The (Real) Job Creators
I’ve never been a member or employee of a union. But I don’t cross picket lines, I don’t vote against school bonds, and I always side with labor against hostile employers and politicians.
I don’t take these positions just out of charitable solidarity, but also because it’s in my self interest.
I want the person who educates my two young children every school day to be well paid. We can’t claim that our kids and our future are really important, and then insist the person who helps shape them should be paid low wages.
I don’t want to live in a crumbling community of declining public safety and basic services. Our own mayor was obviously caught unawares by last winter’s snowfall (after all, who could have predicted heavy snow in ALASKA?). He might have at least just been honest enough to say “sorry, I believe in the low tax/low service model of government. I view public employees—like the ones who clear your street—as wasteful overhead, and you should just get used to mediocre services.”
You’re all too familiar with the cartoon that multimillion dollar ad campaigns try to paint in your head. Labor, the public sector, and anything else not traded on Wall Street are wasteful bureaucracies that stifle innovation and efficiency. Deregulating and incentivizing the private sector, meanwhile, unleashes the wealth generating creative beast that is the American Free Market. Any facts that fly in the face of this narrative are ignored, so who cares that the Wall Street barons who tanked our economy hail from the magical private sector, and that those who charged into burning buildings to save others on 9/11 were unionized public employees?
If union-bashing economic theories—whereby unions are “job killers” and the corporate interests who’ve fleeced our middle class are “job creators”—were correct, then Mississippi and Alabama would be the economic engines of our nation. Instead, “right to work” (for less) states are also the poorest, with the lowest wages and the worst schools.
If these theories we’re sold had merit, why is there such a vibrant entrepeneurial climate in the Bay Area, in California? There are high taxes, environmental protections, high union density, and all the other things we’re constantly told represent the socialist boot on the throat of economic growth. And yet, some of the most valuable companies in the nation are born and thrive there. Go figure.
We must begin demanding results from the people who peddle the Koch Brothers message, and to hold them accountable. When we send over a trillion dollars out the door for “the job creators” via the Bush tax cuts, and after a decade of this the employment needle hasn’t moved, we shouldn’t settle for excuses and spin. We can’t just shout simplistic slogans about “freedom” this and “socialism” that at each other. At some point, actual results and outcomes have to matter, and we have to be willing to acknowledge the obvious.
The problem with “supply side” economics is that it’s demand, not supply, which drives hiring. Ever notice how folks in retail staff up for the holiday season? My husband and I owned and operated a local business here in Anchorage for almost 20 years. We didn’t decide to hire or not hire staff based upon getting, or not getting a tax cut. I staffed up when the store was packed and we needed the extra help to serve our customers.
This is not a complicated dynamic. Whether you run a manufacturing plant, a tavern, or a software company, you hire because you have to—because your shop floor is being flooded with orders, because it’s three-deep all along your bar and your bartender’s swamped, because your mobile app is taking off and you need to hire another programmer.
Contrast the current state of widening wealth disparity and steadily declining middle class purchasing power with when American prosperity was at its peak. The 1950’s and early 60′s middle class was not only far more affluent than today’s counterpart, but this broadly shared wealth just happened to coincide with our nation’s peak in union density. It was a time when Republicans and Democrats alike still allowed us to do things as a nation—big things, like the GI Bill and VA Loans, the interstate highway system, and the Hoover Dam—that educated and employed Americans, built up our middle class, and spun off new private sector enterprises.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, who led us to victory over totalitarianism in World War II, was apparently just another “socialist.” Ditto for father of the Republican party Abe Lincoln and his Big Government Spending on the transcontinental railroad.
Today’s Republicans, by contrast, believe that it’s better to kill jobs than to allow any infrastructure to be built. And if people could feed their kids with political grandstanding, this would be great.
So the next time someone hits you with a vapid soundbite about “the freedom agenda” and bashes labor, demand to see the results. Ask how places hostile to labor compare to those who treat working families fairly. Ask to see the return on investment for all those “job creating” tax cuts that break our treasury. Ask those who crow they “built it” without help from anyone whether the building of our transit infrastructure didn’t employ anyone or ship goods to market. Ask if the building (with Pentagon tax dollars) of the communications grid aka “series of tubes” that would eventually become the internet really didn’t spin off any economic activity. The method by which you’re reading this post, which is made possible by private sector firms like WordPress, Apple, Adobe, and Facebook, would suggest otherwise.
The young daughter of our state’s AFL-CIO President happens to be a stunningly gifted vocalist. I’ll leave you with Miss Cody Beltrami reading the bad guys their rights.