“Job Creators” & “Investors”: The Disconnect Between Republican Policies & Economic Stimulus
The Republican Party’s latest economic policy proposals are nothing short of pure unadulterated neo-liberalism — the radical merciless ideology foisted upon the world by economist Milton Freedman. Recent events throughout the country have been playing out like a chapter straight out of Naomi Klein’s hugely important bestseller, The Shock Doctrine.
First the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then the calls for deregulation, union-busting, and privatization; followed by — surprise! — severe austerity measures. These policies, if fully enacted, will accomplish little more than transferring trillions of dollars to the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and in doing so crushing the lives of average Americans.
Any ‘trickle down’ effects yielded from extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — which added nearly a trillion dollars to our national debt — would have been negligible at best. But they will literally be jack-hammered to oblivion if followed by the Republican-proposed Draconian measures.
Their calls for deep spending cuts in the public sector (both at Federal and State levels) will translate into whittling away all safety nets for America’s elderly and most vulnerable, while issuing pink slips for teachers, cops, firemen, postal employees, librarians, etc.
Instead of paying teachers to educate our children, and cops to fight crime, taxpayers will instead be writing their unemployment checks. That is, until Republicans can finally figure out a way to terminate unemployment insurance as well. Meanwhile, our national infrastructure continues to crumble beneath our feet.
And their proposals do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy. Unless you believe that sacking public workers will magically reduce unemployment, and somehow stimulate consumer demand (the driver for economic expansion).
Rather than subjecting lower and middle-income Americans to severe austerity measures, our economy would be best served by doing the very opposite. Policies that help to improve the financial bottom-line for struggling Americans guarantees an economic spark, if only because these Americans have little choice, but to spend every last dollar they make on necessities (i.e. they put ALL of it right back into the economy).
Unlike lower and middle-income Americans, the wealthy have the luxury to hoard each and every penny netted from their tax cuts. And few of them will be enticed to invest in a recessionary environment where risks are abnormally high.
How many millionaires are out stimulating the economy right now by purchasing third or fourth homes here in the U.S., when economists are now forecasting a double dip in home prices? How many are considering starting up new businesses, dependent upon consumer spending, when consumer bankruptcies just hit a 5-year high?
For wealthy individuals who do choose to invest, many will wisely target foreign companies, foreign mutual funds, foreign real estate, and multinationals who do business where economies are still growing. In other words, the ‘trickle-down’ part of Republican economic policies will actually occur in China, India, and elsewhere.
The supply-side ideology is based upon a faulty and outdated model that conveniently ignores competition for investment dollars overseas, and is largely dependent upon exaggerating the discretionary spending behavior of the wealthy.
As for corporate tax laws, two-thirds of all U.S. corporations dodged paying a single penny in taxes between 1998 and 2005. And how did these corporations repay the favor? By shifting their labor investments overseas, to countries where the cost of labor is extremely low, and where few if any environmental protection laws exist.
Cisco just released their international salary report showing that the average annual salary of their technical professionals in India ($14,508) is just 1/4 of what their American counterparts make ($62,993). And yet their Indian employees work 56 hours per week, on average — that’s 25% more hours than their American counterparts (45 hrs).
To rub some serious salt into the wounds, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that U.S. corporations (not even including Wall Street Banks) were sitting on close to $2 trillion in cash — the highest corporate cash reserves in over 50 years! — and still refuse to hire in the United States:
Rather than pouring their money into building plants or hiring workers, nonfinancial companies in the U.S. were sitting on $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of September, up from $1.8 trillion at the end of June, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Cash accounted for 7.4% of the companies’ total assets—the largest share since 1959.
The cash buildup shows the deep caution many companies feel about investing in expansion while the economic recovery remains painfully slow and high unemployment and battered household finances continue to limit consumers’ ability to spend.
Yet, Republicans contend we must deregulate our industries further to help corporations cut their costs — at the expense of the environment and consumer protections — and desist from demanding they pay their fair share in taxes — all so that they will have the money they need to “create jobs”.
NO informed American — outside of wealthy individuals and corporate profiteers — could possibly support the Republican Party’s economic policies.
Which begs the question: how does a political party, which serves only the interests of its wealthiest contributors, continue to successfully legislate policies that work against the very interests of the American people?
Since their ideology is unsupported by the facts, they hire “word doctors” who coin misleading phrases to be repeated over and over again. Phrases that are both simplistic and somehow ‘intuitive’ to a non-discerning public.
