Uncommon Sense

November 20, 2012

Why the Angst, Conservatives?

In a recent column (Conservatives, Don’t Despair—11-13-12) David Frum noted:

. . . Compare the United States of 2012 with the United States of 1962. Leave aside the obvious points about segregation and discrimination, and look only at the economy.

In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States. The government regulated the price of natural gas. It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.

It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study.

Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962. . . .

His point was that the U.S. is freer than ever before, so there is no reason to decry any “loss of freedom,” a constant drumbeat of the right-wing media.

And he left out a few things.

Married women couldn’t get credit in their own name, for example. Ordinary people had the devil’s own time trying to buy stocks. And, his exclusions of segregation, racial discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, alternant lifestyle discrimination, etc, were far from trivial.

But, on the plus side there were usury laws that limited interest rates (People are still paying off credit cards that started with 30+% interest rates that never would have happened under the old laws). There were fairness laws limiting what you could say on the public airways, the elimination of which (bad regulation, bad!) resulted in the current sewers of information generally called “news channels.” And remember the Glass-Steagall Act (bad regulation, bad!) that caused all financial meltdowns to be mere hiccoughs instead of global catastrophes? Also, there were no real negative affects of the 91% marginal tax rate (this was the tax on income over $100,000 if I recall right and average income was about $6-7000). Most wealthy individuals then, as now, availed themselves of tax shelters to avoid paying that tax rate. And, I don’t see how owning gold became anything like a plus; sure you can do it, but why would you?

But, why the angst? Really. Why has there been so much angst over a moderate, centrist President? Yes, he is on the left side of center but not very far to the left. Conservatives are reacting so wildly: requiring people to purchase health insurance is a big gift to Obama’s base. Say what? Equal pay for women in the work place (the Lilly Ledbetter Act) is socialist! Not if you ask any woman in the workplace. Obama is trying to take our guns! If this is so, they could at least name one regulation or piece of legislation indicating that this is the case, and they can’t.

So why the angst?

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