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You can’t divest your way to a prosperous nation

Reagan was wrong. Gordon Gekko was wrong: Greed is not good. You can’t divest your way to a prosperous nation.

Imagine if you treated your car the way the Republican Party has treated US infrastructure, labor and the economy. Would you cut costs by delaying oil changes and brake jobs? Would you avoid replacing the brake pads because it was cheaper?

The Reagan Revolution did this to our country over the last 40 years. We prioritized profits and instant gratification over long term health for our nation, our position in the world and our people.

And it shows.

Some things have to be done by the government to make capitalism work. There have to be guardrails. We have to make allowances for those who can’t. The free market is not the measure of all things good. After all, child prostitution is – at root – the free market in action.

We must have a moral underpinning to the way our country works: in business, in relations between people and in our economy. Extracting value from a stressed community is not good business. Cutting off a mountaintop for mining and disposing the detritus in fishing streams is not a valid business model.

My Mom used to call this kind of thing: “blood money.”

And yet this rapacious, “extractive” model is represented everywhere across the world. Extract value from communities and the environment, bank the resulting profits, and make off before anyone is the wiser.

“Business is business” or “It’s all about the money” are the rallying cries of this model. Anything goes as long as it makes money. That is the measure and extent of its moral foundation. And because of its extractive nature, it is inherently short term. It leaves nothing of value in its wake. Only misery.

Contrast this to FDR’s investments in American infrastructure and labor. Was it expensive? Of course. Was it wasteful? Probably. All large projects are – just ask the Defence Department. But it tried to help people. And it broadly succeeded, though certainly not for all.

We are at another moment when we need to make investments that are in the long term interests of our country and our people. Big, difficult issues are on the table. There is work to be done. But hidden in this work are the seeds of change that are ripe with possibility. There are opportunities waiting to be realized – on issues that are long overdue for our compassion, inspiration and action.

And on the other side of that awaits the Beloved Community, a functional Democracy and a country we can all truly be proud of.

Of this I am certain.

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