Voters want an end to our rigged economic systemThe Honorable Sheila C. Bair
The tango requires close synchronization between two partners. For decades, the government and moneyed interests have been performing a political version of it, gliding across a ballroom strewn with special breaks, boondoggles and bailouts. The failure of the Democratic ticket to acknowledge this unseemly pas de deux led to its defeat in 2016. This time around, most of the Democratic presidential candidates have felt the public’s not-so-gentle tap on their shoulders and have vowed that their administration will partner with the public electorate who brought them to the ball. Yet, to do so, they promise a bigger and more powerful government — the same government that has been so willing to let profiteers fill its dance card in the past.
Democrats have been as willing as Republicans to tango with the rent-reaping lounge lizards. Time and again, well-intended government programs aimed at expanded public access to health care, education or homeownership are co-opted by profit-seeking concerns. Tax breaks meant to spur economic growth instead exacerbate yawning economic inequality while inflating bubbles, as tax-advantaged dollars chase too few opportunities for real economic growth. Government regulators become captive of the regulated. Whether it’s plane crashes or financial crashes, the public is put at risk.
The general electorate wants to break up the dance party. This includes many business leaders who are also fed up with government waste and favoritism. But they will be skeptical of more government as the solution. Andrew Yang’s idea for giving financial support directly to families — cutting out the government and industry middlemen — may have particular appeal. Ultimately, the person will be more important than the policy, giving the edge to a candidate such as Elizabeth Warren, who has made restoring independence, integrity and trust in government a centerpiece of her campaign. That is the kind of leadership Americans need to bounce the cronies off the dance floor.