J. Sam Williams
I have a tendency to think on the liberal side of the spectrum. I fully admit it. But don’t think for a second that means I have swallowed all political jargon thrown my way.
I hardly pay attention to all the liberal memes, or gifs. I don’t subscribe to the Other 98% or what have you. I get most of my news from NPR, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and CNN. I split evenly on what MSNBC and Fox News have to share.
I was raised in suburban central New Hampshire. It’s more rural than many Americans are used to, and not rural at all for some. Both my parents, and their grandparents were Republicans for most of their voting life. And like many Reagan-era Republicans, who were more central than right, they have all moved a little more to the Democratic side of the spectrum. I'd say I agree with this quote from President Roosevelt.
The first presidential election I remember being fully aware of was Bush vs. Gore. I met Former President George Bush at my hometown’s town hall in Bow, New Hampshire (a Rec Center that was also part basketball court, part children’s theater house) while he was running in 2000. I wanted Bush to win because my parents wanted Bush to win.
I was also raised Christian (still am Christian and attend Church, and love and respect Jesus). In many respects that meant learning and digesting a lot of Republican values. And while I no longer hold many beliefs I did as a kid or a teenager, I know and understand a more conservative political mindset. There are things I agree with, and things I do not.
One of the things I do not agree with: A Completely Pro-Business political manifesto.
I am not an economist, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on how best to create economic growth. However, I think I understand one thing: A Completely Pro-Business Agenda is Bad for the Everyday Citizen.
I think it’s safe to say that most sensible people in the USA understand the need for the government, and government regulations. Banning companies from dumping chemicals into water (therefore avoiding setting the Cuyahoga River on Fire), setting caps to Political contributions, to protecting Free Speech. These are necessary and useful functions of the government.
Our government seems to be at the mercy of two political parties—the pro-business and the not-so-pro business. A lot of the debate in this country has to do with whether or not the government should impose sanctions on businesses. Climate Change, Minimum Wage, Gun Control, National Resource Management etc., a lot of it comes down to businesses.
There are a great deal of corporations and top businessmen and women—that have so much wealth, they’re able to influence elections on both sides, paying for the campaigns of senators and representatives, State and Federal. By contributing to their campaign, they buy influence, or even buy a voice, a representative for their business interests. They can use politicians as tools to create an environment where their business can succeed--which is often defined by making as much money as possible. This is not new news, but it’s important to flesh out.
Businesses are able to control narratives, invent media stories, and organize protests (believe me, watch the video to the left). They buy influence in Congress, in the White House, and either demand that Politicians run with their narrative, or suggest it, or whisper it.
Of course, there are many good businesses, and good people in businesses, but to wave away claims that Corporations and the top 1% of wealth holders aren’t influencing our politics is naïve. President Donald Trump is a glorious figurehead of that, show us the reality that politics has been more heavily influenced by the wealthy than by the normal citizens. It seems to have been that way since the inception of the Corporation in America. Except for the most part, the wealthy pay for others to go through the grindstone of politics. Though as we may find, Russia possibly wanted Trump to be in power himself for their gain.
Trump is trying his hardest to push through an agenda that helps businesses make as much money as possible. He has slashed Climate Change regulations, selling them as unnecessary and cumbersome, and calling them “job-killing regulations.”
But that's just it, the key argument, the basic ascertion of many Pro-Business: Government Regulations on Businesses Kill Jobs.
Again, I am not an expert on economics, but I know this. Climate Change is a real issue, and to ignore it, for the sake of more money making is foolhardy. And I believe if we continue to do nothing, and the projections of Climate scientists come true, we’ll look back on our history and be ashamed—and I believe it will change our politics forever.
Government Regulations on the coal industry did indeed kill jobs. But limiting the amount of coal used for energy is essential to reducing our emissions. Since the coal industry wasn’t interested in reducing their own business and training workers for a new industry, the Government should have rolled out programs to help coal workers begin a new career. If regulations kill jobs, it is my opinion that the government should provide jobs or programs that lead to stability in their citizen’s lives.
I also think there is a real need to regulate to an even more specific degree than we do. Too many times small businesses get punished by government regulation because giant companies seem to have a lack of conscience.
But there are government regulations that don’t kill jobs—or at least don’t have to. This is where a lot of politics gets messy. Take the proposed federal minimum wage hike. One large argument is that this would mean businesses would have to cut jobs in order to pay $15 an hour for their employees. But few people bring up that the CEOs the top workers could restructure their contracts and payment in order to keep all employees and build them a better wage, or that the company would make less money--for there are many businesses that can afford to pay, but won't because it hurts their bottom line.
I'll take a moment here to address another $15 an hour argument: Burger Flippers shouldn't make as much as (fill in the blank), teachers, nurses, EMTs, etc. I agree. I do not think that someone flipping patties should make as much as a a school teacher. But wages haven't increased in years. Making $6 an hour in 1980 would be like making $17.30 an hour today (actually range it "could" be is between $14.90 and $37.80 an hour. Here's a link to the math and explanation of why.).
