Friday, September 30, 2011

Tom Sawyer 2011

The regressives have largely succeeded in recruiting the wealthy to their ranks. They have now embarked on a campaign to convince the rest of us that we should accept a subservient rank in society and enroll ourselves in an underclass. They tell us that they should be able to bring the money they have been hiding overseas back into this country without paying any taxes on it, because that will enable them to create more jobs. They tell us that we should give them tax holidays and permanent low tax rates, so that they can create jobs. They tell us that if we give them everything they have and let them accumulate everything they want, they will let us work for them. Tom Sawyer couldn't have done better.

Who are the so-called “job creators” we keep hearing about? Certainly not the big corporations, which count the number of people they lay off the way a kid counts to ten in a game of hide-and-seek: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. It would take too long to count each individual who is laid off. And it might make them recognizable as individuals, rather than as just nameless hash marks.

A lot of politicians are telling us that small businesses create most new jobs. But these days, small businesses are mostly growing smaller, not larger. New businesses create some jobs temporarily. But the vast majority of new businesses fail in just a couple of years. The jobs they create aren't really created from an expansion in commerce. They are just a transfer of money out of people's home equity and savings, because small businesses can't borrow money without their owners putting up personal guarantees. When the cash is exhausted, the companies fail, the employees are out of work again, and the banks foreclose on the ruined “entrepreneurs.”

The truth is that these days, there are no job creators. But the truth isn't what is important to the people who are promoting the phrase “job creators.” What is important is that, in addition to the super-rich whom we read about, there are lots of less rich but still well-off people all across America who aren't creating jobs but who like the label. Doctors, raking in lots of money from Medicare and health insurance companies, are a prime example of people who would like to think of themselves as job creators, rather than just as folks making money off of other people's misfortune and sitting on big bunches of cash and investments. These are the donors the Republican party relies on to pad their campaign coffers. These are the people who make it seem like there is support for regressive politics not just on Wall Street, but in every city and small town where doctors have offices.

For years, doctors said they weren't the reason health care costs kept rising faster than any other part of the economy. They blamed insurance companies and hospitals and layers of administrators and bureaucrats. But when they had a chance to eliminate all those middle men who they accused of soaking up health care dollars by supporting national health care, the vast majority of them, and their associations, sided with the very people and institutions they said were the problem. Because, in fact, they knew they were all in on the scheme together. The drug companies and doctors and all the rest realized that the only way they could continue to amass their fortunes was if they stuck together.

A variety of rich folks who aren't doctors also like the idea that they are job creators. People who spend their lives watching over their inherited wealth enjoy the idea that they are doing something more important than just spending money on themselves. Hedge fund managers who sit counting their millions like gamblers at a poker table like to think they are doing something that is really productive, and not just taking advantage of special tax breaks that only they benefit from. The Republican party realized that these folks would rather join a party that told them they had a right to hoard all their money than join a political party that told them they should share their wealth for the good of the entire society. The Republicans realized that these folks would prefer the title “job creator” than the title “greedy, selfish tax-dodger.” And the Republican party recognized that these people would contribute to the party that showed it would support their privileged place in the economy.

The monied elite are not job-creators. They are modern day feudal lords, expecting their serfs to accept subsistence wages for the privilege of working for them. They are modern day Maharajahs, promoting a class system with extreme concentration of wealth. What they seek is a return to a time when wealth, not votes, conferred power and when power, not rights, guaranteed fair treatment. They aim to turn America into the type of society that America was created as a remedy to.

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