My conservative ex-boss sent me this item:
In fairness, the first statement is not entirely true. Before the Sixteenth Amendment brought us the Federal income tax, there were state income taxes, and certainly other Federal taxes.
But, indeed, we did have all of those things with fewer taxes and less onerous government than we do now. What happened?
Some of the items on the list–schools, roads, streets, and subways–were the province of local governments, doing what is a good local government’s first job: provide an environment in which commerce can flourish. New York City financed the first subways (which were built and run by private firms) not to provide transportation to the poor, or for a ‘greener planet,’ but because the city was becoming overwhelmed with traffic congestion, which was getting in the way of business.
Other items on the list were in the domain of the private sector. The railroads and the power grid were built with private investment. (Yes, there was also some government help, and the railroads were overbuilt as a consequence, but the successful railroads turned a profit and thrived… until later in the century.)
A century ago, in general, the private sector knew that it had to work for a living. They hired millions of workers and literally lit up our world.
Today, the private sector has gotten lazy. They have learned that it’s easier to seek favors from the government than to actually do something. Banks used to earn their living by taking calculated risks and lending to businesses and individuals. Today, it’s easier to sit on the money, or park it at the Federal Reserve.
So while it’s appropriate to rail at government policy for not getting us out of our stalled economy, it takes two to tango, and the private sector has become as much of a problem as the government.
And what do we do about the lazy private sector? Alas, I have no idea.