Wages need to increase, to modernize with the current pricing system. That will "hurt" businesses, initially. But I believe in something that I'll call the "Solar Theory." The downpayment to putting solar panels on your roof may seem daunting, but it pays itself off rather quickly (depending on where you live it may be faster or slower), making it an excellent investment. I believe the same is true for businesses hiking wages. In the long term it will even out. Historically we've seen as the wage gap between rich and middle class becomes large, we trend toward a recessions of economic growth. When the wage gap was at it's highest in the late 1920s, it turned into the Great Depression (great recession wage gap numbers were similar).
There is no way this would happen in DC's political climate, but it is my hope that when we increased the minimum wage, that middle class and lower class salaries increased proportionally. That would be fair--but fair is hardly ever a reality. If the private sector won't increase wages to a living wage, then the people must negotiate for themselves, and since many unions are banned, they must use the Government to force the issue--at some point we've all got to let businesses know that enough is enough. Corporate greed must be dealt with.
People argue that businesses making as much as possible equals better wages and more economic growth for the country. Trump is attempting to make it so that businesses make as much as possible—a more extreme version of Reagonimcs. But as we learned with Reagonimics, this trickle down theory doesn’t work. More than one economist has shown that, due to upper class’s proclivity for saving money, putting more money in the upper class has a tendency to slow economic movement. But by putting money into the lower and middle class—who spend more frequently—stimulates the economy.
History is filled with the wealthy and the powerful doing what they can to keep their power, and increase it—which makes others subservient. I have no doubt that some (maybe even a majority) of the immensely powerful and rich continue this historical movement, and much of that effort is put into politics and narrative control. Since in America, the powerful cannot just mandate their vision of the world, they must do so through the guise of political process.
For example, the NRA is an incredibly powerful association with immense political ties, controlled by rich people. While six-year-olds, and movie watcher get shot, Congress cannot get any change to gun-laws, whatsoever. I’m not even talking about getting rid of guns, I’m talking about a more secure process of registering—which many gun owners approve of. But politicians and certain media outlets spout this “Guns don’t Kill People, People kill People” (of which I respond, which is why we need to be more careful of who is allowed to get guns).
Not only is the narrative being controlled, but politicians have gotten involved, effectively banning the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from receiving funding to study gun violence. That was enacted in 1996 when Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas proposed an appropriations bill with a rider that said “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Ask yourself the question why? Why can’t we research this? Why do people care enough to defund this research? Shouldn’t we want to know if gun control could prevent deaths or not?
These are just small examples of power and wealth, and pro-business mandates. But effectively the arguments and manipulation of the everyday citizen is the same. When child labor, 8-hour workdays, and overtime laws were discussed, the pro-business factions argued the same thing they argue with the minimum wage hike: “It will cripple us. We’ll have to fire people.” And yet, we have survived, businesses survived. What cripples the US is when wages stagnate as they have for the last 30 years, and when people get into too much debt, much like the student loan debacle currently hitting millennial.
Today there are too many businesses that won’t pay their workers enough, won’t increase wages, and don’t want to pay their taxes, pushing that burden on individual citizens. Too many businesses that adhere to their bottom line instead of understanding the implications of Climate Change, which if untreated with affect the lives of all on the planet.
Again, I will stress that the pro-business platform isn’t supported by all businesses, or CEOs, or private sector workers. But it is supported by many of those who can enact real change in Congress, and by voters.
But Trump’s pro-business agenda will only hurt the everyday American. His proposed budget—while not be mathematically accurate—would help the richest and the corporations. The rational is the trickle down theory, which has not been effective since Reagan took office.
A pro-business agenda now, it seems to me, will keep wages from increasing to an actual and viable living wage. It will continue to keep a blind eye to the implications of Climate Change. Cases like Flint, Michigan will continue. It will not help the middle or lower class. There is only so much money, and it doesn’t seem that the top 1% has the morals or ethics to help redistribute the wealth to improve the lives of Americans. It has only the drive to keep the money flowing into their business and their personal accounts.
I do not believe that businesses should earn as much as they can possibly earn. I believe there is a wage gap that can be closed, whether by businesses or by government action, I don’t really care how. But Trump’s pro-business agenda is not attempting to close that gap, and it will only hurt Americans, including a lot of his voters.
We need a pro-citizen agenda—that includes higher wages, better protection for our citizens, and an understanding and plan for acting on the changes brought by climate change in the future, and how we can minimize it’s impact. Otherwise the impacts are going to continue to harm the nation.
J. Sam Williams is the Creator and Editor in Chief of immix. He's been published in The Sporting Bay, The Sportster, Sidelines Mag, the Principia Pilot, Lunch Ticket and immix. He received his BA in Sociology from Principia Pilot, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University of Los Angeles. He currently lives in Sacramento with his Wife and two cats.