Texas GOP Governor Rick Perry is quoted in the New York Times ("Shaking Up Republican Field, Perry Officially Enters race For President" by Ashley Parker, Sunday, August 14, 2011) as saying, "I'll create jobs and the progress needed to get Americans working again.... And I'll promise you this: I'll work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can." His remarks echoed those of Grover Norquist, the founder of the right-wing, corporate-funded "Americans for Tax Reform," who was able to persuade almost all GOP members of the Congress to sign a no tax pledge.Norquist once boasted of his desire to so reduce the size of the federal government that it could be drowned in a bathtub.
The views of Norquist and Perry have been embraced by every one of the GOP presidential candidates who continue to insist that (1) government can't create jobs, only the private sector and (2) that, to do so, taxes rates must be drastically reduced. Both arguments are nonsensical.
The role of the government in creating jobs and an environment in which jobs can be created is well-documented. Since the 1950s, the U.S government has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure, such as roads and airports. Those construction projects provided millions well-paying jobs. In addition, the federal government, through its regulatory oversight, has sought to ensure the safety of the food that we Americans consume, the water that we drink, the medicines we use, the air we breathe, the physical environment in which we live, and that part of the electro- magnetic spectrum that are used for electronic communications and broadcasting. Without any of these essential protections, which are essential preconditions to job creation, the U.S. economy would grind to a halt.
Further, the federal government has historically been the engine that drives research and development. In 2006 the total expenditure for all research and development in the U.S. was approximately $340 billion. According to the National Foundation, the federal government is the second largest source of R&D funding (28%) after private industry. Significantly, federal funding is the primary source of basic research support in the U.S. In 2006, it accounted for 59% of all such research, of which about 56% was carried out by academic institutions.That same year, state and local governments spent about 3.5% on R&D by funding basic academic research, much of which occurred in public - i.e. government-operated - universities.
Equally important, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that, as of July 2010, 21,317,000 individuals were employed by governments at the federal, state and local levels. Many of the persons employed in these jobs - which included public health, national defense, environmental services, teaching, libraries and public safety - were highly educated and highly skilled, contributed to the economic vitality of their communities through their patronage of local businesses, and paid federal, state and local taxes far in excess of those paid by multi-national U.S. corporations such as General Electric, that paid $0 in federal taxes in 2010.
But "State governments have been cutting jobs since November, and their current payrolls of 5.06 million are the lowest since March 2006. Local government employment now stands at 14.14 million, the smallest payrolls since June 2006" according to John Lonski, chief economist for Moody's Capital Markets Research ( Lisa Lambert, "State, local job loss menaces recovery: analysts," Reuters, August 5, 2011). Further, that same article reported that "States and localities employ about 19 million people so, as a sector, it's comparable to health and education, or to the entire goods producing sector," stated Philippa Dunne, who is the co-editor of the economic newsletter, The Liscio Report, which monitors state budgets."No one needs to point out that we are in a weak recovery, so ongoing job losses in a major sector are not a trivial thing."
The GOP's insistence that lower taxes are essential to the creation of jobs is equally absurd. In the September, 2011 edition of the Atlantic magazine ("Can The Middle Class Be Saved?"), Don Peck observes that "Over time, the United States has expected less and less of its elite...The top income-tax rate was 91 percent in1960, 70 percent in 1980, 50 percent in 1986, and 39.6 percent in 2000, and is now 35 percent. Income from investments is taxed at a rate of 15 percent. The estate tax has been gutted."
this tax data is compared to the actual rates of job growth during these same
decades, the evidence shows that the leaders of the GOP are engaged in myth-making
and fantasy economics, far removed from economic reality. Washington Post correspondent, Neil Irwin ("Augusts were a lost
decade for U.S. economy, works,' January 2, 2101), observes after a review of the
economic data that job growth in the U.S. economy increased by 24% in the decade
of the 1950s, 31% in the 1960s, 27% in the 1970s, 20% in the 1980s, 20% in the1990s,
and 0% percent from 2000-2009.
Despite this evidence, the GOP continues to insist that current malaise of the market economy has been caused by too much government regulation, not too little. Left to its own devices, these advocates of laissez-faire claim that an unfettered economy based upon the principles of "free enterprise" as laid down by Adam Smith is the best guarantor of prosperity for everyone. Although this argument has been shown by almost all serious economists to be "the silly view of the public interest," history shows that it is not possible to defeat a theological proposition with empirical evidence or by an appeal to reason.
