Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Whether or not the actual credit should go to his speechwriters, Ronald Reagan was a master at delivering the pithy, humorous quote. The question that we should, however, be asking ourselves is this: Is his observation a fair representation or foolishly simplistic parody of the truth?
There is, of course, no doubt that we tax business profits to provide basic public services, but the question of whether this tax burden is fairly met or spread is a source of keen contention. Our tax codes and policies at the federal, state and local level are so packed with loopholes meant to privilege one business or industry over another that it is hard to give any credence to the notion that all businesses are paying their fair share to promote the common good.
Business regulation meant to ensure honesty, safety, and transparency would be wonderful. However, given that so often “regulation” is quite literally crafted by industry lobbyists to provide the very thinnest veneer of public good piled atop a great deal of private benefit, it is sometimes difficult to see business regulation as anything other than political cover for cupidity. Moreover, although all efforts to regulate businesses in a manner that attempts to protect individuals and society must be encouraged, those regulations whose only discernible effect is to provide lucrative sinecures for pettifogging bureaucrats must be stricken from the books in order to avoid frustrating the endeavors of the honest businessperson who is simply trying to make a living.
As for business subsidies, I have a simple question: what major industry or business in the United States today is not receiving some sort of direct or indirect government subsidy these days? The mad scramble by politicians to hand out our cash to their campaign contributors is a sad commentary on our current kakistocracy. No wonder we are dead broke.