The middle class is shrinking. Those in power have run up enormous debts on public credit while shoveling most of the money into private pockets. The corporations that have benefitted from this borrowing binge, meanwhile, leverage the global trade system to transfer their profits beyond the reach of national governments.

Meanwhile, we have been told lies by Democrats and by Republicans, divided into artificial camps and led into debates that are either irrelevant or so dramatically scripted that we fail to realize every choice leads to the same result: the dismantling of the social framework that defined and sustained the opportunity of the last century. National mobilization of resources has given way to radical individualism under a narrative that, in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must always expect less.

In this tumultuous time, we search for a way forward - a new Square Deal for the American people.

Monday, November 25, 2013

We are the Job Creators

Over the last several years, we have heard a great deal about "job creators," a Republican euphemism that takes the place of "the rich."  It is not surprising that the GOP has gone to great lengths to redefine the language used in discussions about taxes and spending: typical non-rich Americans have little regard for "the rich," but we do like "job creators," because we like "jobs."

Do you remember the Simpsons clip in which a future President Lisa promotes her planned tax increase as a "refund adjustment?"  Same idea, and it has worked before.  Remember all that talk about how we needed to "strengthen" Social Security, paired with discussions about higher retirement ages and lower benefits?  Or "strengthening" Medicare by transforming it into a voucher program?  These semantic games get played because they work.  "Job creators" is just the latest in a long line of gaming semantics.

What you may not realize is that many people -- perhaps including you -- are job creators.  Unlike the rich, who we assume create jobs simply because their money is going to some investment that we assume is putting people to work, many of us create jobs directly.  The reason that we may not think about it is that our creation is fractional, which is to say that any one of us does not create a whole job but rather some portion of a job that, when collected with other portions, provides full-time employment.

This first occurred to me in the context of child care.  There are many large child care centers, but many people arrange for child care through small, in-home providers.  Such providers, who are licensed and subject to state and local regulations, typically can have up to five children in their care at any given time.  The cost for one child might be $200 per week, which is too little to qualify for full-time employment, so enrolling a single child does not employ the provider.  Five children, on the other hand, deliver to the provider a total of $1000 weekly revenue, which, after subtracting expenses and taking into account tax benefits, delivers a weekly wage to the provider that is well above $15 an hour.  The parents of these children, by pooling their resources in a manner that is not coordinated or centrally planned, create a full-time job supported by their own earnings.

This phenomenon happens all over our economy, with maids and shoe-repairmen, carpenters and plumbers, and a whole host of other self-employed careers.  There is no central company paying these people; they are paying themselves out of the money they get directly from their customers, and we are their customers.  We create their jobs.

The distinction might seem minor until one stops to consider that it is this sort of job that actually underpins our economy.  "Employment" in the W-2 sense is actually a lesser form of market economy than 1099 contracting.  Our efforts are the driving force of capitalism, the engine of true business creation.  Those "job creators" we are told to venerate?  They are the ones buying up established businesses long after our involvement built them, and orchestrating layoffs and wage reductions to boost profitability for themselves.

To be sure, there is nothing particularly wrong with being rich.  So long as private property exists and people are free to spend or save as they choose, it would be foolish to begrudge those who build for themselves even vast fortunes.  But do not fall for the line that we owe the rich our livelihoods, or our respect as a class action.  Wealth is a side-effect, and far too often, those who have it in twenty-first century America were either born to it or obtained it through a series of manipulations orchestrated by a detached, minimally useful managerial class that has usurped the mantle of capitalism to cloak economically unproductive profiteering.

Cheer or jeer the rich as you like.  When you look for the "job creators," look in the mirror.

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