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OCTOBER 1, 2010 12:59PM

Memo From Main Street

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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.

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oh, you mean 'socialism'?

america had a bit of socialism, during and after ww2, and there was a general prosperity then, well into the 50's. probably just a co-incidence...
A few observations:

1. Globalization will make it significantly more difficult to "tilt the playing field" to more equal terms because if we raise taxes and tariffs here, capital will simply go to where it is taxed less.

2. Aside from a few notable exceptions, we don't actually produce anything in the United States anymore. Thank Reaganism and removal of tariffs for that.

3.We cant "bring the jobs back" without inciting a trade war with the rest of the world, and breaking the WTO. The problem we have as it is is massive trade deficits fueled by trade imbalance. We import far more then we produce.

If we start taxing goods produced overseas as it is now, we will see a trade war and a depression. What we COULD do however is press real economic regulation, and offer people MASSIVE tax breaks to create American jobs, sort of a private sector WPA. The New Republic has an article about pushing the investor types to bring all that capital off the shelf to bring jobs to the US.
I like to call it social and economic justice. Such a stigma placed on the word 'socialism.' : )
I understand what you're saying about globalization, tariffs, taxes and trade etc. You obviously know your stuff, and I'll definitely check out the piece in The New Republic. But, to me, this is the established order of thinking and I struggle with that. This is how it's been for a long time, so ergo, that's the system we need to work with - only perhaps make it more productive for American workers. And I am intrigued by your idea of the massive tax break to create jobs. But my point is - let these corporations go elsewhere. Let the trade war begin. End the WTO. Perhaps something better will arise from all the debris. These corporations have near control over our government, regulations and policy. The people that own and run them have proven themselves to be 'bad actors' as Americans and as moral human beings. They've created virtual monopolies on so many of the things we buy or where we buy them. Wal-Mart for instance(not that I go there, because I don't). I'm talking primarily about the "mom-and-pop" businesses, for want of a better term. This initially was what made the middle-class strong, created jobs and helped to develop thriving communities. It's not Citibank or Target or General Mills that create the jobs that sustain this country - data bears this out. It's the small to medium-sized businesses, if they have a chance to thrive and compete. And it's not as if I see our government's priorities shifting toward the citizen and away from the corporate stranglehold any time soon. But it sure would be refreshing to hear someone in power in this country talk about doing the right thing, the equitable thing, and not just tweak this financial and economic system that has been swallowing us all up into its cavernous maw, for far too long now. But I'm not holding my breath...
The culture that worships CEO mega-stars and lets the everyday local business go under is a horrible, real-world side effect of the development of accumulation. Global capital is top heavy and doesn't care which way it teeters and eventually falls. A good, well thought out, personal appeal. Rated.
What we forget is that sometimes all the regulations in our country designed to help "level the playing field" make it very expensive to start a business -- from banking institution lending rules to employee hiring, payroll, and safety regulations. If our society relied more on hard work and common sense than lawyers and government to solve conflicts the entreprenuer would have a much more level playing field. It is easier for the larger corporations to handle all of this.
The American dream is still alive, you just have to have more conviction and capital than past eras to get through the b.s.!