Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Hold My Earrings for a Second
I find myself really frustrated with the American Voter right now.
I see the incredibly shallow political commercials, the simplistic rhetoric, the polls being driven by whatever latest economic numbers get reported or whenever gas goes up briefly, and I just feel like people are not this stupid.
People know that there are larger aspects of the economy at work here, and a serious history to the crisis we're in, right?
That the long-term erosion of labor unions and the horrible trade deals we have made have had a long-term impact on our economy? That by choosing "our" companies over our American workers, and what, assuming the companies would keep jobs here out of patriotism - instead of taking advantage of the lopsided trade situation we've set up, with our workers competing with people who are desperate for any money and willing to take almost nothing in compensation... we were making a wise decision? And what, we assumed that American consumers would not shop at Walmart and Target because they sell just about nothing made in America?
You know, the companies and the consumers did pretty much what they are supposed to in a mostly-capitalist society. It is true that buying American would help create more jobs: "if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S. made goods, it would create nearly 10,000 new American jobs." But that's not what capitalism is about, right? It's about the bottom line. And if that's the tack we're taking, that companies and consumers have no obligation to hire/buy American (which is a policy choice, folks), then the onus falls on the people in the government and the unions. And they failed. The government didn't represent the workers well, and the unions didn't organize well enough and didn't fight trade deals hard enough. (To be fair to the unions, though, they have faced unremitting individual worker pressure/intimidation, and disinformation and lobbying campaigns from employer groups and anti-labor politicians.)
That, and the voters. We're in a democratic republic, so everybody who is able to vote takes a share of the blame, folks. Because we didn't pay attention to the loss of garment manufacturing, and all of the other manufacturing we have lost. We saw the changes that have happened to our economy from the 1970s until today. We just figured, what, service jobs would be enough to support us in the style to which we had become accustomed, and yet not be fungible enough to be shipped abroad once trade deals and technology made that the cheapest thing to do? We thought companies that have set up offices in the Caymans to avoid our fairly low corporate taxes care at all about hiring Americans?
And then we expect to see no taxes raised during war or during the need for a massive national defense effort in the wake of terrorist attacks on our country? And nobody in the Republican ranks thought, hey, maybe we shouldn't borrow money from China to fight two wars because we're too anti-taxes or too chicken to pay for our own policy choices? And the Democrats were too afraid to be seen as anti-war or pro-taxes to demand accountability in any more than a weak, procedural way?
And that's all Obama's fault? Come on. He's not perfect, but he decidedly did not dig this hole, and we all know it - that's why W had the highest disapproval rating of any president - and beat Nixon in the race to the bottom of past presidents in approval ratings. (And no, I'm not saying Bush was entirely to blame for the larger jobs situation, but he put us in a terrible place to deal with any kind of less-than-favorable situation by giving away trillions in tax breaks that we simply could not afford, all while escalating borrowing from China because he knew he couldn't sell his wars to the American people if they actually saw the cost.)
Oh, I'm sorry, Obama hasn't fixed it fast enough for you, American Voter? When you gave him a Tea Party to try to make deals with - one filled with toddlers who'd rather throw a temper tantrum over spending than see us keep our credit rating?
And Romney, who specializes in the "you're on your own, good luck, sucker" form of capitalism is the guy who can fix it for us?
Think critically, darn it.
Look, I think Krugman's pretty clearly right that a lot of the current job situation could be significantly helped by the federal government helping states hire back teachers and first responders they've had (or chosen) to lay off.
But we still have crappy trade policies and we just aren't building enough, and there is nobody who's got that plan in place to get that kind of transition done right now. It would take actual, serious investment by the government. Real spending. And real taxes.
And right now we are faced with politicians who for some reason I cannot fathom don't think you can handle that information. Maybe that's because the polls seem to indicate that we can't. That we are fair weather voters and thinkers.