2009-04-17 / Columnists

The Progressive

Nation of Laws
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

Most Americans, including many progressives and this writer, believe that free market capitalism is the best and most efficient system for economic growth and prosperity.

Despite economic busts, our belief is that individual economic decisions made for selfish gains, if made within a framework of a correcting market that allows competition and regulation to prevent fraud, is the best mechanism for the common welfare. During the last presidential election, the Grand Old Party categorized our present president as a socialist. This is absurd. His policy and his top economic advisers are not radically different from the previous administration. This nation has always been a nation of laws.

We are not a people who go for radical change- either on the right or left. During the Great Depression Americans did not become fascist or communist. We do believe in practical, pragmatic, and progressive solutions to our economic, social, and political problems.

All solutions generally come with a host of different problems that then need to be solved.

America is unique and special. We are a nation almost miraculous in our belief that laws can bind a nation of such cultural, economic, ethnic, and religious diversity as a nation and as a people. And this miracle has been and is the light of hope for many across the globe.

We often are worried about the people across the globe who hate us or wish for our nation's harm. And yet these same people may see America and Americans as a nation and as a people who do not live up to the promise of America.

Most of the media is speaking of a populist uproar regarding the disparity between financial reward and performance of our financial elite. Taxpayers are now required to finance this continuing practice. At the same time we all know performance payments are being advocated for factory workers, teachers, medical staff, and our police forces.

Our nation's most esteemed newspaper, The New York Times, had a series of articles on workers' compensation. One article stated workers in factories do not report minor injuries and accidents for the sole purpose of receiving a safety bonus.

Peer pressure and financial gain bolster the practice. Not reporting minor injuries may lead to serious safety violations or injuries. Teachers are now teaching only to the test, or worse, engaging in fraud by changing answers.

Medical staffs are encouraged to limit or increase medical tests or use of medication for financial reward. Police departments underreport or change crime statistics to get better funding for their departments or to please the public perception of their diligence.

It is apparent that pride in profession and trade needs to be renewed in the nation. We must encourage a movement that does honor contracts of employment and also a more equitable distribution of income based on a criterion that does not foster fraud and economic jealousy.

For at least three decades most American families have seen their real income stagnate or decrease while the few prosper at a proportion that is scandalous and dangerous. Thomas Jefferson said: "Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor."

We may be forced to pay the bonuses owed to the financial wizards of Wall Street to remain a nation of laws, and yet we can use the unpopularity of this act to spur pragmatic reforms in our society.

President Andrew Jackson stated about laws that made "the rich richer, and the potent more powerful" that " the humble members of society —the farmers, the mechanics, and the laborers — who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustices of their government."

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