Monday, July 2, 2012
I recently read a Forbes article titled "The Unhappiest Jobs in America." In this article the jobs that were ranked as the most unhappy were security guard, teacher, nurse, sales engineer, product manager, and program manager. The article was also picked up and distributed on msn.com. I read through the comments on the msn.com site and reflected on the comments. Many expressed unhappiness in the commentators' jobs, sniped at teachers or nurses because they thought that these professions have it "easy," lamented not having a job and expressed that anyone who has a job should be grateful, etc.
After reading through these comments, what I think we need is a re-visioning and re-empowering of labor. When we empower more people economically it is a societally self-enlightened thing. In the past magnificent pieces of legislation were created to help workers, i.e. regular people, so that they could provide for their families and participate in our democracy. Social security, OSHA, a minimum wage, workers' Right to Know laws, union rights, and many other things for the people created by the people help to address problems of improper compensation, dangerous work environments, and more.
Why is it that there is this myth that if we create regulations it will kill business and destroy jobs? Because business says so. So if a child says they shouldn't have any restrictions from being able to go to the candy jar and take candy whenever they want, do we let them? Reagan's trickle down theory still is passed as gospel, even when the evidence of more than 400% increases in CEOs' salaries over the last few years while the average middle class Americans' salary has shrunk would say otherwise. Trickle down economics is just another way to redistribute the wealth-- to the most fortunate.
The job of government is to take care of its people, not to emulate business. Government can be a good thing if there is a participatory democracy where people are monitoring the actions of their representatives, voicing their opinions, and participating. An educated and active citizenry helps to keep corruption in check. Taking care of people so they can participate in government is a cyclical thing. People who have their basic needs for food, clean water, sanitation, housing, personal safety, and education can turn their minds to the business of participating in society. A blanket doctrine that less government is a good thing is fallacious. The wild, wild west of the early to mid 1800's in the United States was a place with little government-- and legendary crime and violence in the midst of the great US expansion. Native tribes of the west might be inclined to call it the great US massacre or exploitation. Do we want to create that kind of laissez-faire, to the-most-dominant-or-ruthless-go-the-spoils kind of environment where it is acceptable to prey on those who are weakest?
The US government has never been a pure philosophy. There are lofty ideals of freedom and democracy that sometimes get used to set a patriotic tone without being completely defined. These lofty ideals sometimes are used to make it difficult to sort out what priorities are being advanced. For instance it is easy to eliminate protest for a war without justification if the government wraps the war in notions of "freedom" and "democracy." The US governing system has never been purely democratic. The US has a representative democracy. It has never been solely capitalistic. It combines elements of representative democracy, socialism, and capitalism. Removing regulation and cutting government programs hurts people. How many lost significant portions of their retirement accounts or were foreclosed upon because of the economic crash of 2008-09? A crash in part brought on because of deregulation of the banking industry that happened during the Clinton administration. This loss to so many people of their retirement funds and the opportunity for equity in their homes will have significant ramifications for the next several decades-- way beyond the more than $800 billion short term bailout to the financial industry. The tax cuts of George W. Bush's administration did not significantly help the US economy or the average middle class citizen. They did make it "necessary" to cut social programs to "balance" the budget when the economy crashed because once the cuts that benefitted mostly corporations and the wealthy were in place it was hard to reimpose them. Politicians rarely campaign on increasing taxes or cutting the military. These are taboo ideas in American politics. Government budget cuts have done more to eliminate jobs than anything else in recent history. This has stagnated the US recovery from the Great Economic Recession making it harder for middle class citizens to recover retirement funds or buy another home because the money that could be paying salaries to people to provide government services that benefit citizens is not circulating in our economy and the jobless rate has stayed depressingly high. Who really has benefited from deregulation and tax cuts?
Certainly not the teachers, nurses, security guards, programmers and other middle class occupations. In spite of the unsubstantiated assertions of the Tea Party, we need our government to be "of the people and for the people" and we need more collective government involvement and regulation to make that happen.