Yesterday’s comments by President Obama about Romney’s ability to run the economy struck a cord. I’d been thinking about that for a while. Yes Willard was successful in his equity thing and he made money both for himself (I think he’s still making money from Bain) and his investors and that’s a good thing. If I invest in Facebook, I am looking for a return on my investment not a loss. (Sorry for those who bought Facebook stock on Friday…it’ll bounce back…maybe). But what Obama laid out yesterday is very true, the country is not in the business of making money for it’s investors. That’s not what countries do necessarily. As Obama said on Monday, “You know, he’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying, I’m a business guy and I know how to fix it, and this is his business,” he said. “When you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits…this is part of the debate that we’re going to be having in this election campaign about how do we create an economy that everybody, top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and folks on Main Street, have a chance at success.” he said.
Of course it wasn’t long before the naysayers cried “foul” saying, in Romney’s own words, “President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system…” Which as any reasonable person can gather, it is not. The USA is not a business, never was a business and to think it is is to misunderstand this country’s basic principles of foundation. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense but yet there are still people out there who actually believe the country is a corporation (my friend). The real question is, are the Republican’s really really really interested in the “common good” of this American society? Pope Pius XI in his encyclical “Quadragesimo Anno” (marking the 40th year since the seminal “Rerum Novarum” (“On the condition of Workers”) of Pope Leo XIII, talks about subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good. Subsidiarity from the Latin simply means “a person or thing affording help, a resource, aid, safeguard.”
“It is an effort at balancing the many necessary levels of society-and at its best, the principle of subsidiarity navigates the allocation of resources by higher levels of society to support engagement and decision-making by the lower levels.” (Meghan Clark – St. John’s University, New York). So subsidiarity is not the mantra of “smaller is better” just because it is smaller (e.g. government). Smaller is not necessarily more efficient or capable.
So what’s the buzz then about the budget and jobs and foreclosures? Government needs to be there to help not to get in the way. In other words it needs to be as big as necessary but as small as possible. Some things the federal government does are a lot better than local state or municipal governments can do. Regulations and stuff…
Ultimately the purpose of any society is to provide for the common good (I think that’s written down somewhere in some document someplace). We could all do our private good, but that leaves some important social tasks undone. So to Mr. Romney and the Republicans, we as a nation need to have a preferential option for the poor, the weakest among us. For this we cannot use subsidiarity alone. The common good of all is paramount, not just the investors. To run this country like a business is not only unhealthy, it is un-American. “Let them eat cake!” (Famous last words)
and so it goes…