The Long Run to the Bottom

Now would you just stop arguing, and listen a minute?  The days of this “yeoman-farmer” you mentioned are gone, pal!  People need jobs, “good jobs,” sure, even jobs with a “Living Wage.”  What do mean, this fella Marx says the capitalist “expropriates” all the profit and gives the worker ONLY a “living wage”?  What’s so bad about that?  Your precious worker would starve otherwise, wouldn’t he?  The fact is, people need to be deployed—I mean, employed—and companies need cash to do that.

And that’s where these banks come in, don’t you see?  Sure, they were reckless, irresponsible, what with their “toxic debt instruments” and so forth.  But who do you think has bankrolled the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country so great?  Right: banks!  HOW did they become “Too Big To Fail”?  How should I know?  The point is: no cash to loan to companies—whether it’s General Motors or some ingenious start-up venture—equals no jobs.

The government could, what, hire its own citizens to provide necessities and services that people really need?  Don’t make me laugh!  No, wait—just listen a minute.  Firstly, that’s socialism: you want us to model ourselves after CUBA?  Second, there’s no profit in that.  Where’s the incentive?  No: banks need money to make money, which is their incentive.  Sure, I don’t like it any better than you do: the public had to come up with what, a trillion dollars, to “help” the likes of Bank of America!  Necessary evil, buddy.  Seed money: and look at the result—the Dow’s going up again, companies are declaring record profits and…What?  Jobs?  Be patient, my good man.  These recessions take time to turn around, but in the long run…

What’s that?  Downsizing?  Automation?  “Outsourcing”?  These big American companies are pretty savvy, they’re not gonna keep their own American people cashless—who’s gonna buy their products if the people aren’t working?  No, they need jobs, good jobs, before they can drive to the mall, don’t you see?

What do you mean, “emerging markets”?  Oh sure, I know, big companies are looking to sell a lot overseas, sure, they even make a lot of their stuff in China or Mexico…but what’s that got to do with creating more good jobs here?  “Capital flight,” “race to the bottom”?  NAFTA and GATT?  I don’t see how these Free Trade Agreements are anything but that: agreements to FREE trade from all these embargoes and whatnot that block American companies from selling their goods everywhere!  If American companies can make money, as I’ve been trying to tell you, they can start hiring again—and create a lot of jobs, good jobs.

What is an “American” company?  What do you mean?  What are you trying to say?  You know what?  I give up: it’s useless trying to talk to you!

BILL MANSON previously taught social science at Columbia and Rutgers universities.



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