This has remained their tried and true method for selling destructive economic policies to the American people. Take Frank Luntz, probably the most famous of all conservative “word doctors”. He coined the phrase “government takeover of healthcare”, which became the talking point for the Republican Party during the health care reform debate. It helped spur the Tea Party into storming Democratic town hall meetings during that period — terrified that “Marxists” were coming after their Medicare.
Their current economic play-script is inundated with two phrases: “job creators” and “investors” — to be used in place of “corporations” and “wealthy individuals”. These phrases — more or less the equivalents of “fair and balanced” being used to describe Fox News ‘reporting’ — are now the cornerstone of the entire Republican economic policy narrative.
Take Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Virtually every sentence that comes out of his mouth includes the phrase “job creators”. Check out his Twitter account and count the tweets where he reiterates the phrase “job creators”. In fact, he created a website called AmericanJobCreators.com where he asks “job creators” to tell him what kinds of consumer protection regulations he should dismantle on their behalf.
The guy is a corporate lobbyist’s wet dream.
And our obsequious President — instead of showing leadership on this issue and dismantling this fictitious narrative — first capitulated on extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, then capitulated to Issa back in January on the argument that deregulation helps create jobs. In doing so, he legitimized what he knows to be untrue, making it next to impossible for his party to now push for MORE regulation and RAISE taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals without immediately being branded as hostile to “job creators”.
The Conservative Party in Canada, having noticed the success their Republican counterparts across the border were having with this “job creators” phrase, quickly employed it as their own anti-tax slogan.
But make no mistake about it. Our current economic plight was created by:
- Bush’s deregulatory policies leading to a financial meltdown, and the ensuing AIG and TARP bailouts.
- Bush’s misleading us into unnecessary & expensive wars.
- Bush’s granting the wealthiest 2% nearly $3 trillion in tax cuts over the last decade.
- Two-thirds of all corporations having evaded paying a single penny in taxes from their trillions in profits over the last decade.
- Corporations having moved our higher paying jobs overseas to low-cost labor countries.
It is not due to a lack of investing capital by cash-hoarding, tax-evading corporations and the wealthiest 2% (the so called “job creators”) — which remains the Republican rationale for cutting taxes and deregulation.
Yet, somehow the lives of the rich and powerful keep getting easier — more comfortable — while the burden for the reckless calamity they unleashed on this country slowly, but surely — thanks to a combination of an emboldened right-wing and a compliant, timid President — gets shifted onto the backs of the American people in the form of harsh austerity measures.
Milton Friedman’s legacy continues to haunt us.
Health Care Reform: GOP’s “Kill Everything” vs. Obama’s “Pass Anything”
This entire legislative debacle is proving to be nothing more than inner-Beltway political gamesmanship where the peoples’ interests have been entirely ignored — subverted to the self-interests of politicians and parties.
From the very beginning the Republicans strategically decided to make Health Care Reform “Obama’s Waterloo,” by obstructing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that the Democrats might come up with. Public Option? Republicans responded with “Socialism” and “Government takeover.” When that didn’t work — as a majority of Americans still favor the public option — Republicans resorted to drumming up fear that America’s beloved Medicare — our government ‘Socialist’ health care insurer — would be hurt, because Democrats planned to cut benefits. Suddenly, Republicans became self-appointed guardians of our socialist health insurer.
With no White House insistence that a public option be in the bill, health insurance-pocketed Blue Dogs were given the green-light to ensure its demise. Democrats then proposed an expansion of Medicare — a buy-in for those 55 and up — and the Republicans do another 180, screaming “Government takeover!” Blue Dogs checked back with their insurance industry masters to learn that a medicare buy-in would also be a “no-go” , and thus they ensured its demise. With no public option and no medicare buy-in, Republicans still plan on voting against it; hopefully filibustering it. The actual contents of a health care reform bill was clearly never an issue to the GOP. They have no interest in improving the lives of Americans. They just want Obama to fail, so they can reclaim power. Period.
But Obama approached this legislative initiative with the EXACT same disturbing mindset as the Republicans. If he were interested in improving Americans’ lives he would have insisted that either the public option, or an expanded medicare buy-in be included in any health reform bill. He himself had convinced many of his supporters of the public option’s necessity during his campaign.
But to the astonishment of his supporters, he never insisted that anything be included in the bill, because — as we know now — he doesn’t really care what’s in the bill; whether it’s real reform or not. He’s only been looking at this from a pure political angle (making him as sinister as the Republicans). In some ways his behavior is even worse, because the Republicans never claimed to be ‘change agents’. They didn’t run a campaign based on the premise that they were different; that they would not let entrenched interests control them and author their policy initiatives.