John Kenneth Galbraith bemoaned the existence of "private affluence and public squalor" in the America of the 1950s. The contradiction has only grown worse in the subsequent decades.The disparity between the few who are wealthy and the many who are poor has grown alarmingly in the United States since the advent of the Reagan era and the kind of "trickle-down" economics and de-regulation of the economy to which he and his advisers subscribed.
The net effect of this extraordinary concentration of wealth and power has been that the decisions and predilections of fewer and fewer individuals now determine the outcomes in the American economy while the overwhelming majority of Americans have little ability to influence macro-economic trends or economic and political policies. So great is this disparity and the economic inequality that it has engendered that, by October of 2010, as reported by Forbes Magazine, the 400 richest Americans saw their combined net worth climb 8% that year, to $1.37 trillion. That wealth was equal to that of the combined wealth of the 50% of households at the bottom of the U.S. economy.
Robert H. Frank, Cornell University economist reported in a New York Times column ["Income Inequality: Too Big to Ignore," October 16, 2010] that during the decades after World War II, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate - approximately 3 percent a year - for employees at all income levels. As a consequence, America had an economically dynamic middle class; its roads and bridges were well maintained; and Americans as a whole were optimistic as investments in infrastructure and public goods increased. In that era of relative economic equality, Frank noted, that public support for infrastructure - paid for by taxes - enjoyed wide support.
By contrast, Frank notes that, during the past three decades, as the economy has grown much more slowly, America's infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Simultaneously, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale with the largest share of total income going to that top 1 percent of earners.
The effect of this trend has been to sour the attitudes of the middle class toward public investments. As the middle class confronted the specter of stagnant wages, its members continued to finance their life style through increasing indebtedness. Hence, their reduced circumstances, in turn, have made them easy targets for right-wing ideologues of the Republican Party and their corporate sponsors who have persuaded many citizens that the cause of their predicament is a result of the taxes that they pay, not an excess of private greed. The mantra of "no new taxes"' has thus led to the increasing impoverishment of the public sector as witnessed by the collapse of infrastructure and the increasing attacks upon the benefits public employees have been able to enjoy because of their unionization and collective-bargaining.
The GOP and its leaders are unwilling to admit that the unbridled pursuit of self-interest, without oversight and regulation in the public interest, is a prescription for more of the same: continued wage stagnation, high unemployment and the continued out-sourcing of jobs to less expensive labor markets around the world. Citizenship - even corporate citizenship as enunciated in the Citizens United decision - carries with it, in addition to rights, reciprocal obligations since a healthy society can never be a mere aggregation of social atoms and personal interests.
Confronted with the poverty created by the Industrial Revolution, British political philosopher, T.H. Green, struggled to find a way to redefine classical liberal doctrine. Although his effort remained, at its core, firmly supportive of individual rights, Green invoked the wisdom of Aristotle and Cicero who endorsed the view that rights and obligations are reciprocal, and that they are based upon mutuality and societal recognition. Green also sought to remind us that each of us derives meaning as citizens, and not as solitary beings. For that reason, too, freedom becomes not a "freedom from," which enables individuals to erect walls and barricades around themselves, but rather a positive power or capacity to do something worth doing in concert with others.
"The self," Green insisted, "is a social self," and, for that reason, government, as the agent of society, should be viewed as positive instrument for the public good. As his student, L.T. Hobhouse, succinctly put it, "Democracy is not founded merely on the right or the private interest of the individual. This is only one side of the shield. It is founded equally on the function of the individual as a member of the community. It founds the common good upon the common will, in forming which it bids every grown-up, intelligent person to take a part."
The efforts of T.H. Green and his students to instill within liberal doctrine a commitment to the public interest is diametrically opposed to the agenda of selfishness that the GOP and its current presidential candidates seek to advance. Were they to admit the existence of a public interest or acknowledge that each of us, as citizens, have reciprocal obligations to one another, they would no longer be able to espouse the kind of nonsense that they daily advance. More importantly, they would lose eagerly sought after corporate sponsorship.