If there’s one campaign buzz phrase I’d like to take a buzz saw to this season it’s “job creators.” Republican candidates have been throwing it about at the debates like Halloween candy. Earlier this week even former progressive darling Ned Lamont used it in a Hartford Courant op-ed calling for the permanent elimination of the state’s corporate income tax, saying: “At less than 3 percent of state revenue, we will find the savings to pay for this job creator.” From where, exactly, Mr. Lamont? More cuts to social services? Closing DMV offices? Cutting funding to libraries?
Linda McMahon’s campaign launch is built around the theme “proven job creator”. Her first video plays on her outsider, businesswoman status and repeats the “job creator” phrase at least five times.
But you know that the term “job creator” has jumped the political shark when you start reading stories like this one about Republican Florida state legislator Rep. Ritch Workman, who has submitted a bill to repeal the state’s “archaic” 22 year-old ban on the sport of tossing little people for the entertainment of drunk people in bars.
“I’m on a quest to seek and destroy unnecessary burdens on the freedom and liberties of people,” Workman told the Palm Beach Post. “This is an example of Big Brother government…All that it does is prevent some dwarfs from getting jobs they would be happy to get. In this economy, or any economy, why would we want to prevent people from getting gainful employment?”
One of the commenters puts it much better than I could: “What is going on in this country when an idiot like this is elected to public office? … What next? Maybe he’ll propose bringing back slavery to give out of work African Americans a chance to have “jobs.” Give this idiot a call and congratulate him on his stupidity.”
The problem is, politicians using the term “job creator” seem to think that we, the formerly great American middle class, are the stupid ones. Because “we have to free up the job creators” is nothing more than Frank Luntz-speak for “even though we’re bitching about the deficit, and we’re in the middle of a prolonged economic downturn – possibly a recession – let’s indulge in further tax cuts for rich people and corporations!”
This despite the fact that the US ranks near the bottom of the chart of OECD countries in terms of revenues collected as a percentage of GDP. Because of the abiding adherence to the Gospel of St. Ronald, since 1980 we’ve experienced a concentration of wealth in the US such as hasn’t been seen since before the Great Depression. Between 1979 and 2007, income inequality between the richest 1 percent of Americans and everyone else more than tripled. The rich got way richer, their fortunes accelerated by the Bush tax cuts. In a United States where corporations are “people” (until they are to be held accountable, when strangely they are not) and money is their “voice,” it’s hardly surprising that we’re being force fed this narrative again. “Cut taxes on the job creators!” Like it’s taxes that are stopping people from hiring, rather than depressed demand, or uncertainty caused by Washington’s inexcusable, insane, partisan dysfunction (the thing that’s keeping me out of the stock market, despite my broker’s urging to reinvest).
The Occupy Wall Street Movement, while still searching for a cohesive message, is symptomatic of the very real frustration felt by the middle class, whose taxpayer dollars went to bail out the banks for their imprudent lending practices, only to find those same banks now charging them for the privilege of accessing their hard-earned money at an ATM.
Herman Cain’s reaction to the protest is symptomatic of those who are trying to pull the “job creator” wool over our eyes. “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!” Cain said. “It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed…this is why I don’t understand these demonstrations and what is it that they’re looking for.”
Maybe Army serviceman Ward Reilly can help him understand. He posted the following on Facebook: “I want to send the following message to Wall St and Congress: I didn’t fight for Wall St. I fought for America. Now it’s Congress’ turn.”
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.