Obama proceeded to strike back-door deals with these entrenched interests — another broken campaign promise — precisely to ensure his own political longevity. He didn’t want these powerful industries — with their profits at stake — funding Republicans to the till. So he cut his risks by cutting secret deals, and in doing so became THEIR ‘agent’ — a ‘status-quo agent’.
We are left with a meaningless health reform bill — one that would do more harm to Americans than good — as Governor Dean correctly described it. And we’re now being forced to sit back and watch both political parties shame themselves even further. Republicans want the Senate bill killed for all the wrong reasons, and Democrats want it passed for all the wrong reasons. No one is advocating for the American people in this fight. It’s all about them — the beltway elites.
All this has left the American electorate feeling more cynical about their Government than ever before. Both parties continue to prove that the system is indeed broken — that they are incapable of doing the peoples’ business. Which leads me to believe that we — as a people — have far greater problems on our hands than this bill’s passage.
The Status Quo And How Washington Ensures It
A major impasse appears to exist these days between Democrats and Republicans on virtually every issue. On the surface, it would seem it’s all ideology-based. But upon closer inspection, their hostilities are, in large part, incited by media-manufactured outrage, where partisan vitriol and ideological demagoguery drowns out all thoughtful discourse.
Unfortunately, our country is in a mess, and on many fronts. And the proposed solutions (including the watered-down health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee yesterday) are more about symbolic change than meaningful change. Nothing gets done, nothing changes, because the biggest problems plaguing our country actually enrich powerful interest groups who are dead-set on keeping it that way.
Were the public (from both parties) to spend more time deconstructing the issues, and connecting the dots, they’d understand their anger is — more times than not — displaced. Yes, each side strongly believes the other’s ideological perspective is deeply flawed, but their inability to logically discuss issues in a meaningful way, or to pay close attention to lobbyist contributions to their own parties, ensures that they continue to miss the pink elephant in the room whom their elected representatives are tripping over to feed.
The two parties’ key ideological talking points revolve around the following:
The Republican Mantra — the government is everything that is wrong with society. It taxes hard-working citizens and gives it away to those who don’t work as hard. Big business can be trusted, and a laissez faire approach to the marketplace is essential to economic growth. Essentially, government is the problem, business is the solution.
The Democratic Mantra — the government is generally good. It was created by the people for the people. When market conditions are ripe, corporations will profit by exploiting labor and price gauging the public. They need to be reigned in to some degree by government. Essentially, business is the problem, government is the solution.
While there are some truths in each, NEITHER addresses how the realities inherent in both the American political system and its marketplace minimizes the significance of some of their most cherished beliefs.
A large part of the Republican mantra is a myth:
First and foremost, the government DOES exist to best serve the public interest. It WAS created by the people, for the people.
To embrace the Republican ideology, you must convince yourself not only that government is bad and incapable of doing anything, but that corporate interests are aligned with the public interest. In reality, NOTHING could be further from the truth. Corporations have a responsibility to no one, but their shareholders. They exist to maximize profits by any legal means.
If a corporation can save its shareholders millions of dollars by legally dumping toxic wastes into fresh water supplies, or by outsourcing all their jobs overseas, or by denying coverage to the uninsured, or by denying the claims of the insured, or by selling ‘snake oil’ as medicine, or by price gauging when competition doesn’t exist (like in the pharmaceutical marketplace, where patents ensure monopolies) then these corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders to exploit it to the fullest — to the detriment of the public they serve.
As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it: “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”
Take a look at George W. Bush’s laissez faire policies:
Bush drastically cut the funding of the FDA, thereby reducing government oversight over the food and drug industries. How did the food and drug industries fare when left to their own devices? We experienced more food recalls in those eight years than in my entire lifetime. Click into Bush’s report card of October 2006 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It outlines Bush’s significant FDA cuts, and the calamity that resulted.
Take a look at Sen. Lindsey Graham’s success in pushing Wall Street deregulation during both the Clinton and Bush years:
In one remarkable stretch from 1999 to 2001, [Graham] pushed laws and promoted policies that he says unshackled businesses from needless restraints but his critics charge significantly contributed to the financial crisis that has rattled the nation.
He led the effort to block measures curtailing deceptive or predatory lending, which was just beginning to result in a jump in home foreclosures that would undermine the financial markets. He advanced legislation that fractured oversight of Wall Street while knocking down Depression-era barriers that restricted the rise and reach of financial conglomerates.
And he pushed through a provision that ensured virtually no regulation of the complex financial instruments known as derivatives, including credit swaps, contracts that would encourage risky investment practices at Wall Street’s most venerable institutions and spread the risks, like a virus, around the world.
