Turning Up the Employment Dial

Despite what you may think based on my Doctor Who posts, I don’t watch things on TV specifically to get upset. So I had no plans to watch last night’s debate. Instead, I went over to Matt’s and we played a game about the fall of the Soviet Union. However, at one point we did turn on the debates, and I paid just enough attention to get all worked up.

Romney, it seems, has one idea: a plan to give everyone a 20% tax cut. Somehow reducing the tax payouts of everyone by 20% will not reduce the government’s revenue, however, because hey look over there! It’s “revenue neutral” claimed Romney, but, as has been the case for some time now, he neglected to explain how. Except he screwed up, and once mentioned how the 20% cut would be offset: by more people being employed and thus paying into the tax pool.

So now we know there’s another dial that Republicans think exists on the desk in the Oval Office:

The reason unemployment is so high, apparently, is because Obama simply won’t turn up that dial. Once Romney’s in, he will, and our tax problems are solved!

“We’re not selling enough candy,” says the candy store manager. “But I have a plan. We’ll give everyone a dollar, and then they’ll buy more candy!” “Hang on,” says someone else, wondering how he got involved in this poor analogy, “How can you be sure that they’ll spend the dollar on candy? You can’t make anybody buy candy.” The candy store manager waves his arm frantically. “CANDY!” he shouts.

In the Romneyverse, corporations, which are God’s vessels for action on Earth, will hire people as soon as they’re allowed to make more money. Although they’ve taken a hit recently, corporate profits are still way up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was at 6626.94 on March 6, 2009, opened this morning at 13,495.18. (To put this in perspective, the highest point it’s been at in the past ten years is 14093.08 in 2007.) Employment, however, is way down, as are wages. If corporate profits are way up, why the employment problem?

The answer, which is obvious even to me, is that if you give corporations more money, they don’t spend it employing people. They spend it giving a few people at the top a big fat bonus, or they spend it buying other companies that they can then “streamline” by firing employees. While it’s true that if the average American had more buying power, the market for goods and services would be stronger, there would be more demand, and thus possibly more employment, it’s also true that the last few years have taught companies that they can easily get by with fewer by making folks work more for less pay. And if average Americans don’t like it, there are plenty of folks in China and India who will do it for pennies. We’ve strangled the labor movement to the point that, greedy teachers and nurses aside, if unemployment dropped by half tomorrow, wages would still be so low that I’m willing to bet the tax shift wouldn’t be that huge. A job doesn’t necessarily mean a well-paying one.

Right now there is no reason for an American company to hire workers and pay them a livable wage. They’ve no incentive to do so, and neither party has a plan to give them one. Giving them more money (as well as freeing them from “burdensome” regulations) will supposedly encourage this, but not only is there no evidence of that being the case, there’s plenty of evidence of it not being the case. For the past few decades we’ve told companies that their one and only goal is to make money. Give them more and hooray, they did it without even having to do anything!

The myth that our corporate masters are benevolent demigods who would bring about a paradise on Earth were it not for the villainous, meddling government should by now be at the point where people who bring it up should be as mocked and discredited as, say, people who believe the Earth is only 6000 years old. (Okay, another bad analogy.) Yet we still trot it out, we still look to Wall Street’s unblinking, pitiless eyes and say, “Please, save us! Only you can help us now!” “I can do that,” Wall Street says, “but you’ll have to let me poison your water, raze your homes, teach your children, determine your health care, gamble with your life savings, jeopardize your physical safety, and feed you garbage.” And we agree to this, and then they go ahead and pay someone in another country a nickel to do it anyway because that’s cheaper. And then we let Republicans tell us this was our own fault.

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