Just the other day, Senate Republicans along with a handful of Democrats, killed a bill that would have taken away the tax breaks for companies that ship their jobs overseas. A few days before that, the vote to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans was tabled until possibly after the November elections. The argument basically goes, on both issues, that while we’re in a recession it would be a bad time to take away any advantages the rich in general and corporations in particular have because they might not create jobs for all those tens of millions of unemployed people looking for work.
What desperately needs to be done in this country to assure long-term stability and economic growth is to level the playing field for all people, as it has tilted to the wealthy and the multi-national corporations for far too long. And if initially that means that some jobs are lost, then let that be the case. Because what we have here is a form of extortion on the American people. Take away our tax breaks and we’ll take away your jobs. Of course, they’ll take away the jobs whether they get a tax break or not. It all depends on how much more money they can squeeze onto their balance sheet, employees be damned.
If ordinary Americans had the same opportunities that we had before the advent of Reaganomics (and all the years that ensued), we would be able to start our own businesses and thereby create the real jobs that sustain a nation. The small businesses out there would be able to expand as well. It is almost impossible to become an entrepreneur or small business owner today without taking on staggering amounts of debt(if you can even find anyone willing to lend you the money), unless you already come from family money. There was a time when this was not the case, and those were the years of prosperity for the middle-class and the time when others could rise up to middle-class status and beyond. But beginning in the 1980s we’ve been squashed like bugs and the squashing continues with renewed ferocity. It takes all you can do just to hang in there and stay afloat economically, forget about actually being innovative or realizing your dreams.
In 1958 my father opened his own business. He was a high-school graduate and a World War II vet. He owned a two-family home in Queens that he paid $30,000 for. Before I reached my twenties, the house was paid for. My father-in-law, as blue-collar as they come, bought a house with a barn in Cornwall for $20,000. His parents before him had bought a piece of property for a few thousand and built their own home. None of these people had to take on enormous debt to make ends meet. Life wasn’t always easy, but there was opportunity and hope. The playing field for realizing ones potential and security both financially and as a family, was much more equitable. There were still very rich people out there but the inequality was not as vast. Everyone had a chance to rise to their fullest potential.
Fast forward to today. I don’t care if Wall Street crashes and burns. I don’t care if General Mills and GE and Kraft and Nike and BOFA and all the rest of them go out of business. I know that initially that will mean job losses and tax bases and all the rest. But these are also the same arguments that hold us down and keep us from moving forward. If America is such a swell country, then all those other wannabe stars of business will start to make their way and rise out of the debris of the former masters of the universe, creating jobs and taxes and all the rest. But maybe when they reach the pinnacle of success, some sense of what could happen if they become too greedy or too amoral would hold them in check and instead they would be a component of a society that contributed to creating an economy, a populace and a nation that prospers together.