Analysts and commentators have been musing about the Republican Party’s identity struggle. On one side are your social conservatives who have heavily invested in the notion that America is simply about God, guns, Chevrolet, and who can have more kids than Rick Santorum.
On the other side of the fence are your fiscal and economic conservatives, who make up a remnant of the Republican yacht club, led by the rich guy on television’s Gilligan’s Island and played by none other than Willard M. Romney. America, according to these classical liberals, is about being self-made, aspiring to wealth, with as little government interference between man and contract.
If there is one thing they both have in common is their hate for anything that reeks of socialism, and especially its better known branch: communism. Social conservatives hate socialism because it discourages individualistic thought, spurns involvement in the democratic process, including the free exchange of ideas, and shows little respect for religion. Fiscal conservatives find socialism an affront to free markets, with socialism’s preference for government ownership of capital and determination of prices and output.
Well, there is one thing that Republicans seem to have in common with socialists these days. That commonality is the idea of job creation.
Wait a minute. Job creation? Seriously?
For all their claims that President Barack Obama wants to take America down a fundamentally dangerous path into the scary forests of European socialism with music from Kraftwerk in the background, Republicans appear to be flirting with the very concept themselves.
Only Mitt Romney appears unafraid of the word profit. Other leading Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) describe businesses as “job creators” and “capital gains tax avoiders”; anything but the profit seeking entities they rightfully are meant to be.
These other-than-profit references Republicans use to describe business must be the result of two fears.
The first fear is the onslaught of populism Democrats may lay on Republicans for favoring profit seeking businessmen over the little people. Democrats appear to have that area of the cell block on lock down under the banner of Dodd Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s only been made worse since Mr. Obama recess-appointed his happy warrior, Richard Cordray, to ensure the battle is brought to the business front.
The second fear is the Tea Party. I have my doubts as to whether the Tea Party even likes the business community. They most likely lump business and banks together and given their staunch distaste for the bank bailouts, the thought of promoting business profits might whip them up into a frenzy. They have been quiet lately. Best to let those sleeping dogs lie.
So the Republicans are left with job creation. You would think that businesses have been relegated to some quasi social welfare agency status. “Your purpose isn’t profit. It’s job creation.” Reminds me of the scene from The Godfather Part II, where Vito Corleone’s boss is “persuaded” to fire Vito and replace him with the local Don’s nephew.
Worse yet, it reminds me of how the old Soviet Union created jobs through their central planning apparatus leaving workers sitting around idle only to leave for home at the end of the day with a pittance of a check to stand in a grocery line of 100 people waiting to buy the last five loaves of bread on a grocer’s shelf. Talk about European socialism. Seems like the Republicans are ready to experiment with that type of economy themselves.
Problem with Republicans is that they are stuck on Gilligan’s isle. Businesses don’t create jobs. They are not social welfare agencies. They need to see an economy that is consuming again. Congress needs to stop delegating its responsibility for the economy to everyone else. After all the rhetoric about putting chickens in every pot, cars in every garage, and broadband in every living room, the only thing a president can do is spend. Government spending is a component of the economy, and Lord knows this president we have has no problem spending.
What Congressional Republicans can do in the short term is ensure that spending in the short term is geared toward investment that has a chance of creating jobs, notably infrastructure spending. Rather than hiding behind the rhetoric of debt ceiling increases, legislate the terms and conditions of additional spending. Don’t base those terms and conditions on silly tax cut policies, but on bold spending initiatives.
Yes: end the misery created by some agencies that have no impact on economic growth and legislate them out of the budget. Keep tax rates the same in order to combat the deficit, but don’t be afraid to show the president that the United States cannot afford to fund certain programs anymore.
If anything, stop hallucinating that businesses are in business to create jobs. They are here to make profit. Time to get off of Gilligan’s Island.