From Sarah Palin yesterday: This system is "called corporate crony capitalism. It’s not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No,this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts . . . and influence peddling and corporate welfare." Wow. I usually cringe at everything she says. But this? Not half bad, actually.
The fact that Federal and state governments hand out favors that often determine success is a fact of life noted by critics as ideologically disparate as Ron Paul and Noam Chomsky. In the auto industry, bills contain "GM provisions" tailored towards only the largest companies. The effective corporate tax rate is quite low for the largest companies but not necessarily for medium sized businesses. This kind of news usually appears on the front pages of papers, so it's not exactly hidden.
Coming from Sarah Palin, though, this assessment is actually a little offputting—mostly because I know that her solutions are "free men and free markets," something that has been sold to the American right and is completely lacking in substance unless we radically change notions of freedom and free markets.
So a strange situation arises—both sides diagnose the same problems but offer different solutions. The American left and right agree (in broad terms) that certain economic problems exist—the bailouts helped the rich who created the crisis, the stimulus was ineffective, job growth is too slow, the middle class is getting left behind. But both sides see these as problems in radically different contexts: the left views them as excesses of market-fetishism, and the right as evidence that markets aren't working.
Only a fortune teller could guess where this merry-go-round ends up, but when an ideologue like Sarah Palin declaims systemic critiques of capitalism, we can take it as evidence that things are really a mess. The simple fact that such anti-system harangues play so well in Peoria should give us pause.