Why Creating Jobs Isn’t Enough

Politicians have a mantra: “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” If rich people would just start “creating more jobs,” they say, the economy will start growing again. How can we get them to whip out the magic wand and start creating jobs? Apparently, it has something to do with their personal income tax rates.

If you believe the rationale of some conservatives, if we just lower the income tax for rich people, they’ll start spending millions of dollars to, say, build new factories. A local variant, at the state level, argues that any increase in the highest personal income tax rates would drive the “job creators” out of the state. (As if a CEO’s decision to live in our fair state somehow relates to their decision of where to expand their business.) Brian Vogel, who writes about income inequality, succinctly smashes these arguments in “The Job Creators Myth.”

I don’t mean to minimize the suffering of the millions of unemployed and underemployed people in this country. I’m just annoyed at how most public discourse on the issue assumes that creating a job, any job, should be the be all and end all of economic policy, even if the job pays shit, provides no benefits, and subjects people to hellish working conditions. We just need to get the unemployment rate below 4%! Who cares if most of those employees hate their jobs, are working 50-60+ hours per week, and have a horrible quality of life?

For a bitter taste of this New Economy, read Mac McClelland’s funny/sad piece over at Mother Jones entitled “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave: My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.” Here’s an excerpt:

…even if you’ve worked here long enough to be granted time off, you are not allowed to use it until the holidays are over. (And also forget about Election Day, which is today. “What if I want to vote?” I ask a supervisor. “I think you should!” he says. “But if I leave I’ll get fired,” I say. To which he makes a sad face before saying, “Yeah.”) No time off includes those of you who are scheduled to work Thanksgiving. There are two Amalgamated-catered Thanksgiving dinners offered to employees next week, but you can only go to one of them. If you attend one, your employee badge will be branded with a nonremovable sticker so that you cannot also attempt to eat at the other. Anyway, good luck, everybody. Everybody back to work. Quickly!

Speed-walking back to the electro-trauma of the books sector, I wince when I unintentionally imagine the types of Christmas lore that will prevail around my future household. I feel genuinely sorry for any child I might have who ever asks me for anything for Christmas, only to be informed that every time a “Place Order” button rings, a poor person takes four Advil and gets told they suck at their job.

(Illustration by The Infrequent Blogger)

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