A plan for American capitalism
The Democratic front-runner has too little time for markets or business.
Elizabeth warren is remarkable. Born into a struggling family in Oklahoma, she worked her way up to become a star law professor at Harvard. As a single mother in the 1970s, she broke with convention by pursuing a full-time career. In an era of rule-by-tweet, she is an unashamed policy wonk who is now a frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. Polls suggest that, in a head-to-head contest, more Americans would vote for her than for Donald Trump.
But as remarkable as Ms Warren’s story is the **sheer** scope of her ambition to remake American capitalism. She has an admirably detailed plan to transform a system she believes is corrupt and fails ordinary people (see Briefing). Plenty of her ideas are good. She is right to try to limit giant firms’ efforts to influence politics and **gobble up** rivals. But at its heart, her plan reveals a systematic reliance on regulation and protectionism. As it stands, it is not the answer to America’s problems.
Ms Warren is responding to an enduring set of worries. America has higher inequality than any other big rich country. While jobs are plentiful, wage growth is strangely subdued. In two-thirds of industries big firms have become bigger, allowing them to crank out abnormally high profits and share less of the pie with workers. For Ms Warren this is personal. Her parents endured the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression in the 1930s and later her father’s career collapsed because of illness. As a scholar, she specialised in examining how bankruptcy punishes those who fall on hard times. The idea that animates her thinking is of a precarious middle class, preyed on by big business and betrayed by politicians feasting on the corporate dollar in Washington, dc.
Some Republican and Wall Street critics claim that Ms Warren is a socialist. She is not. She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit. Instead she favours regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.
The scope of these regulations is **jaw-dropping**. Banks would be broken up, split between commercial and investment banking. Tech giants such as Facebook would be dismembered and turned into utilities. In energy there would be a ban on shale fracking (which, for oil markets, would be a bit like shutting down Saudi Arabia), a phase-out of nuclear power, and targets for renewables. Private health insurance would be mostly banned and replaced by a state-run system. Private-equity barons would no longer be shielded by limited liability: instead they would have to honor the debts of the firms in which they invest.
This sectoral re-regulation would **complement** sweeping, economy-wide measures-a 15% social-security **levy on** those earning over $ 250,000, a 2% annual wealth tax on those with assets over $ 50m, a 3% tax for those worth over $ 1bn and a 7% extra levy on corporate profits. Meanwhile the state would loosen owners’ control of companies. All big firms would have to apply for a license from the federal government, which could be **revoked** if they repeatedly failed to consider the interests of employees, customers and communities. Workers would elect two-fifths of board seats.
Ms Warren is no xenophobe, but she is a protectionist. New requirements for trade deals would make them less likely. Her government would “actively manage” the value of the dollar.
Ms Warren champions some ideas this newspaper supports. One reason for inequality is that **lucrative** corners of the economy are locked up by insiders. She is right to call for a vigorous antitrust policy, including for tech firms (see Business section), zero-tolerance of **cronyism**, and an end to non-compete agreements that limit workers’ ability to gain higher wages and switch jobs. Given inflation, her plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years may be a reasonable way of helping poorer workers. The rich should indeed pay more tax (see Books & arts section), although we think the practical path is to close loopholes, such as a perk for capital gains known as carried interest, and to raise inheritance taxes, not a wealth tax. And while a carbon levy is our preferred way to fight climate change, her plan for clean-energy targets would make a big difference.
However, if the entire Warren plan were enacted, America’s freewheeling system would suffer a severe shock. Roughly half the stockmarket and private-equity owned firms would be broken up, undergo heavy re-regulation or see activities abolished. And over time Ms Warren’s agenda would entrench two dubious philosophies about the economy that would **sap its vitality**.
