Do Barack Obama’s state have their equivalent of 1968′s Breshnev Doctrine, wherein the communist former leader of the Soviet Union stated that, as George Will accurately describes it in his column today, “asserted a Soviet right to intervene to protect socialism wherever it was imposed”?
Objectors will immediately respond that Fiat is running Chrysler, that GM wants to go public, and that some banks are being “allowed” to pay back TARP money. The quick responses are:
- I’ll believe it when I see it.
- Money-losing companies that don’t have prospects for consistent growth usually don’t go public (except in the Internet bubble days of the mid-late 1990s, and we see how that worked out).
- Many banks haven’t paid the money back, there’s no guarantee that others will be allowed to do so, and Washington is usurping management perogatives over banks that have repaid in compensation, travel, and other areas.
Will notes signs that there is in reality little interest in letting go in Washington:
(does Obama and his administration) have an aspiration that they dare not speak? Do they hope state capitalism will be irreversible — that wherever government has asserted the primacy of politics, the primacy will be permanent?
They say not, but they say many things they probably do not believe. (That a government-run “public option” health insurance would not extinguish or even harm private insurance; that cap-and-trade carbon regulations will raise energy costs without injuring the economy; that taxing Peter to subsidize Paul’s purchase of a new car is a sound basis for economic growth; that a 85 percent unspent stimulus has routed the recession, etc.) Two legislative proposals are revealing the administration’s real intentions regarding government ownership of companies.
The “Auto Stock for Every Taxpayer Act” drafted by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, would have required the Treasury Department to distribute to individual taxpayers — evenly, to the approximately 120 million who filed 2008 returns — all the stock the government holds in General Motors (61 percent) and Chrysler (8 percent). ….. the legislation would (also) have prevented government from influencing corporate decisions for social, energy or environmental policy purposes.
Last month the Senate rejected this legislation 59-38. Only one Democrat voted for it.
….. the “TARP Recipient Ownership Trust Act,” introduced by Sen. Bob Corker, another Tennessee Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat …. says that when the government owns more than 20 percent of a company (today, AIG, Citigroup and GM), that stake will be controlled by an independent trust administered by three unpaid trustees appointed by the president. The trust would have two primary responsibilities.
One would be to guarantee that the companies are run not as political pawns but as profit-making entities seeking to maximize shareholder value. As Alexander notes, “there are at least 60 congressional committees and subcommittees authorized to hold hearings on auto companies and most of them will, probably many times.” Another responsibility would be to divest the government’s ownership stake by Dec. 24, 2011 ….
….. The president accurately says Americans are “reluctant shareholders” of GM, AIG and Citigroup. But is he?
If the Corker-Warner legislation is defeated, as Alexander’s bill was, on an essentially party-line vote, this will be redundant proof that Obama’s professed reluctance is fictitious. If it is, then what is real is what the Democratic left desires, an Obama Doctrine that says the trumpet of state capitalism — capital increasingly controlled from Capitol Hill and the Treasury Department — will never sound retreat.
Thus, as Will notes, we will have our proof one way or the other soon enough.
The Breshnev Doctrine was only defeated when the Soviets’ puppet regimes were overthrown in the late 1980s, and only then after the Soviet Union had been severely weakened for a decade by a determined Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, and Margaret Thatcher.
If the Obama Doctrine described by Will becomes evident, how will it be defeated?
If the Obama Doctrine described by Will becomes evident, guess who will come to be seen as one of its principal apologists for the doctrine in real life?