We Are All Job Creators

By Jim Van Der Pol

Bitter indeed to hear is the mantra of the uninformed that we cannot raise taxes on the “job creators”. Especially is this so when it comes from right within the confines of one’s own family, and from a person who together with his wife, never in his working life cashed a paycheck that was not from the federal government. There can be no more blinding disease than the current epidemic of libertarianism, based as it is upon our traditional careless American individualism.

Back here in the reality-based community, we know better. We are all job creators. We do that by how we live, including what we buy and do not buy. An economy that restricts my income to the point where I cannot afford to buy, even sometimes to buy necessities, cuts down on my ability to create jobs. But there are more important matters than silly political spats about taxes and “job creators.”

There is the matter of what kind of jobs we create and where, which is a critical issue as we come to understand that our nation’s trade deficit is the real issue and not the overhyped kerfuffle over our government’s deficit spending.

Our little farm, one tenth the size in acreage of that of most of our neighbors, is an example. Just big enough as a crop farm to help support an individual that works at a full time job in town, we have been able to build it into an enterprise that supports four full time adult workers, plus several more in the processing business we contract work with.

This is in addition to the usual jobs created by the production and provision of the goods and services needed and purchased by any thriving business. How did it happen?

We became a livestock farm based upon grazing and pasture production, cutting back sharply on the number of acres in row crop production. And we started marketing our products. The libertarian would say we created our own wealth out of our own gumption, ambition and work. There is a bit of truth in that, but only a bit. We did see an opportunity and took it. And it has involved hard work and determination on our part.

But the essential fact is still that a certain number of people decided to create the kind of economic development they wanted by changing how they spent their food dollar. We responded to their desire for meats that taste good and were responsibly produced.

They wanted to know they could talk to the farmer who produced their purchase, if they chose and see how the production was done. They wanted a healthy and vital rural area populated by an increasing number of small farms, and our success with supplying their needs is beginning to spill over to some of the smaller farms in the area because we must have help producing the number of animals needed. We are able to offer a premium hog market to an increasing number of other farmers because our customers have decided that that quality counts, as does the social and natural environment.

This willingness to allow other values into what has been for us in America a purely quantitative decision involving commodities and math could apply to much of our economic life. For example, it is said that the response to Obama’s stimulus was disappointing because our economy is leaky. What this means is that many Americans will run down to the Wal-Mart with any extra money that falls into their hands to spend it on imported Chinese stuff, benefiting international corporations and China in terms of its balance of trade with us, but our own economy very little. On the other hand, what economic activity would result if we insisted upon service with our purchases, and that the item be durable in the first place? Or that it be produced here, and that it have a minimal impact upon the natural world, and fair to the people working at its production?

It is not just consumers. Jeffrey Immelt, business world heavyweight, CEO of General Electric and (most incredibly) Obama’s man for sparking American job creation was heard whining on television to Lesley Stahl that Americans should be cheering for his company. Germans, he said, are very supportive of their own corporations. So are the Japanese.

Why not us? Indeed, why not? Well, German corporations don’t export jobs from Germany to Asia at anything like the rate that GE sheds American jobs. But the reason they don’t is the key to the issue. German corporations have representation on their boards of directors from labor and the communities in which they operate. These are not token positions, but carry with them real power.

German corporations are, you might say, German for a reason. Does Mr. Immelt wish to extensively modify the charter under which his corporation operates to make it more German in character? I sure do. Maybe we could put together a political effort, he and I.

Job creation is done by small businesses, large corporations and individual consumers. So how can we avoid taxing “job creators”? Our best long-term route to improving the economy is to allow our values to drive our economic activities. It is best not to hold our breath while the corporate elite find their values, much less learn to apply them to their corporations. But we don’t have to. Like any important change, we can begin with the guy in the mirror.

Jim Van Der Pol writes and farms near Kerkhoven, Minn.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2011


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