Warren Buffett, the world’s most astute and successful investor, warned us as far back as 2003 of the threat posed by these derivatives:
The derivatives market has exploded in recent years, with investment banks selling billions of dollars worth of these investments to clients as a way to off-load or manage market risk.
But Mr Buffett argues that such highly complex financial instruments are time bombs and “financial weapons of mass destruction” that could harm not only their buyers and sellers, but the whole economic system.
Had Bush regulators reeled back the financial industry’s exposure to these risky speculative securities, we could have prevented the collapse of insurance Goliath, AIG. But Bush, being the ever-hard-headed ideologue, rushed to enact even more deregulation initiatives right up to the final months of his Presidency in 2008 — at the same time we were experiencing the financial meltdown from his earlier deregulation. Since then, AIG has cost the American taxpayers $200 billion dollars, and the tally continues to grow. Its failure can be directly attributed to risky derivative speculation, and a lack of oversight:
State insurance regulators have said repeatedly that [AIG’s] core insurance operations were sound — that the financial disaster was caused primarily by a small unit that dealt in exotic derivatives.
Anyone who believes that less government (and more freedom for big business) leads to economic stability and is in the public interest, is either delusional, or a Lobbyist.
The Democratic Mantra For Bigger Government Ignores the Fact That Politicians Are ‘On The Take’:
Yes, unlike corporations whose responsibility is only to their shareholders, the government does serve to promote the interests of the American public. But the truth of the matter is they are beholden to powerful money interests whose political contributions determine whether or not they remain in office. If politicians refuse to subjugate themselves to these powerful interest groups — on grounds of principle — they not only forfeit their political contributions, the interest groups aggressively bankroll their opposition (in their upcoming election).
The power of these entrenched interests and their hold over our politicians has recently come to the forefront in the ongoing Health Reform debates. Look at the Democratic Senators trying to kill the public option, and see how much money they are receiving from the health insurance industry. Keep in mind they are defying the public will.
Even President Obama, himself, who has stated many times in the past that he prefers a single payer system, banished single payer advocates from even getting a place at the table to engage in the discussion. His closest advisers (Rahm Emanuel and Kathleen Sebelius) have been doing everything in their power to undermine the passing of a robust public option, despite the fact that Americans support a government-run insurance option by a nearly two-to-one margin, 61%-34%. A public option would guarantee a reigning-in of our nation’s staggering medical costs, and ensure universal health coverage. So why won’t Obama firmly commit to it and use his bully pulpit to drive it home?
In addition, Obama quickly cut a deal with the Pharmaceutical Industry protecting them from Congressional efforts to use its bargaining power to lower runaway drug prices. As part of the deal, he also agreed to prohibit American citizens from importing cheaper medications from Canada. The Pharmaceutical Industry, in turn, agreed to reduce drug expenses by a mere $80 billion — a guaranteed ceiling — and a pittance for such a profitable industry. In addition, Big Pharma agreed to pay $150 million in advertising for the White House ‘health reform’ agenda.
As the ‘old’ John McCain said back in 1999 (when he still had integrity):
We will never achieve these reforms until we first reform the way we finance our political campaigns. As long as the influence of special interests dominates political campaigns, it will dominate legislation as well. Until we abolish soft money, Americans will never have a government that works as hard for them as it does for the special interests. That is a sad, but undeniable fact of contemporary politics.
A Change of Behavior From Both Parties is Required To Turn This Country Around:
Republicans — Your ideology is misguided, and the proof is all around you. Your inability to acknowledge this fact and to seek new ideas only serves as a distraction in our country’s attempts to solve its pressing problems. You must ween yourselves from chasing after shadows cast by the likes of Rush, Hannity, Beck and Fox News. Your real enemies are not the government, per say. They are the powerful interests who’ve corrupted our government, and the propagandists who distract you from seeing it. Enough with the dramatic knee-jerk outbursts over hot-button — but meaningless — sound bites, and focus on getting at the real truth (in other words: stop turning to compulsive liars in search of answers).
Democrats — Policies are to politics, what location is to real estate. Policies, policies, policies! Get over the fact Obama won. Stop making excuses for him each time he breaks another campaign promise, or he’ll never deliver substantive change. Obama is proving to be one who takes the path of least resistance . So when you follow like sheep and cheer him on even when he’s selling you out, then you’re ensuring that the path of least resistance for him is the one aligned with the powerful interests — those heavily invested in the status quo — those working against the change you voted for.
If we don’t get a robust public option, or our troops withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan; and if we don’t get more transparency in our government, or an investigation into Bush’s torture abuses and other illegalities, or meaningful global warming policies it WON’T be because of an uncooperative Republican minority. They’re largely redundant. The battle for real change is taking place within the Democratic Party.