, Port Arthur, Texas


November 8, 2012

Producing jobs and certainty

PORT ARTHUR — If allowing the Bush tax cuts to end was going to create an economic cliff and crippling uncertainty about hiring, why did wealthy people and corporations accept the tax cuts they did not need and their extensions under President Obama?  And why have both not saved and/or invested those tax savings for the time when the tax cuts would end?  When they were extended in 2010, neither expressed that there would still be uncertainty even if the country made significant progress toward recovery?  

Businesses and corporations have enough money to hire more workers, and workers work enough hours to share time with many who are unemployed.  Both would result in those helping to create more jobs sacrificing some income:  smaller pay checks for workers and smaller dividends going into retirement accounts and the pockets of share-holders.  But more people will have the certainty about working which means more certainty about people remaining able to buy goods and pay for services.  Because of greater job security, more people can be trusted to buy cars and homes which in turn will increase — or at least tend to sustain — the needs for the things working people make and the services they provide.

Government, business, workers, and consumers are the players in an economic system.  Government of the people, by the people and for the people are the umpires or referees who must decide what the rules of the game must be and when the game is being played fairly.

Voter suppression is an example of those who control government attempting to restrict voting by people who have a stake in who is elected.  Everybody votes for his or her special interest.  Why should poor Americans who need government assistance not be able to vote for candidates who promise to help them?  Wealthy people do it.

Businesses say they must have certainty about future profits before it can start hiring.  But consumers also will need certainty if we ever recover from this recession — possibly becoming a depression — before they will spend as they did in the past.  They will instead save more for rainy days and retirement since both employment and retirement benefits will continue be uncertain so long as businesses continue to wait on certainty.

The way to return certainty to America's economy is to redistribute wealth opportunities by reassessing the value of different kinds of work in the workplace.

Presently, while inventors, innovators and decision-makers are critical to the success of businesses, workers play a more important part in that processes of making the products and providing the services than is too often reflected in their financial compensations for that work.  The fact that there are more people available to work on low level jobs should not account for the value of the contribution to the economy.

If relative incomes at all levels of a business were constant, it would produce levels of certainty that could sustain the economy even in tough times.  The citizens of the United States are like members of a family, a big family.  The children within a family aren't rewarded according to their scores on intelligence tests, grades or other achievements that may reflect differences in IQs levels or present levels of motivation among the children.  The quality and amount of  food they eat and  clothes they wear don't depend on differences in such attributes.  Now families could make it a rule to do so and could come up with reasons to do so.  But it would not be good for relationships within the family.  And it also would not work if the spouse who has the higher income feels that he or she should drive the more expensive car or wear more expensive clothes.

When Karl Marx said that a society should expect from all members according to their abilities and provided to all members according to their needs, he was not saying that money should be taken from the wealthy and given to those who are less able.  He also was not saying that the poor should sit back and expect such redistribution.  The poor have abilities also, not as much as the most able but are expected to contribute their livelihood to the extent of their abilities.  

Similarly for the most able among us, they have needs to succeed: to pursue professions, invent, create, establish businesses and otherwise pursue wealth — and job-creating opportunities.  They must be enabled to take advantages of opportunities — educational and otherwise — that fulfilling those aspirations not just possible but likely for both themselves and others within the society.

But while the society should provide opportunities for people to become wealthy, it must limit the amount of wealth they can keep for themselves.  Part of the taxes on wealth must assist the most needy, but perhaps a larger part must provide the kinds of education that motivate, enable and maximize success at the lower end and middle of the wealth scale.  Both the most able and the less able will have received what they need to maximize their contributions to society.   But unless limits are  placed on the amount of wealth one family can accumulate, others in the society must be impoverished in order to feed an insatiable greed.

Life-styles would not change — only images — by multi-billionaires becoming billionaires becoming multi-millionaires becoming millionaires becoming near or future millionaires?  Incomes of the working poor and middle class would increase commensurate with individual abilities and effort.  If these were phased in over 10 years, there would be certainty about profits, incomes and consumption relative to the health of the economy.

Unfortunately, if by the time this column is read, President Obama has not been elected and Democrats have not gained control of both houses of Congress with wide margins of victory, then regardless of which party succeeds, middle-class America will have defeated itself again, either by voting for its enemies or by not realizing it had survival reasons to vote.

Ronald C. Spooner of Port Arthur is a retired educator. Contact Spooner at He blogs at

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