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Chamber of Commerce Lies, Crappy Jobs and The American Dream


By FZ - Posted on 05 April 2011

-Originally blogged by Jonathan Tasini on Working Life

April 1, 2011- I know there is an obvious answer to this question: does the Chamber of Commerce ever stop lying? Since you've answered that yourself, let's consider for a moment the most immediate lie--and the truth about the economic reality facing most working people.

  There is, as we know, a concerted effort by Republicans and business leaders (and a scattered handful of dumb-ass Democrats) to undermine the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and make sure Elizabeth Warren never sets foot inside the Bureau as its confirmed chief. So, you may have seen yesterday some reports about Warren's visit to a Chamber conference during which the head of the Chamber, Thomas Donohue spoke:

Ms. Warren was followed by Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber, who warned that the consumer agency could choke off economic growth in the United States.

“If not used carefully, the C.F.P.B.’s tremendous power to go after bad actors could cause serious collateral damage to America’s job creators,” he said.

    Really? Let's examine that assumption. Donohue is reasserting a lie: that it is government regulation that is causing trouble for economic "growth" and if only America's "job creators" were unleashed, we would all be fat and happy, luxuriating in a great, amazing economic nirvana.

Really? Let's examine that assumption. Donohue is reasserting a lie: that it is government regulation that is causing trouble for economic "growth" and if only America's "job creators" were unleashed, we would all be fat and happy, luxuriating in a great, amazing economic nirvana.

    This is a lie at so many levels. First, there is no serious economic evidence--zero, zilch, none, nada--that government regulations, planned or in the past, on the financial sector or any other sector, has hurt economic "growth". This is just one of those lies that gets repeated time and again, and incorporated into repetitive news reports and the foolish bi-partisan pronouncements flowing from sea to shining sea--whether you go back to the, respectfully, dumb rhetoric of Al Gore's "reinventing government" or, if you dare to chance serious nausea, all the way to the off-the-wall Gingrichian theories of the dangers of government regulation (that the media often repeats without looking at the shallowness and emptiness--check out his healthcare "reform" website...it's really daft). [more after the fold]

   Second, economic "growth" has been "choked off" for a whole lot of reasons. For instance, that we have a grossly inefficient health care system that wastes and misallocates trillions of dollars (the "trillions" is not an exaggeration over a 30-year time horizon)--and hurts economic "growth" because businesses are being crushed by those costs...imposed on us by immoral insurance and drug profiteers, who are proud members of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Or, most recently in our life, the obliteration of trillions of dollars of wealth--in home values and retirement plans--thanks to the ABSENCE OF GOVERNMENT REGULATION and the illegal and/or incompetent behavior of those who managed (and I use "managed" very loosely) the financial markets. Our problem is not unleashing "job creators"--it's trying to repair an economy where there is a lack of demand because people have no money to spend, are out of work and deeply in debt. If we had not let the Robert Rubins of the worldusher in de-regulation, we would not have the record-high official unemployment figures we have today and the great misery facing so many people.

   Corporations are stuffed silly with cash--one trillion dollars worth, and "the 20 most cash-rich companies had a combined 346 billion dollars." So, the problem is not that government "regulation" is slowing down economic "growth" or the "job creators". It's that companies don't give a damn about hiring, are happy to sit on a mountain of cash that can be used to fatten up CEO paychecks and pensions, evade taxes and, to boot, demand that we, the taxpayers give corporate America a tax holiday on foreign profits the corporations have stashed overseas.

   And, indeed, to the point of economic misery, I want to wrap up with Donohue's greatest lie--but it is a lie of ideology and belief about what makes for health economic growth. I know that, in Donohue's world, it's some abstract number--likely the Gross Domestic Product.

   But, the GDP, and the numbers often used by the media and our elected leaders, do not tell us much about how people are making ends meet. I, and many others, have argued for a long time that the GDP is a poor measure for understanding economic security--meaning, can people pay their bills, have a bit left over and think about retiring with dignity and respect.

   A health economy is not some abstract idea that is measured with numbers on a chart that say, "oh, great, we are growing!".

   It's an economy in which most of the people are benefiting from economic activity.

   And, here is more evidence, via a new study on what kind of jobs we are getting in the economy:

Hard as it can be to land a job these days, getting one may not be nearly enough for basic economic security.

But many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food, health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care.

A separate report being released Friday tries to go beyond traditional measurements like the poverty line and minimum wage to show what people need to earn to achieve a basic standard of living.

And:

According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.

That compares with the national poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. The most recent data from the Census Bureau found that 14.3 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line in 2009.

The first wake-up call, if anyone is paying attention, is that the above numbers just explode the stupid idea--promulgated by conservatives and Robert Reich liberals--that our problem is that we are too dumb, that we need more education. Hello? The retail, hospitality and home health care industries are the top job growth areas in the economy--and you do not need a degree to do those jobs. What you need is a union and a decent wage and benefits, and those will be fine middle-class jobs.

   What we need is a minimum wage that isn't a poverty-level wage--which I argue should be almost $20 an hour. Right now, the minimum wage puts a family of four below the federal poverty level--which, of course, even if they are technically above that level, as the new study above shows, they could not make ends meet.

   But, that isn't the vision of Donohue and the Chamber. Their vision is one of "economic growth" where we continue to have an economy that creates billionaires (who are worth $1.5 trillion in the U.S.) but does not create a middle-class or an American Dream.

   The victims of the "collateral damage" in the economy have not been America's "job creators". Actually, they are creating the "collateral damage" by impoverishing real people with obscenely low wage, no benefits and no retirement.

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