Quote of the Day

QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Conference committee members continue to debate the details of a Wall Street reform package, and one of the contentious issues of the week involves limiting debit fees banks can charge retailers.

This problem isn’t new — retailers have long complained that unreasonable fees undermine profits, and lead to higher prices for consumers.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a participant in the conference committee talks, spoke to the Tennessee Bankers Association last week, and explained why he’s on the banks’ side. (thanks to reader R.P.)

“You have these retailers, gas station owners paying these debit card fees and your heart goes out to them,” Corker, R-Tenn., said. “But the federal government getting involved in setting prices, I just voted against it.”

Of course. Corker feels bad about the burdens on retailers and customers, but not so bad that he’s willing to allow the government to intervene on their behalf.

It gets back to a point I like to emphasize from time to time. For the left, political goals relate to policy ends. We want to expand access to quality health care. We want to lower carbon emissions to combat global warming. We want to reform the lending process for student loans so more young people can afford to go to college. We want to help retailers who can’t afford unfair fees. There are competing ways to get to where progressives want to go, but the focus is on the policy achievement.

The liberal worldview is not necessarily about increasing the size of government or raising taxes; those mechanisms are only valuable insofar as they reach the desired end-point. Whether the government increases or shrinks in the process is largely irrelevant.

For the right, it’s backwards, since the ideological goal is the achievement. Corker’s comments are straightforward — the goal isn’t about helping retailers or consumers; the goal is to limit government. Why? Because limiting government is good.

As Jon Chait explained a few years ago, “[I]f you have no particular a priori preference about the size of government and care only about tangible outcomes, then liberalism’s aversion to dogma makes it superior as a practical governing philosophy.”