Exit from the Death Spiral
Posted by aogTuesday, 31 December 2002 at 19:05 TrackBack Ping URL
The 2/9 Dec 2002 issue of The New Republic has an article by Noam Scheiber. This article concerns Eliot Spitzer, who is the attorney general for the state of New York. Spitzer, despite being aggressive against business interests, is very popular in New York. Schieber believes that it is because Spitzer goes after specific, egregious behaviour and so doesn't come off as generically anti-business. With most voters owning stock, being anti-business is generally perceived as anti-retirement fund or anti-college fund, which are not good places to be. Schieber calls this "pro-consumer" to distinguish it from "anti-business". I think that this is fairly close - if the article is accurate, Spitzer is looking for what benefits the citizenry more than what punishes business. The best example in the article was his fight against GE and PCB's in the Hudson River. A standard issue Democrat would have fought for massive punitive damages and increased regulation (even though current regulations have already put a stop to it). Spitzer, in contrast, settled for GE paying for the dredging to clean things up. This benefits the citizenry directly, does not unduly burden GE, and encourages other businesses in similar situations to negotiate in good faith because they can get a reasonable resolution. A point I tried to make earlier is that if companies are going to be put up against the wall regardless of how cooperative or reasonable they are, then it only makes sense for them to be as obstructionist as possible and fight as dirty as they can. On the other hand, if there's an escape route that's less costly and painful, businesses will go for it. Here's the concluding paragraph:
When I asked Spitzer whether he regretted not pressing Merrill Lynch for large, punitive-damage awards, he was basically unapologetic. "This is not a Robin Hood effort," he told me. Democrats who don't want the growth of the investor class to mean the end of government activism would be wise to learn that lesson.
Well, it's learn or spiral for the Democrats.