Pulitzer-Winner Blames Those Who 'Refuse to Raise Taxes'

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, on Friday contended “it is not the protectionists of the AFL-CIO or CNN who are primarily to blame for the erosion of public support” for free trade, instead:
The blame lies squarely with a business community that continues to support Republican politicians who refuse to raise the taxes and spend the money necessary to provide the economic safety net for American workers that a free-market economy has not, and will not, provide.
In his column bannered across the top Friday's “Business” section, “Wave Goodbye to the Invisible Hand” Pearlstein argued that “just as the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era and the New Deal gave way to the post-war era of big government, big business and big labor, the current era of free-market capitalism seems to be giving way to something else” as “the larger truth may be that the social and economic costs of the next increment of globalization probably outweigh the benefits for many people, and that reality has now been reflected in the political marketplace.”

An excerpt from the August 1 column by the ex-reporter:
....Here in the United States, consumers have already realized most of the possible gains from importing different and cheaper goods -- any further liberalization won't help them much. But because the government has refused to deal, in any serious way, with the dislocation and economic insecurity that increased trade has spawned, too many lower-skilled workers have concluded, with reason, that they are the inevitable losers from globalization.

Let's be clear: It is not the protectionists of the AFL-CIO or CNN who are primarily to blame for the erosion of public support for trade in the United States, as bone-headed as they may be. The blame lies squarely with a business community that continues to support Republican politicians who refuse to raise the taxes and spend the money necessary to provide the economic safety net for American workers that a free-market economy has not, and will not, provide.

Trade is hardly the only area in which open, unregulated and lightly-taxed markets have failed to deliver economic and social outcomes that Americans consider acceptable.

Despite the fact that the U.S. health-care system is the most privatized and market-driven of any in the industrialized world, it has become one of least efficient and effective, with extraordinarily high costs, mediocre results and a large and growing pool of working families with little or no insurance and inadequate care.

Deregulated energy markets have, for the most part, failed to provide a steady supply of affordable electricity to businesses and households due in large part to imperfect competition that has allowed the industry to manipulate prices and earn above-market returns. These same energy markets failed to anticipate the increased global demand for oil and natural gas and to make the necessary long-term investments in new supply and alternative sources of energy. More recently, they produced a speculative price bubble that has brought the auto and airline industries to their knees.

As market failures go, however, few have been more spectacular than the massive misallocation of credit and mispricing that led to the giant housing and credit bubble of recent years....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center