The professional left is going absolutely batshit over something Republican Klown Kar leader Jeb “Not another” Bush said to the Manchester Union Leader the other day. Unfortunately, they seem to be missing a couple of main points. What Bush told the newspaper was,
“[W]e have to be a lot more productive; workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”
True to form, the pro left latched onto the “people need to work longer hours” section of that quote and beat that horse to within an inch of its life. That phrase is, of course, important, but that level of commentary misses a couple of very important things. First of all, what about his definition of “this rut that we’re in”? Which rut is that? Our growth numbers are actually fine, for the most part. That is not where the problem is. His fantasy of sustained 4 percent annual growth is, well, a fantasy, and not at all sustainable, so there’s that. The only problem with the economy, really, is that, while it’s growing, it’s not benefiting very many people. Almost all of the benefit of the economic growth is going to the top 10 percent. And let’s get real; unless those extra hours come with a substantial raise, the only people who will continue to benefit from that fantastical 4 percent growth will be the same people who are benefiting now, and no one else. Imagine working more and making less. Well, in Republican America, you don’t have to imagine it.
Productivity has actually increased by a substantial 25 percent since 2000, which is even more incredible when you consider that household wealth has only recently returned to the levels seen in 2007, before Jebbie’s brother tanked the economy. Between the end of the Bush Great Recession and 2013, productivity rose more than 8.5%, while wages stayed completely flat.
Jebbie’s implication that Americans have a shitty work ethic is demonstrably absurd; the reason our economy has stagnated is because Republican economic orthodoxy is counter-productive. and I don’t mean workers aren’t working their asses off. The average worker puts in just under 48 hours per week for less money than they did in the 1960s, in part because Republicans started winning more elections and started encouraging employers to pay workers a lot less. It used to be that there was a relationship between wages and hard work, but under the Republican neocon approach to economy, that has largely gone by the wayside. During the post-war period, when the U.S. economy was the gold standard by which everyone else developed their economies, productivity and wages grew at roughly the same rate, and the results were spectacular. However, since the Reagan “revolution,” productivity continued to soar, while wages have largely been flat. Since Saint Reagan was elected, productivity has more than doubled, while wages have grown by just a little more than 12 percent.
The point that Jebbie is trying to make is that the solution to the economic problems he imagines is more
productivity; there’s one problem; American workers are still among the most productive in the world; they’re just don’t make enough money to live well. This illustrates what’s wrong with Republican orthodoxy and has been for decades. They only want to increase profits for their largest investors, and they couldn’t care less about the American worker, in part because they truly believe that higher wages act as a disincentive for workers to produce more, which is, um, a bit counterintuitive, just like everything else Republican neocons believe. Here’s reality, neocons; people who get regular raises and who are rewarded for hard work actually work harder. Business owners that pay minimum wage and treat their employees as expendable are rarely successful.
And before they say it, no Walmart is not a successful company. They increase their profits every year by opening more stores and selling more cheap crap. But they are hitting saturation level now, which is why they’ve started to reform a few of their worst practices, primarily their pay scale, and they’re starting to act like they might want to be successful someday. By the way, Costco has kicked their asses on a profits-per-store and profits-per-employee basis for many years.
The strain of neocon that has taken over the Republican Party over the past nearly 36 years claim to love capitalism, but they really don’t. I like capitalism, because I like the idea that, when someone performs a service or manufactures a product that someone needs or wants, they receive compensation that bears some relation to the value of that product or service to the individual or group who purchased it. At least, that was how things used to work, before Republicans started mucking up the works.
The problem is, modern Republicans ignore the realities of actual capitalism; something the Founding Fathers understood 239 years ago, which is why the same people who declared our independence from England embedded regulation of capitalism into our founding legal document. Who but a Republican doesn’t know about the Commerce Clause, and its mandate for the government to regulate the capitalist system?
For capitalism to work, there has to be a pool of available labor, which means some folks will always be left out of the system. Since we know this, we should have a sufficient safety net available to everyone when it becomes necessary. Republicans love to call people who don’t work and collect money “lazy,” but most are not; it’s just a function of the way capitalism. Every other capitalist nation in the world has a much stronger safety net than we have, and most of them have seen their fortunes rise as ours have fallen. And the one time we followed the Republican wet dream and tried unregulated capitalism, we got the Great Recession. One reason few “banksters” have gone to jail or been fined or sanctioned is because very little was illegal. Capitalism must be regulated because some people are naturally greedy, and regulation keeps them honest.
Regulation is necessary to maximize opportunity; if one company or group of companies is allowed to dominate an industry to the point that others are locked out, that actually inhibits innovation and limits opportunity. It is possible to over-regulate capitalism, of course; if regulations are put in place that prevent entrepreneurs from growing and creating jobs and opportunity for others, that can be just as dangerous as no regulation. But the solution to such a situation is not to remove all regulation from the equation.
The ultimate in unregulated capitalism is feudalism, and that seems to be what Jebbie and modern Republicans are looking to create. I have no problem with the rich, per se; in fact, we were a better country when technically damn near anyone had the potential to become rich in this country, which was before Republican neocons fiddled with the system and ruined it. The Republicanization of the United States treats working people like serfs.
I don’t want to be a serf. Do you?