McGovern on Realities of Market Economy and Sweeping Legislation

We were a McGovern family — sign in the yard, button on the lapel. He was a sincere patriot, and a great Democrat from an era of great Democrats, now sadly passed.

I have no doubt he would have been appalled at the idea of ramming legislation through, unread, that was going to affect every aspect of American lives, from cradle to grave. I have no doubt he’d have found the HHS Mandate unconstitutional. You don’t fly 35 missions against a totalitarian regime only to suppress the rights of your own compatriots.

And unlike the pols of today, he wasn’t afraid to say there was something he didn’t know, an answer he didn’t have and even something he may have gotten wrong. Such humility is unthinkable in 21st century politicking.

In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.

Today we are much closer to a general acknowledgment that government must encourage business to expand and grow. Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey and others have, I believe, changed the debate of our party. We intuitively know that to create job opportunities we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.

My own business perspective has been limited to that small hotel and restaurant in Stratford, Conn., with an especially difficult lease and a severe recession. But my business associates and I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never have doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: “Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape.” It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.

For example, the papers today are filled with stories about businesses dropping health coverage for employees. We provided a substantial package for our staff at the Stratford Inn. However, were we operating today, those costs would exceed $150,000 a year for health care on top of salaries and other benefits. There would have been no reasonable way for us to absorb or pass on these costs.
George McGovern, writing in the Wall Street Journal, in 1992

Yeah, he observed the evolution of our society, too, as it ran away from personal accountability and toward the attorneys:

Some of the escalation in the cost of health care is attributed to patients suing doctors. While one cannot assess the merit of all these claims, I’ve also witnessed firsthand the explosion in blame-shifting and scapegoating for every negative experience in life.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: The Corner links. Thanks, guys!

Ed Driscoll, writing at Instapundit links too, Thanks, Ed!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mike M.

    It was a Democrat Party in those days…as opposed to the Demo-fascist gang we suffer under today.

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Altho I’ve quit the Democrat party since and because of the Clinton presidency, I remember the McGovern campaign in ’72, during which I saw a signed letter from him saying that, contrary to the opposing campaign’s allegation, he did NOT support abortion on demand, and that his opinion was that the Supreme Court should have left the abortion issue to the various States. (Just sayin’, to head off any commenters objecting, “How could you have possibly ever supported pro-abortion McGovern?”)

  • Anthony

    My George McGovern story.

    One of my first memories is as a five year old watching the last pre election broadcasts with my dad. McGovern’s broadcast came on and I asked my father why McGovern had a US flag behind him if he was is a communist. I must have heard my mom ranting to her very liberal friend about McGovern.

    Twenty three years later I was living in DC and was speaking with someone who worked for McGovern’s advocacy group. I told her the story. A few weeks later I ran into her again. Apparently she told McGovern the story and he thought it hilarious.

    RIP George McGovern

  • Jeff Miller

    I also was part of a McGovern family and did some campaign work for him and even met him once. Though I was still 4 years or so from voting age.

    While McGovern might not have been onboard with the idea of the HHS mandate, he did lead the way to it. As the first Democrat pro-abortion Presidential candidate he was part of the deadening of the Democratic moral conscience. While the trail he blazed didn’t really help him politically, it certainly opened the way for what was once unthinkable becoming the norm of pro-abortion Democrats.

  • Gail Finke

    We were a McGovern family too. I don’t even recognize the Democratic party anymore, it is nothing like what my parents taught me it was. I don’t have a party now. I just look at each candidate and vote for which one will do what I think is the best job. These days, they’re almost always Republicans. But I’m not a Republican either.

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  • Howard

    Big Bird: “Can you spell Hayek? H-a-y-e-k. Hayek.”

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Whereas a commenter above asserts gratuitously that McGovern in ’72 was a “pro-abortion Presidential candidate”, I received at the time a signed letter from him, subsequently published in an Albuquerque newpaper, that his supposed being for abortion on demand was “a lie” by the opposing campaign. Thus McGovern’s opposotion to abortion on demand was his public stance.

    [I think sometimes people lose track of time and forget. Lots of people don't remember that once upon a time you could be a successful Democrat and still be pro-life. admin]

  • megapotamus

    So if McGovern had this eye-opening experience, where has he been? I don’t recall any serious objection to government expansion from this quarter. It’s like Bob Kerrey, always pitched as the sort of Democrat you can live with, yet in or out of office there is no material or public objection to the Progressive project no matter what else happens, including abortion. Including fatal levels of debt, spending and taxation. No cheers for McGovern but none for Nixon either. We could have had a clone of FDR in place of Nixon and had the same bad results.

  • Over50

    Oh it’s so nice he learned about how government can harm business – after a career of harming business when he should have known better. Sorry, no respect at all for someone like McGovern. If I beat my wife for decades and only then get beaten myself and decide it’s wrong, am I suddenly admirable?

  • SongDog

    George McGovern — a politician not impervious to fact and experience. Would that there were more of those today. And the 35 B-24 missions, somehow, that never came out in the 1972 campaign.

  • Ken

    I think there is something admirable and worthy of respect about someone who has the humility to admit to his mistakes and learn from them. Would that we all could do so.

  • Dr. Deano

    I graduated from high school when McGovern ran for president. I supported him, though honestly did not know exactly why – it was just the thing to do for most young people of my generation. We were steeped in the idea of “questioning authority” and wanting to get government out of our lives so we could live free to pursue peace, love and whatever else turned us on.

    I was a Democrat: I questioned authority and wanted “the man”, aka “government” off the back of Americans. I wanted to be free to love, free to live and I believed – truly believed – that America was founded by people who intended just such a thing.

    I had a poster on my wall with a psychedelic Thomas Jefferson portrait with these three prescient statements from him about American government:

    “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

    “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

    “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

    But over the 70s and 80s the Democrat party became obsessed with solving people’s problems by the liberal application of government and taxpayer money. I grew up in California and watched as the Democrats slowly but surely have all but destroyed it.

    To be clear, the Republican party is only incrementally better, but better they are. Encouraging the Democrats is encouraging the forces that will end America – and it won’t be pretty.