this country great again.
Anything less is just more insanity.