Month after month, the reports are announced: Job losses outpace job gains, every month. Hundreds of thousands leave the workforce, every month. The new jobs – what few there are – are more likely to be part-time than full-time, and to be lower-paying than the ones lost. Too often, the new jobs are the career-enders, not the career starters that new jobs need to be.
The story of the cooked books of the unemployment statistics is old news. For years now, the government reports have been leaving out the “non-participation” rate, so the unemployment percentage today bears no resemblance to the unemployment percentages reported a decade or two ago. Calculated the old way, today’s unemployment rate would fluctuate between twelve and fifteen percent, but that would horrify the low-information voter, so such a truth must never be reported.
But the key difference – the one that matters most to our nation’s legal voters (since the illegal votes are already determined) – is the difference between conservatives and liberals, in how they each respond to the persistent, desperate joblessness of the Obama economy.
Poverty, Unemployment, and the Left
The Left responds, predictably, with an apparent effort to ease the misery of the desperate. This is the visceral reaction, easily understood and automatically supported by the demographics of the short-sighted.
People are unemployed; the Left’s solution is to extend their unemployment benefits another 27 weeks, another 52 weeks, another 104 weeks. People are hungry; let’s give them more food stamps. Industries have fled, factories and stores have closed; let’s expand welfare, again and again, and even end the helpful bipartisan reforms of the 1990s that at least mandated some kind of work for many recipients.
People can’t live on what they earn; the Left proposes that we just force their employers to pay them more, through a hike in the minimum wage, or through some governmental bonus over their private sector wage, like an “earned income tax credit” or “wage enhancement.”
Look carefully, and notice what is missing from the pronouncements of the Left: there is no effort to actually reduce unemployment, or to try to shrink the numbers of the poor. The political party of the zero-sum game has no interest in exploring how to wean people off these government programs by becoming successful on their own. The Left maintains that this is a stagnant economy, and will always be (and it will, too, if they have anything to do about it).
Even when they say they’re proposing an “economic stimulus,” it’s just welfare under another name. The numerous spending boondoggles of the Obama Administration have been called “stimulus” but have in fact just been transfers. We borrowed billions to give states money to start road projects they couldn’t afford… billions more to build museums and scenic overlooks and gardens that unemployed would-be tourists can’t afford to visit, and cripplingly expensive high-speed rail that no tourists or commuters will ever choose to ride... billions more to fund school districts’ postponements of needed reforms.
This is the Left’s response: write a government check, so that your handout is coercively funded by your neighbors today or your own children and grandchildren tomorrow.
Poverty, Unemployment, and the Right
In contrast, what have been the conservative proposals?
Conservatives see unemployment and poverty, and seek the causes, proposing solutions rather than treating the symptoms.
The Right sees crime-ridden cities, driving away factories and other employers, and the Right proposes crime-reduction measures, such as concealed carry for the law-abiding, and mandatory sentencing for violent crimes, and capital punishment for the worst cancers on society. The Right sees the drug culture infesting those cities, and proposes closing the border to keep out the drug cartels, and thus reduce a significant foreign-sourced cause of this nightmarish violence.
The Right sees unconstitutional government overreach, a slow fifty-year growth in red tape – “red tape” sounds so harmless, doesn’t it, until you’re being strangled by it – and proposes that we stop growing it, and start cutting it instead. The Right proposes sunset clauses on new regulations, regular reviews of the value of existing agencies, oversight to ensure that federal and state agencies don’t exceed their charter or their legal powers.
It’s the regulations, even more than the taxes, that drive employers out of America toward other countries. Requirements to fund ever more expensive benefits, construction rules to meet the ADA, research rules to satisfy the EPA and DoE… the list is endless, and as they grow, the burden becomes too great, and the employers close.
But the taxes do matter, and in many cases, are crippling. FICA+Medicare is some 7.5% that you see on your paycheck, but there’s a matching 7.5% that the company pays on your behalf, a federal tax that doesn’t show up on your paycheck, so none but the self-employed – who see and feel that full 15% hit – are conscious of it. And the income taxes… with a federal effective rate of 38%, the highest on earth, employers find themselves hoping to earn less profit rather than more (how warped has our system become!), to minimize the pain of tax consequences in the modern confiscatory state. Conservatives propose reforms, with a reduction in the effective federal rate to 20% or 17%, or better yet, to match the tax haven of Ireland with a nice, reasonable 11% effective rate.
The Right knows that the problems of the jobless aren’t answered by a government check that just devalues what little money they have even more. The problems of the jobless are solved with economic growth. Nothing else helps, not checks, not EBT cards, not TV commercials and picket signs, not tee-shirts and Obama rallies, not “Occupy” tent cities in our downtowns or declarations of sanctuary cities by corrupt city councils.
The Right sees failed urban schools that serve more as gangland recruiting centers than centers of education, and proposes vouchers so parents can free their children from these sewage pits.
The Right sees the truth – that keeping kids in school, off drugs, and out of the maternity ward until marriage, are the basic keys to escaping poverty and climbing the rungs to success. And the Right proposes policies that support these efforts. By contrast, everything the Left does – from driving away employers to encouraging fatherlessness, from legalizing drugs to increasing the spread of urban crime – makes it ever more difficult to escape poverty and join the once-vibrant middle class.
A Tale of Two Worldviews
How on earth do we square this circle? Year after year, the two sides of the debate move farther and farther apart. The Right wants to treat the cause, and is stymied by the Left… and the Left wants to treat the symptoms, which not only masks the cause and leaves it untreated, but in this case, even serves to exacerbate the cause.
In order to write the checks for expanded unemployment coverage and welfare, in order to provide the funds for a “wage enhancement” or “refundable tax refund,” the government must raise taxes on the employers and the employed, must add to the ever-growing burden of unfunded mandates on the future, and must devalue their currency in the process.
So, when conservatives oppose such expansions, they’re not being heartless, they’re thinking long-term, trying to care for not only the problems of the day, but the problems of the future – a future so happily mortgaged and sabotaged by the modern American Left.
And what has happened under the years of Democrat power? The fifty-year slow corrosion of the Great Society was put into overdrive, with new regulations, new agencies, newly aggressive bureaucrats and newly crippling mandates, at an unprecedented pace. Is it any wonder that manufacturers are fleeing, that malls are empty, that office buildings and factory towns suffer equally unprecedented vacancy rates?
There is room for compromise; in politics, there has to be:
The Right can support temporary expansions in unemployment coverage – so much of our unemployment is the government’s fault, after all – but only if the deal includes compensatory measures to improve the business climate so that the private sector can create more jobs.
No conservative would oppose a compromise bill, for example, that cut the corporate income tax rate in half, ends the job-destroyer known as Obamacare, and opens up oil and gas drilling and pipeline expansion, in exchange for generous extensions in unemployment coverage until the resulting economic boom catches up.
But we cannot continue down the path of a Left that does nothing but drive people out of work and into the government’s nannycare. We cannot continue to intentionally shrink the private sector and grow the public sector.
The nation’s long slow decline has lately become a frighteningly fast decline – because of the destructive policies of the Left – and if our great nation cannot quickly transition from the Left’s approach to that of the Right, we will no longer be a nation at all.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance trainer. A movement conservative in the Reagan years, he served on the board of trustees of The Northwestern Review, Illinois Ethnic Americans for Reagan, and its successor group the Ethnic American Council, as conservative economics were understood and promulgated from the White House in that wonderful era. We need a return to the days when that bully pulpit advocated the Founding principles rather than simply being used for bullying.
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