Wednesday, September 12, 2012



Greetings, a few days belated.  As fellow members of the property-owning class, I felt that you all might appreciate the chance to share my current take on the politics of jobs and taxes.  Accordingly....

Some of the most anguished sounds, the most heartfelt wails of outrage, emerging from the Tea Party stalwarts these days, arise from the fear that the Obama government has become the instrument of redistribution, of taking from the deserving opulent and scattering the wealth of the Republic at the feet of the demanding poor.  The "I did it" crowd, home safe after cashing this month's trust fund check, fears those insatiate populists out there, those would-be Socialists, the rabble determined to take away everything that grandfather accumulated for them.

It would be hard to imagine an apprehension less grounded in reality.  One thing that some of our more astute commentators have started to pick up on is the extent to which the current, painfully slow recovery is the result of onsetting technological changes.  In the July 23 issue of TIME, the ever perceptive Fareed Zakaria notes that, after each recent recession, the rebound has been slower and slower no matter which party is in charge.  He anticipates that "it may take about 60 months -- five years! -- for unemployment to return to pre-recession levels...."  He attributes this to "world globalization and the information revolution...."  Fareed -- always diplomatic -- is talking about outsourcing and computerization, both of which have a way of relocating those precious jobs either in the Third World or perhaps in The Cloud.  Either way, nobody you know is going back on any payroll in any hurry.

Much of the slack all this off-shoring and robotization produce is taken up by those deplorable government programs so resented by the right.  Businessmen have the right to fire people, a particular source of delight to Candidate Romney, but why should anybody's taxes subsidize the months these dead-beats waste on unemployment before they find themselves another job?  Other programs are equally deplorable.  Food stamps -- what a waste.

Recently I have discovered that the younger generation in a number of families like mine -- well-educated, of considerable social status throughout recent generations, youngsters likely to have graduated from good colleges and eager to work -- are now food-assistance  -- "food-stamp" -- recipients.  Some are in graduate school; others, especially single mothers, do have jobs, in industries like fast food and eldercare, that pay so poorly, rarely more than the $7-plus minimum wage, that to eat regularly they are dependent on food assistance and whatever additional help state or federal auspices can provide.

Now, step back.  What is really going on is that gigantic American corporations -- read McDonalds here, but there are innumerable others -- which hire these desperate souls by the millions in the midst of a faltering economy, are pumping up their own bottom lines by enlisting government to subsidize their balance sheets and pick up the minimum living costs for underremunerated employees.  The redistribution here is plain enough --  from government to corporations.  After which the radically overcompensated senior executives can be expected to complain day and night about the corrupting "nanny-state."

I could go on.  And I will -- next time.  We have a federal budget that now runs well over a thousand pages, every lobbiest-ridden line of which authorizes somebody some kind of deduction or carve-out or depletion allowance or matching governmental grant.  It will demand simplification, sooner rather than later if this economy  -- this political system! -- is to survive.  The first step is going to be a frank look at who really benefits, and who suffers, and what we can do about all of it.


Burton Hersh 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments here