The View From Rattlesnake Ridge
Government Doesn’t Create Jobs, Neither Do Businesses
By Wayne D. King
There’s a whole lot of head-scratching going on here in the shadow of Rattlesnake Ridge.
Whatever your choice of news delivery, it’s filled with news about the Tax “Reform” Bill that the President is hawking. He’s going around the country like the proverbial snake oil salesman, telling us it’s going to feel a whole lot better once we buy his special concoction, once we have allowed it to “trickle down” our gullets anyway. You’d think by now we would know that every time he says “believe me!” he’s about to tell us a whopper.
Throw out that fourth grade handout you’ve been keeping about “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” The Republican Congress has ignored all of the normal constitutional procedures for creating a bill. Given that, it’s not hard to understand why I probably know more than the President about what they are up to, but no more than anyone else who has tried to stay up to date on the back-room shenanigans.
Don’t think for a minute that I’m being partisan. No, the Democrats are at least partly to blame as well. Democrats have been too spineless to offer an alternative vision to the country. They had the opportunity to demonstrate both transparency and a saner set of economic principles, maybe even to pick off a few rational Republicans in the process, but they squandered it.
Instead, we’ve had to rely on a few organizations that managed to get a hold of some snippets of the bill and, from that, to give us reports on the impact of some pieces of the puzzle, which are troubling to say the least. At the same time, the President and Congress treated all of us like mushrooms – you know what I mean – kept in the dark and fed the proverbial BS.
The good news is that the polls show that the American people are not buying it. Almost 70% of them are against what they have heard, or at least skeptical (49% opposed completely, 21% unsure). The bad news is that the Republicans – even the folks we have come to depend upon for their independence – don’t seem to care.
If the Democrats had only been able to sway four of them with a rational alternative, we might not be staring down the barrel at a bullet with our name on it.
Actually, the bullet more accurately is labeled: “The Precariat” on one side and “The Middle Class” on the other.
If you wondered whether this column would be as “highbrow” as the last one – as highbrow as we get up here along Rattlesnake Ridge anyway – this is where it begins . . .
The Precariat is a relatively new term in sociology and economics describing those who live day to day in a precarious struggle for economic survival. This essentially includes the poor and working class families in our nation. However, even the middle class is in danger, because a growing number of them are falling into the Precariat every year. Economists describe this as a “hollowing out” of the middle class.
Economists differ on exactly when the problem of stagnant wages began, but most agree that since at least 1977 wages for both the Precariat and the Middle Class have been stagnant while wages for the top ten percent have grown significantly and the top one percent obscenely. Think about this; for forty years wages earned by 90 percent of our people have not grown in real dollars.
In his acclaimed book “Capital in the 21st Century,” author and economist Thomas Piketty asserts that this is the natural order of things. Left unchecked, the natural state of Capitalist systems is to concentrate wealth.
Most of the people in the Precariat can not be described as consumers. They do not have disposable income to spend on much more than housing and food. Consumers with disposable income – those who have enough available capital to purchase goods and services – come from the middle class and the wealthy . . . the vast majority from the middle class by sheer numbers alone, but their numbers are shrinking.
That brings us back to the title of this piece.
Few are probably surprised at the statement that “government doesn’t create jobs;” but it may have surprised you that I would say “businesses don’t create jobs.” No doubt this goes against the current accepted orthodoxy.
Government doesn’t create jobs and, in the final analysis, neither do businesses because customers create jobs. Without customers – demand for their products – businesses will not have the incentive or means to hire, and government will not have the ability to develop their economies.
As the middle class continues to hollow out from a growing disparity of income and wealth, fewer and fewer of them will be able to buy the products offered by the businesses who are reaping the economic rewards of their consumption.
What the Republicans, and even the Democrats to some extent, don’t seem to realize is that – without change – a time will come when the ten percent will realize that the customers have stopped coming because they can no longer afford their products.
The current tax bill, seemingly destined for Donald Trump’s desk, hastens the day when we will wake to find this the case. It’s not hard to understand why. Even the more conservative think-tank-types are saying that between 70-80% of the tax benefits will go to the 10% of people at the top of the income scale, with 50% to the top one percent.
Today the plutocrats will be reaping the lion’s share of the tax cuts. Tomorrow, if we do not act, WE will face the pitchforks.
I don’t say this to be an alarmist. As a radical centrist, I am also a capitalist – through and through. I believe that the capitalist system is the most effective economic system ever conceived for creating prosperity and solving problems. Perfect, it is not.
I also believe that it is the responsibility of government to assure that the Capitalist system serves the broadest possible interests of all the people, ameliorating the concentration of wealth that Piketty describes; and that no system of government has been devised, more effective at doing this than Democracy – – when it is at its best.
But our Democracy is broken . . . or, more accurately, it is moribund, gridlocked, sloth-like.
In an age of accelerations when our economy is more innovative, more entrepreneurial, more dynamic and capable of solving nearly every problem we face, our Democratic institutions are failing to provide the guidance and leadership needed to steer these changes.
If you think this has all been without warning, think again. According to multiple studies done over the last 12 months, more than 10% of voters supported Obama in 2012 and then switched to Trump in 2016. Despite Hillary’s claims of misogyny and other related factors being the primary driver of the election results, it is more likely that this was an ongoing and desperate call for help. In any case, it was enough to decide the election.
The irony is what we are watching is one of the greatest bait and switch cons in modern American history taking place right in front of us. Desperate citizens provided the margin of victory for the election of Donald Trump because he promised to look after the “little guy.” Now, the President and the Congress have spent months waving the colorful flag of tax relief for the small business person and the middle income worker in front of us before dropping it into their top hat, but the rabbit they are pulling out of the hat is a giant tax cut for the very wealthy.
It may be that it is too late to stop the largest transfer of wealth from the Middle Class and the Precariat to the wealthy in American history, but I still hold out some hope that if we raise our voices now, before the House and Senate reconcile the two versions of the bill, that we can find enough Republicans to vote no on final passage.
About Wayne D. King: Wayne King is an author, artist, activist and recovering politician. A three term State Senator, he was the 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor and most recently the CEO of MOP Environmental Solutions Inc., a public company in the environmental cleanup space. His art is exhibited nationally in galleries and he has published three books of his images. His most recent novel “Sacred Trust” a vicarious, high voltage adventure to stop a private powerline has been published on Amazon.com as an ebook with the paper edition due soon. He lives in Rumney at the base of Rattlesnake Ridge. His website is: http://bit.ly/WayneDKing
Editor’s note – The opinions expressed here belong to the columnist and do not represent those of InDepthNH.org