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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Time for Some Private Sector Responsibility

The main emphasis of Republicans in Congress on JOBs is that it is the private sector that creates jobs, and that it is government’s responsibility to create an atmosphere favorable to job creation by cutting taxes, providing incentives, and unburdening business from restrictive regulations and rules.  That’s basically their plan for job creation.

As it stands now, the private sector has been granted some of the lowest tax rates ever on upper incomes; incredible incentives and tax breaks (such as new equipment depreciation and tax deferments on profits earned overseas); huge subsidies; lowest rate in decades on capital gains and on inheritances.  Let’s just say that the atmosphere under Republican conservative ideology over the past thirty or more years, has powerfully favored business interests, but not the interests of the middle class, whose wages are flat, and in many cases, non-existent.  It is the richest 1% in this country that have benefited far beyond what others have experienced.

So why, may I ask, have we not seen corresponding job growth?  One reason is that big corporations are multi-national and they have found that their largest profits are being earned in other countries.  Example: Coca-Cola, 80% of whose profits are earned outside the United States. 

Another reason, of course, is a stagnant economy, and deep recession, caused in large measure by Republican laissez-faire attitudes, resulting legislation and lack of regulation which brought about the recession in the first place.  Add on their two wars in the Middle East, as well as tax-cuts for the richest 2%, and we have a recipe for disaster. 

The Obama administration gets blamed for over-spending and causing more debt, but that spending was predicated on stimulating the economy and trying to correct for the neglect and profligacy of the Reagan, H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush administrations.  A debate still rages as to whether the “stimulus” was a failure, as Republicans allege, or whether it saved millions of jobs (of teachers, policemen and firefighters for example) as the Democrats allege. 

Supposedly, these factors have combined to scare off  investment in old and new industries, new jobs, new ventures. 

Meanwhile, the private sector is sitting on $2 trillion in profits, and doing nothing for the country with that money.  Are they in cahoots with Republicans in Congress who are sabotaging the passage of any bills that might have to do with  job creation?  Senator Schumer (D-NY) is on to something when he surmises that there may very well be a conspiracy to prevent a turnaround in the economy in order to prevent President Obama’s re-election.  I have believed that for some time: that those sitting on enormous profits will suddenly make them available to hire, to invest, to push the economy forward when it will either serve to elect a Republican President or right after a Republican President is elected.   

We have come down to the real issue here.  What has the private sector done for us lately that will get us out of this economic mess?  They’re getting the breaks, the incentives, the subsidies, the favorable regulations, making enormous profits, and yet they have produced few jobs in this country.  And here’s the rub: the Republicans (who say that government can’t produce a job-turnaround; that it can only be done through the private sector), are blaming the President for lack of job growth, even as they block his job-production bills.  You can’t have it both ways!
So, it is way past time to call out the private sector and to demand to know: what have you done for your country lately?  Yes, my friends, as July 4th approaches, it comes down to a question of patriotism, defined as “love and loyal or zealous support of one‘s own country.”  In this economic crisis, are corporations and businesses acting for the good of their country and the zealous support of their fellow citizens, or are they intent only on producing outrageous profits, and political power, for themselves? 

Remember, that the Supreme Court has ruled in Citizens United, that these entities are equivalent to private citizens in terms of  having free (political) speech, but isn’t the logical conclusion of that very bad decision that these entities also have the responsibilities of citizenship?  If that’s so, then we have every right to expect them to perform certain civic duties, one of which is to care for and about the unemployed.

So, I propose the following:

1)   Responsibility- it is the civic duty of the CEO-class to create jobs.  They cannot simply sit there, as though helping the country get through this crisis is someone else’s problem.  It isn’t.  They must step up, put profit-mongering in a lesser place, and create jobs simply because the country needs them now, and needs them desperately!  Not only that: they have a responsibility to do something to show that they care for the plight of the unemployed.  They might start by giving a larger percentage of their profits to charities that are trying to assist the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry.  It is a crying shame that corporations are well-known for their lack of charitable giving, even though they make a big show of what little they do in local communities (primarily to enhance their corporate image with the public).  If you don’t believe me, take a look at lists, and note the number of corporations (such as Target, Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil) who give less than 2% (many give less than 1%) of their total profits to charitable causes!

We need some creativity in this recessionary atmosphere.  How about a contest amongst corporations to see who can guarantee the delivery of the most jobs in urban and rural areas?  How about internships for young people; part-time jobs for the chronically unemployed, that will incorporate job-training?  How about creating jobs in the local community that concentrate on fixing up school buildings, mentoring students, increasing the number of aides in schools (and hospitals)?  Talk to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; consult with Bill Clinton:  maybe they can provide some ideas for corporations from their vast experience in philanthropy.  Come on; we need corporations and businesses to stand up and make a real difference in these very difficult times.

2)   Accountability - how about having the Chamber of Commerce collect and deliver a monthly report to us on how many jobs were created by the private sector in each month.  Included could be how many ways businesses attempted to create jobs; what innovations were attempted; what businesses did for the unemployed.  And, how about a contrasting report from every corporation and business on how much they have provided toward lobbying, to buy 3rd party ads, to influence legislation or regulations in their favor.  If you’re going to use profits to control the way the people’s business is conducted, you must be accountable to them.

Moreover, why can’t we have a report from each Republican legislator and presidential candidate as to how many guarantees of jobs they have gotten from the private sector each month.  Mitt Romney says he would do a better job than President Obama has done at creating jobs.  Let him come forward with some of his rich friends - they could appear together on television - and let the CEOs, in front of the viewers, sign a guarantee as to how many jobs they will create in this country.  Then let them tell us where and how they will produce those jobs so the unemployed can sign up!  In fact, how about all of those millionaire Republican presidential candidates providing such guarantees?  Give us some accountability: prove that you can guarantee jobs, and that the CEOs will actually put them forward NOW!

Finally, to be truly accountable citizens, how about every corporate CEO declaring a  moratorium on shipping jobs from the US to other countries?  That would certainly be a substantive indication of the extent of their patriotism.
3)   Recognition and commendation - those whose actions are commendable in terms of job creation and care of the unemployed should receive national recognition of their efforts.  Again, perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could promote this.

In the face of Republican opposition to government stimulus -- and to government-created jobs -- we have no alternative but to press the private sector for greater attention to domestic job creation.  Tell us what you are doing with your government breaks and incentives that we fund through our taxes.  Increase your voluntary giving to families in need.  Stop sending jobs overseas until this economy is back on track.  Be accountable by daring to reveal how much you give to political parties, lobbying, and 3rd party TV ads.  Be a good corporate citizen.  Show us your patriotism.  If you aren’t willing to act on any of these responsibilities, then be prepared to be singled out as an unpatriotic citizen of our society!