Favorite

Ignorance unbound 

Ignorance unbound

Among the most persistent and far-fetched of modern myths is the one that says government is always wasteful and inefficient, and the private sector never is. It's repeated ever so often by right-wingers, though every study of government programs like Social Security and Medicare finds they're run far more cleanly and cost-effectively than are private insurance companies. For one thing, government programs don't squander millions of dollars on salaries for executives.

In the current debate over health-care reform, we again hear people shouting that it's the private sector that's well-run, and the government that's incompetent. At town hall meetings, fearful and unenlightened citizens inadvertently reveal that not only do they not know how the various programs run, they don't know who's running them. Some alarmists warn that if the government gets into health care, it'll want to take over Medicare and Social Security too. Others, confused from a different perspective, say that the failure of these two hugely successful programs demonstrates why the government shouldn't be put in charge of anything.

When the government (that is, the taxpayers) bails out banks, conservatives insist the government refrain from regulation, that banks be allowed to run themselves off a cliff again. As they always do, without government oversight. Lemmings are prudent compared to bankers.

In World War I, the federal government took over the railroads and made the trains run on time. As soon as the war ended, private interests who'd mishandled the railroads before demanded the chance to do so again. It was quite a problem, David A. Shannon writes in “Between the Wars: America, 1919-1941,” because “the plain fact was that the government had operated the railroads more efficiently and with better and safer service than had private enterprise before the war. Indeed, private management's inefficiency had been the cause of the federal government's assuming control of railroading. In December 1917, American railroads were in a frightful crisis that jeopardized the success of the whole war effort.”

The problem was resolved the way these things generally are by the American Congress. Corporations kicked in, and corporations got their way. The Transportation Act of 1920 was a mishmash, whose main beneficiaries were the stockholders in the strongest companies. “Help those who least need help” is ever the cry of the conservatives.

The law poorly prepared the railroads for increased competition from cars and trucks. Despite advertisements by an actor named Ronald Reagan urging Americans to ride the trains, American railroad passenger service by 1950 was the worst of any major industrial country in the Western world.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "Juice In Your Own Life"

    In this week’s episode, Charles and Antwan provide perspective and conversation on the Little Rock Mayoral Election and State Board of Education’s consideration of the anticipated request to waive the Fair Teacher Dismissal Act. In addition, Charles and Antwan discuss all things happening in the Little Rock School District with Superintendent Michael Poore.
    • Dec 11, 2018
  • End of the week headlines and your open line

    Alderman candidate misses chance to cast deciding vote for himself in runoff election; Dem-Gaz to phase out print delivery in El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia; Rapert threatens UA Fort Smith over 'Drag Queen Story Time' event; The Van seeks to raise $35,000 in three weeks for new warehouse facility in South Little Rock.
    • Dec 7, 2018
  • New episode of Out in Arkansas: "Boy Erased"

    Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ things. This week T & A talk about “Boy Erased” and their own emotions during and after the movie. Thank you for listening! #outinarkansas #beinggayinthesouth #dontbeadouche #beadecentperson
    • Dec 7, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • I once had a cat -- Earl was his name -- who loved to ride…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: Beware of 'unity'

    • I like this opinion piece of yours published on my 71st birthday. My best friend…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • I just remembered that I left out a fifth thing cats should learn as kittens…

    • on December 16, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation