Friday, April 16, 2010

Krugman uses Fire Department Analogy

A couple of posts down while discussing socialism I use fire departments as an example of socialism in action. In today's New York Times column, "The Fire Next Time," Paul Krugman brings in fire departments to skewer Mitch McConnell's position on financial reform:

On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, called for the abolition of municipal fire departments.

Firefighters, he declared, “won’t solve the problems that led to recent fires. They will make them worse.” The existence of fire departments, he went on, “not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of burning buildings; it institutionalizes them.” He concluded, “The way to solve this problem is to let the people who make the mistakes that lead to fires pay for them. We won’t solve this problem until the biggest buildings are allowed to burn.”

O.K., I fibbed a bit. Mr. McConnell said almost everything I attributed to him, but he was talking about financial reform, not fire reform. In particular, he was objecting not to the existence of fire departments, but to legislation that would give the government the power to seize and restructure failing financial institutions.

But it amounts to the same thing.

Krugman then goes on to claim that McConnell is "pretending to stand up for taxpayers against Wall Street while in fact doing just the opposite."

The financial industry is going to pull out all the stops to avoid regulation, and the Republicans are their willing lapdogs. The Democrats aren't much better, unfortunately. We'll get some lukewarm reforms that will give the Democrats something to brag about in this fall's election, but in a few years we'll be suffering from the next market failure.

[T]he financial industry wants to avoid serious regulation; it wants to be left free to engage in the same behavior that created this crisis. It’s worth remembering that between the 1930s and the 1980s, there weren’t any really big financial bailouts, because strong regulation kept most banks out of trouble. It was only with Reagan-era deregulation that big bank disasters re-emerged. In fact, relative to the size of the economy, the taxpayer costs of the savings and loan disaster, which unfolded in the Reagan years, were much higher than anything likely to happen under President Obama.

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