The first is her faith in government as benign and effective. Government is capable of doing great good but, like any big organization, it is prone to incompetence, capture by powerful insiders and Kafkaesque indifference to the **plight** of the ordinary men and women Ms Warren most cares about. When telecoms firms and airline companies were heavily regulated in the 1970s, they were **notorious** for their stodginess and inefficiency. Ms Warren’s signature achievement is the creation in 2011 of a body to protect consumers of financial services. It has done good work, but has unusual powers, has at times been heavy handed and has become a political football.
The other **dubious** philosophy is a vilification of business. She underrates the dynamic power of markets to help middleclass Americans, invisibly guiding the diverse and spontaneous actions of people and firms, moving capital and labor from dying industries to growing ones and innovating at the expense of lazy incumbents. Without that creative destruction, no amount of government action can raise long-term living standards.
Many presidents have taken positions in the primaries that they pivoted away from as their party’s nominee. If Ms Warren were to make it to the Oval Office in 15 months’ time, she would be constrained by the courts, the states and probably the Senate. The immense size and depth of America’s economy means that no individual, not even the one sitting in the White House, can easily change its nature. Nonetheless Ms Warren’s government-heavy master-plan contains much to worry about. She needs to find more room for the innovative and dynamic private sector that has always been at the heart of American prosperity.
sheer /ʃɪr/ adj. 绝对的；透明的；峻峭的；纯粹的；
gobble up /ˈɡɑːbl/ 狼吞虎咽 贪婪地抓住 风卷残云 急切地抓住
v.eat a large amount of food quickly
jaw-dropping /ˈdʒɔː drɑːpɪŋ/ adj. 令人惊愕的，令人震惊的
[Collins] ADJ Something that is jaw-dropping is extremely surprising, impressive, or shocking. 令人目瞪口呆的
Complement /ˈkɑmpləmənt/ n. 补语；余角；补足物 vt. 补足，补助
V-T If one thing complements another, it goes well with the other thing and makes its good qualities more noticeable. 衬托
V-T If people or things complement each other, they are different or do something different, which makes them a good combination. 补充
Levy /ˈlevi/ n. 征收；征兵，征税 vt. 征收（税等）；征集（兵等）；发动（战争）
[Collins]1.N-COUNT A levy is a sum of money that you have to pay, for example, as a tax to the government. 税款
2.V-T If a government or organization levies a tax or other sum of money, it demands it from people or organizations. 征 (税)
revoke /rɪˈvəʊk/ vt. 撤回，取消；废除 n. 有牌不跟
[Collins] V-T When people in authority revoke something such as a licence, a law, or an agreement, they cancel it. 撤销; 废除
Lucrative /ˈluːkrətɪv/ adj. 获利多的
[Collins] ADJ A lucrative activity, job, or business deal is very profitable. 获利丰厚的
Cronyism /ˈkroʊniɪzəm/ n. 任人唯亲；任用亲信
[Collins]N-UNCOUNT If you accuse someone in authority of cronyism, you mean that they use their power or authority to get jobs for their friends. 任人唯亲
sap its vitality /sæp/ /vaɪˈtæləti/ 使得活力、精力衰竭
plight /plaɪt/ n. 困境；境况；誓约 vt. 保证；约定
[Collins] 1.N-COUNT If you refer to someone’s plight, you mean that they are in a difficult or distressing situation that is full of problems. 困境
2.V to give or pledge (one’s word) 保证; 宣誓
3.N a solemn promise, esp of engagement; pledge 誓约; 婚约
Notorious /nəʊˈtɔːriəs/ adj. 声名狼藉的，臭名昭著的
[Collins] ADJ To be notorious means to be well known for something bad. 声名狼藉的
Dubious /ˈduːbiəs/ adj. 可疑的；暧昧的；无把握的；半信半疑的
[Collins]1. ADJ If you describe something as dubious, you mean that you do not consider it to be completely honest, safe, or reliable. 可疑的; 不太可靠的
2.ADJ If you are dubious about something, you are not completely sure about it and have not yet made up your mind about it. 有疑虑的
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