Reviews | Texas Freeze illustrates a failing economic system


The Texas Freeze illustrates some of the shortcomings of conservative economics as a basis for the public good. The nation’s problems will only get worse as we pretend that private solutions are best for all situations.

In Texas, everyone agreed that everyone needed a robust power grid. But no one wanted to pay for it.”

But notice something important: the mainstream media never discusses the fact that a failing economic system is at the heart of so many of our nation’s woes. And they won’t either, because they are the PR arm of the owners of this system and the owners are posing as bandits. So we have to discuss the issues ourselves.

The first problem with conservative economics is that it wants to imagine that only private economic interactions are legitimate, and that public intervention in the economy is illegitimate.

The truth is that public goods are those that benefit everyone, but where it is difficult to assign individual ownership of the benefits. It is therefore difficult to collect individual payments for services. The result is underinvestment in public goods.

Hurricane Karina in New Orleans in 2005 revealed the failure of inadequate investment in public infrastructure. In this case, it was in the levees that were supposed to protect the city, but which hadn’t been sufficiently maintained for years.

Proper investment would have cost tens of millions of dollars, but avoided tens of billions of dollars in damage. Private motivations made these allowances unprofitable. More than 1,800 people have died and the city has still not fully recovered.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the chronic underinvestment in public health infrastructure. The United States’ response to the pandemic has been one of the worst in the world, with nearly half a million deaths as a result. We see its effects, even today, in halter testing and vaccination programs.

The damage done to society by the pandemic and the failure to respond has been incalculable, although we can calculate that 2020 was the worst year of economic performance in 75 years. Tens of millions of people have been injured, many seriously, with poor and minority communities – those with the least economic power – bearing the brunt of the costs.

A second problem with conservative economics is that it wants to maximize private profits in the short term, and therefore does not invest adequately in the long term.

The Republican response is typically Republican: It was the Green New Deal, which only exists as a concept, and AOC, a congressman who lives in another state.

In Texas, everyone agreed that everyone needed a robust power grid. But no one wanted to pay for it. It has been known since 2011, the last crisis, that this kind of freeze would inflict this kind of damage on so many people. But rather than bear the honest costs, Republican officials up and down the state simply kicked the streets.

We are now on the road and the effect is catastrophic. The Republican response is typically Republican: It was the Green New Deal, which only exists as a concept, and AOC, a congressman who lives in another state. It is beyond irresponsibility. He is immature and reckless.

The deindustrialization of the US economy over the past four decades is a case where problems one and two, above, come together. Private parties dismantled the world’s largest manufacturing base to maximize short-term private profits. It has devastated the entire economy and society, giving rise to the seething rage that is Trumpism.

The United States has an unambiguous public interest in a vibrant economic base. But this is undermined by leaving so many essential decisions solely in private hands. The fallout – Trumpism and its efforts to overturn a national election – threatens our democracy, a negative spillover of the economy onto the constitutional basis of our society itself.

A final flaw in conservative economic thinking is that adaptation to change is resisted unless the benefits can be captured by those who already hold power and wealth.

This is why it is impossible to reform the American health care system. We pay double what other industrialized countries pay for health care, but we get lower results. People suffer higher costs and worse outcomes, while the nation bears a GDP burden of around 10%, making the entire economy that much less competitive in global markets.

This 10% surplus of GDP, or about $2 trillion a year, goes into the pockets of the very wealthy, who own the pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance companies. And media companies. They invest billions in politics and the media to protect trillions in profits, which means things are nearly impossible to change.

Likewise with climate change. The science is clear: pumping carbon into the atmosphere threatens to cause cataclysmic planetary damage. But the oil companies have a deadly grip on Congress, with the result that something as beneficial as the Green New Deal is invoked only as an epithet by conservatives rather than a boon as it might be.

If we are unable, unwilling to adapt to climate change by changing our energy choices, we will inflict existential damage on the planet and all life on it. And this, to protect the stratospheric profits of a few dozen oil companies and the few hundred families who own most of them.

If we are unable, unwilling to adapt to climate change by changing our energy choices, we will inflict existential damage on the planet and all life on it.”

Underinvestment in public goods. Short-term profit maximization. And resolute resistance to essential change. These limitations of our conservative economic ideology inflict billions of dollars in costs on the American economy and all its members every year. If they are not changed, they will continue to weaken, weaken and exhaust the economy, the constitutional order, society and, ultimately, the planet.

The mainstream media aren’t going to tell us about these failures because the system works like a charm for its owners. They have been swallowed up by the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. This is the economic news the media should be talking about.

Don’t hold your breath. We need to start changing our core ethic, from “I’ll take mine. Fuck you” to “We’re all in this together.” Because we are. Pretending that we are not, in order to satisfy a destructive ideology, does not change the results, nor lower the temperature. Ask the people who freeze in Texas.

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