For as long as I can remember, Republicans have been touting that businesses are the job creators and that regulating or taxing businesses will mean fewer jobs—which is why so many Americans believe them. In actuality, businesses don’t create jobs, demand for a product or service creates jobs; but since that takes a little explaining to the average American, Democrats have allowed Republicans to push the simple idea that only businesses are the makers and everybody else are takers. This “simplicity mantra” falls squarely into my philosophy of the Republican “message mill” that goes to the heart of their advantage…. “A simple answer that is clear and precise, but bullshit, will always have more power in the world than a complex answer that is true.”
I simply do not remember a single time when a Democrat has challenged the underlying assertion that prosperity comes from businesses. But last Saturday, we saw two of the Democratic candidates for president do just that during their debate…of course due to the ineptitude of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, arguably the most boneheaded DNC Chairperson in history, there were probably only 3 other people that saw the debate because MS Shultz did not see the folly of scheduling a presidential debate on a Saturday night towards the end of college football season….and I Tivo’d it, I mean come on Debbie!
Anyway, the failure of Democrats to tell a bigger story about the economy is a major reason that, while voters largely agree with Democrats on specific issues like raising the minimum wage, limiting prescription drug prices, or regulating Wall Street, they still cast their votes for Republicans who champion lower taxes and deregulation of business as their key to economic growth. Polling consistently shows that the Republican economic message does well with a majority of voters, but it’s complete and abject hokum.
When Democrats actually do garner the balls to challenge Republican economic policies, they try to do so on the grounds of fairness!! But then they fail to provide an explanation of how demand for services or products move the economy forward and create prosperity. Fairness is simply not enough to spur voters to logically think through the process that creates jobs or how the economy is going to provide economic opportunity for their children, much less overcome the Republicans’ simpleton mantras that appeal to people too worried about the next new iPhone to look around and see what is really happening.
Despite themselves, that may be finally beginning to change, as I (and the other two viewers) heard from two of the Democratic candidates last Saturday. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both told a very different story: People who earn enough to support their families and still have discretionary income (income that exceeds their ability to only buy what they need) creates jobs and prosperity and moves the economy forward.
When Sanders was asked about whether a $15 minimum wage would cause job loss, he made both the moral and the economic case for raising the minimum wage to $15, and even Mr. Sanders just couldn’t help qualifying his statement with subliminally weak “over the next few years.”
Yes, the moral argument is compelling, and it’s where most Americans start. As Sanders said, “It is not a radical idea to say that if somebody works 40 hours a week that person should not be living in poverty. It is not a radical idea to say that a single mom should be earning enough money to take care of her kids.”
Hell, members of Congress get paid their $174,000 for life (as well as benefits) and are literally in Washington doing their jobs for 123 days out of 365 a year…which by any reasonable definition is a part-time job….and one in which they set their own schedules AND pay raises, but would deny a living wage to millions of their constituencies.
But when moral values are challenged by the job-killing argument, many people, understandably, begin to worry that policies that raise costs for business could mean dire consequences for their own jobs and create inflation (which also gets an undeserved bad rap, but try explaining THAT to the average American who has had stagnated wages for 30 years).
When Bernie Sanders explained, “When we put money into the hands of working people they’re gonna go out [be spent] for our goods. They’re gonna go out [be spent] for our services. And they are gonna create jobs in doing that. That is the kind of economy I believe [in], put money in the hands of working people, raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.” Admittedly, it takes a little more thought to walk oneself through that process, so you can insert the phrase I expressed in paragraph one here….“A simple answer that is clear and precise, but bullshit, will always have more power in the world than a complex answer that is true.”
O’Malley made the case even more succinctly. Unlike the standard rhetoric from Republican governors—like Bobby Jindal (LA), Sam Brownback (Kansas), and Scott Walker (Wisconsin), all of whom have put their respective states into the equivalent of a Depression by cutting taxes and governments to the bone—who boast of increasing employment by attracting businesses with tax breaks, O’Malley bragged that the Maryland economy was driven by high wages, because “a stronger middle class is actually the source of economic growth. And if our middle class makes more money, they spend more money. And our whole economy grows.”
That italicized phrase is one good sound bite description of the progressive economic view that Americans need to hear over and over again if they are going to trust Democrats to boost prosperity. Another version is “working people and the middle class are the engines of the economy.” And a third is “we build the economy form the middle-out, not trickle-down.”
Unfortunately, we did not hear such clarity from Hillary Clinton, who offered the tepid statement that raising the minimum wage “doesn’t result in job loss.” Wow, way to go Mrs. Wall Street.
Clinton is known as a policy wonk, but that’s not what we need from a president. Her husband, known as “the great explainer,” has the gift of translating public policy into simple concepts that get people nodding their heads in agreement, but bear in mind that Billy Bob Clinton signed some pretty horrible bills; NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagal, and the Commodity Futures modernization Act of 2000). This ability marks the great presidential communicators, FDR and Reagan being the leading examples.
The idea that people with good, family-sustaining, discretionary-income-producing, jobs boost the economy is one of those simple truths that people can understand. It’s one we need the next Democratic candidate for president to believe, and to explain to the country in simple terms that they can understand.
Harvey A. Gold