Sunday, November 28, 2010

Put Up or Pay Up

In this neverending debate about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, I never hear what I think is the big question, although there is quite a bit of tap dancing around it.  I hear Democrats say that the tax cuts haven't worked in the ten years they have been in existence.  The representatives of the corporations in the republic party claim that without the extension of the tax cuts, businesses would not have the money necessary to create jobs.  I even hear some brave souls ask why, if this were the case, jobs were lost and not created during the tax cut years.

The big question is:

When is business going to step up and take responsibility for themselves?

Look around.  What corporate giant doesn't get bailouts and handouts from the government on a steady basis?

The federal government sinks money into airports so that airlines can make huge profits.  As a result of these huge profits, not possible without the American traveler or the federal government, the airlines neither pass on savings, nor do they increase jobs, job security, or job benefits.

In fact, as the government has stepped up to take on the full responsibility for airport and flight security, the airlines have stepped back by further automating check-in, and cutting staff positions on the front lines, where people should be interacting and observing passengers as a very natural and common sense function of improving anti-terrorism security.

The federal government pours money into health care, by subsidizing private hospitals and insurance companies, who make enormous profits.  Again, pass on the savings?  Not their responsibility.  Likewise for the pharmaceutical industry, who benefits from government money for research and development, and then is allowed to own the findings (including individual genes), thereby maximizing profit and prohibiting further scientific development and growth.

The Supreme Court decision granting personhood to corporations allowed them to exert control over the election process, without taking any of the responsibilities of personhood.  We have carried the philosophy of capitalism to the extreme in which they are expected to be immoral in the interest of greater profit.  That's right, immoral, not amoral.  Because there are people making corporate decisions, and when they make decisions that injure others, it IS immoral.

We need to reframe this argument.  The wealthy should not give up their wealth to take care of the rest of us.  They have the responsibility to use their wealth to further the society which allowed them to be wealthy.  They have the responsibility to create jobs, jobs that pay a living wage.  They have the responsiblity to invest in infrastructure, and research.  They have the responsibility to pay taxes, to allow the government from which they benefit to continue to function.

Beginning in the Reagan era, the philosophy of wealth regressed to the mentality of the robber barons.  Capitalism meant gathering wealth for its own sake.  Capitalism meant using the federal goverment to further power and profit.  Capitalism meant never having to say you're sorry.

The eighties were the years of "He who dies with the most toys wins."  Why on earth haven't we realized that not only does that not work, it is neither true nor funny?  As the middle class has stagnated, as our rating in health care, education, longevity have sunk in comparison to other developed countries, why on earth don't we understand what is happening?  Why are we so afraid to see that capitalism is not only NOT democracy, capitalism seeks to  curtail democracy.  Capitalism is a tyranny that feeds on democracy.  It lives off the people's government and starves the people while bloating with its own useless wealth.

Jobs were not created during the Bush years initially because tax cuts and government handouts allowed for more corporate profit without any annoying increase in the cost of labor.  But as the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and especially since the 2008 landslide presidential election, corporate America has been holding us all hostage.  The past two years, the argument has been that corporations need more financial freedom and less regulation, otherwise the American people will suffer.  The proof is the stagnating jobless rate.

But the reality is that the failure to create jobs has been the boon of the republic party, which represents the corporation.  Had businesses acted responsibly, as they have long stopped doing, they would have used their fortunes to invest in research and development and to create jobs.  But that would have most likely resulted in an electorate that would have voted from reason and confidence and not out of fear, giving the Democratic party continued control of Congress.

The Democrats drop the ball when they fail to challenge business to prove it deserves its power and capital, as President Obama challeneged the auto industry.  The banking industry, the insurance industry, the airline industry, all need to be challenged.  If they want to profit from doing  business in America, they need to act responsibly.  THEY need to stop expecting the federal government to keep paying for their greed and negligence.  And as long as they are not stepping up, the federal government needs to take more control, only give funding under specific conditions, and collect taxes adequate to maintain the wellbeing of the hard-working Americans to which the corporation is really, truly beholding.

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