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Viewpoint: Bachmann, Republicans need a history lesson

Imagine my surprise one evening to hear these words come out of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's mouth: "We can't privatize the profits, Geraldo, and then socialize losses."

Mrs. Bachmann said this with respect to what the recent bailouts will mean for the American taxpayer.

We all share her concern. However, the use of that phrase has typically been used by progressives to describe the fiscal irresponsibility, lack of accountability and other economic shortcomings of free market ideology embraced by conservatives.

If she wants to continue using this phrase in other contexts, then she needs a bit of a history lesson.

Socializing the risk and privatizing the profit has been the Republican way of making life easier for their corporate supporters. A few examples:

• "Drill Baby Drill": Who foots the bill for an oil spill? Maybe the oil companies, if we drag them to court. After their livelihood was destroyed, it took 20 years for the citizens and business in Prince Williams Sound to see a settlement. And the low amount of that settlement was an insult to the people who made a living in those waters. Is that an acceptable risk?

• "Drill Baby Drill, The Sequel": Our foreign policy is inextricably linked to our energy policy. Thank Dick Cheney and his secret energy plan for continuing that grand tradition. We need a real (not secret) energy policy that emphasizes the need to invest in renewable energy. And maybe one day our soldiers won't have to risk their lives for oil company profits.

• "Drill Baby Drill, Part III": Denying Global Warming puts us all at risk. Not just polar bears. Republicans would rather have the free publicity offered by the naysayers like Rush Limbaugh (and wouldn't dare risk his ire).

• "Drill Baby Drill, the Quagmire": We were tricked into the War and Occupation of Iraq and then assured that it wasn't going to cost us anything. A risk worth taking, we were told. More than four thousand soldiers dead and more than a trillion dollars later, I don't think so. Who has profited? Halliburton, KBR, assorted no-bid contractors and, very soon, the major international oil companies who were dying to get back into Iraq: ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and Total.

• "ER": President Bush vetoed SCHIP saying your local emergency room is an acceptable alternative to providing health care to families who can't afford the premiums. Every one of those emergency room visits gets passed on in the premiums we pay. Ultimately, the health care conglomerates and insurance companies make out fine and profit from this arrangement. We all bear the risk of over 15 million people being uninsured.

• "Corporate Welfare: The Medicare prescription drug plan": We are not able to negotiate bulk, market rates with the drug companies. They can unilaterally raise the prices and we have to take that risk. Can we risk what a drug company will do to make their quarterly profit goals?

• "The Vanishing Middle Class and American Worker": Republicans have made it their life long endeavor to rid our country of unions and eliminate the minimum wage. Workers are asked to bear the risk of an oppressive employer and unsafe work conditions and unfair wages, without collective bargaining rights. Who profits from lower wages? CEOs and their shareholders.

• "Meet Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac": Yes, a classic case of "socializing the risk and privatizing the profit." However, the Republicans wanted to do away with the entities altogether and let the mortgage market find its own liquidity. Yet again, let those in the lower economic strata bear the risk of a bank's liquidity problems. Before Lyndon Johnson sold them off to pay for the Vietnam War, Fannie and Freddie were government entities designed to allow banks to sell it strictly regulated type mortgages.

• "Social Security: Still Working": A government program in which we are sharing the risk and sharing the benefits. Imagine if we had privatized even a portion of Social Security. The reason we, as a country, will not suffer another another depression on the scale the one in the 1930s is because of safety nets like Social Security and FDIC. Imagine if these safety nets were compromised because they were privatized. This is a risk that President Bush and the Republicans tried to sell us a few years ago.

For far too long, the American taxpayer has shouldered risk that U.S. corporations have claimed they are not able to bear.

And despite all claims to the contrary lately, Republicans have time and again favored deregulating not only the financial industry but utilities and energy companies, all in the name of conservative free market principals. And free market theory in practice ends up privatizing the profits and socializing the losses.

Metzger is a resident of Woodbury.