A recurring theme in the upcoming GOP Presidential Debates will surely be the role of the government in the economy, and as sure as Donald Trump is a bloviatious blowhard, there will be the tired old assertions that the government cannot create jobs…and that’s just horse pies.
It is a fictitious assertion of a biased definition of “job” designed to obfuscate the question even before it has been asked.
To illustrate this, start with a relatively neutral definition of job: any routine activity for which we earn income. This covers a wide range of pursuits, from managing a grocery store to selling financial derivatives. It does not include cutting your own lawn (it’s routine but you don’t earn income) or selling that pool table you were positive you were going to use (you earn income but it’s not routine). Many others are contracts between individuals and/or companies to perform service activities on a regular basis, and in exchange the government pays the contractors who, in turn, pay their employers. All examples above are jobs.
But, those who say that the government cannot create employment are adding another element to the definition. To them, a job is any routine activity for which we earn income paid by an entity required to earn a profit. There is no compelling reason for this add-on and it arbitrarily excludes everyone from policemen, firefighters and teachers, to astronauts, politicians and/or employees of the American Cancer Society.
By the qualified definition, they don’t have “jobs” because their income is derived from tax revenue and not private-sector sales. Ditto every single fireman, public school teacher, Marine, sailor, airman, soldier, national park ranger, defense industry employee, NASA scientist, social worker, librarian, etc., etc. None of them has a job.
Why would anyone with a modicum of sense embrace such a questionable characterization? Because it doesn’t prove their ridiculous assertion, and Fox News says so, why else? Their true goal isn’t to generate a scientific understanding of the manner in which the macroeconomy operates, but to make a moral statement. Specifically, their contention is that only those routine activities financed by profit are truly of any value (until it’s their house on fire or their car stolen, of course).
Moreover, what about all those goverment contractors that, before the GOP and Fox Noise declared the “gubmint don’t create no jobs”, employed people who kept the Natchez Trace Parkway, The Vicksburg National Military Park, The Grand Canyon, and every other National Park and Parkway from looking like third world, littered, and overgrown countryside like you’ll see in Zimbabwe? Because that’s what they’re starting to lok like under the GOP-fueled austerity.
In the eyes of the hypocritical purveyors bullshit, everything the government does is unnecessary because if people really wanted it, they would have bought it in the private sector: or that which is useful is profitable. Furthermore, they say, were it not for my taxes, those in the public sector would not have a job. Firemen earn a salary only because some of mine was taken away (under threat of imprisonment).
It is not surprising that those who espouse this view are almost always in the private sector themselves. It says, “I deserve my income because I work hard creating something of value. Meanwhile, government employees are just handed a portion of my salary for doing something no one really wants. Therefore, not only am I morally superior, but my taxes should be cut!”
It’s a very convenient philosophy for small-minded, sycophants, but it’s not economic analysis. (From time to time, you also hear this from some in the public sector, but they either conveniently ignore the contradiction or believe that where they work is one of the few exceptions.)
What this ignores is something I have asserted for years to mostly brainwashed simpletons who can’t see past the blonde bimbos spewing hatred on Fox: that not everything that is profitable is truly of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.
If we defined a job as any routine activity for which we earn income paid by an entity whose activities are socially valuable, then we would most certainly be excluding things done by BOTH the private and public sectors. How much do private sector activities like pornography, reality TV, and cigarette smoking add to our well being? Meanwhile, if we depended solely on profit for motivation, we would not have national defense, child protective services, or police protection or fire protection.
Furthermore, the means by which public sector activity is financed is more complex than implied above. Not only do your taxes go to pay the salary of the fireman, but, when he spends it, his salary contributes to your wages…and the most desirable aspect for all true capitalists: demand for the goods or services all these so-called capitalists supposedly cherish.
So who is supporting whom–is the government dependent on taxation of private sector salaries, or are private sector salaries dependent on sales to government institutions and employees? Obviously, they are largely interdependent and rely on the continuation of the flow between them.
Largely, but not completely, for if one of the two can act with autonomy, it is the government. At the federal level, we can spend in deficit indefinitely and without fear of default (see: It is Impossible for the US to Default), meaning that the government can spend even without tax revenue, and its spending can create private sector sales–and jobs. Therefore, in a world where we have a difficult time generating sufficient demand to hire all those willing to work, the private sector is actually more dependent on the government to boost its sales than the government is on the private sector for tax revenues’
Now who is the parasite Mr. and Mrs. GOP?
This is certainly not to argue that all government spending is socially useful. Of course it isn’t, any more than all private sector is. It is our responsibility to complain loudly when we think the public sector is wasting resources.
But, one thing is clear: the government creates jobs, and lots of them. In fact, the private sector needs them to do so. Without governmental deficits the public sector could not survive. It’s just that simple. Too bad the simpletons on the right cannot add or subtract without some Fox or some conservative, self-serving whiner telling them the sky is falling because of the government’s “debts”.
Harvey A. Gold