The Free Market and Its Many Wonders
By Bob Simpson at Jun 03, 2008
One of the many things that puzzle me about American life is the notion that the right wing is pro-business...more specifically, pro-small business. Groups like the Republican Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their large corporate backers claim to fight for small business which is supposed to flourish under their version of free market economics.
As a bona fide independent contractor working in a small biz with a grand total of 3 employees (but with a somewhat larger number of associates and co-contractors), I am going to weigh in here from the point of view of a little guy.
The decimation of the labor movement has had a devastating effect on small business. Working class people are the lifeblood of much of small business and if they don't have money to spend, small business goes down with them. Decimating the labor movement was the brilliant idea of our free market saviors. Gee thanks guys and gals.
If you own a little eating establishment or tavern across from that GM plant, ya better start thinking of some other line of work. Heck, you don't even have to be anywhere near a major industrial facility to feel it. Wages have been flat for years because of the savage beating the labor movement has taken. It's what both Eugene V. Debs and Henry Ford knew long ago, if workers don't have money to spend, business suffers.
The decimation of what passes for social and labor legislation has had a devastating effect on small business. The rightwing has fought every effort for some kind of national health insurance since at least the days of Harry Truman. The result? What small business can afford to give their employees decent employer health benefits in this day and age? The rightwing has fought to criminalize immigration so that unscrupulous employers can undercut wages with underpaid undocumented labor and force their competitors to match them in the race to the bottom. The rightwing has opposed health and safety and environmental legislation so that unscrupulous employers can cut huge corners on worker safety while poisoning the communities around them. If you are an honest businessperson who wants to do the right thing, try competing with these "free market" criminals. And as for enforcement, talk to some of our frustrated OSHA and EPA employees some time. You'll get an earful. The sprint to the bottom has become an Olympic event.
How is small business supposed to prosper in neighborhoods wrecked by dis-investment and where much of the population is in prison rather than in school? Our patriotic "wise leaders" have packed up much of our industry and shipped it overseas instead of investing in tech-improvements and worker training. The result? The highest executive compensation on the planet and some of the worst poverty in the developed world.
How can small business prosper when the stresses of life under this bizarre form of dog-eat-dog-cat-eat-mouse economics cause so many people to go off the charts mentally, leading to depression, low productivity and an occasional fool with a gun who walks into your 7-11 franchise and blows away some total strangers who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Our drug laws drive up the prices of mind numbing drugs so that many alienated desperate people looking for solace turn to crime to pay for them. And guess who gets robbed to pay off the drug dealers and the crooked cops? Why small businesses and their customers of course. On the other hand, our drug laws do create an economy of sorts.
Low income rural and urban working class people are virtually the only folks to get sent to prison for drug abuse. The dopers get to make license plates and rural America gets to guard them. It's about the only public works program left. Oh, wait. Our free market saviors hate public works. Better privatize the prisons along with every other evidence of of governmental institutions. Let's make Halliburton the industry standard of corruption and cronyism for all privatized government institutions. In fact, let's make two...three...many Halliburtons.
Small business demands a constant flow of creative and fast-foot-work thinking just to survive. Yet our "wise corporate leaders" now insist on an assembly-line educational system where creative thinking is dumped for a barrage of memorization for standardized tests created by guess who? Our "wise corporate leaders".
Visual arts? Theater? Music? Who can afford useless frills like that when there are schools in America where the kids have to bring their own toilet paper. Still, it's amazing to think of how much small business relies on the arts-- little galleries, tourist trinket shops, small communications and media shops, little birthday card gift shops and of course every small business needs artists to prettify their advertisements and signage...the list goes on.
To attract customers, small businesses clamor for artists to make their shopping districts look quaint, or ultra-moderne or just plain not boring and decrepit. They demand musicians to play summer concerts in the shopping malls or live theater performances to rope in the customers. Well screw them...if they can't find customers unassisted by a bunch of flaky artists, starving actors and strung-out musicians let 'em get a taste of bankruptcy court.
They say it's wise to get a college degree if you plan to go into business. But what is happening to our universities? Being a college prof these days means 3 jobs at widely separated schools with minimal or no benefits. Gotta see your professor, better catch them on the way to parking lot and hope they don't drop that pile of term papers into a mud puddle.
And of course frills like women and gender studies and ethnic studies are always on the chopping block. God forbid we should study how to get rid of our racial and gender caste system. Those caught up in our gender and racial nightmare are told to start a business. Gee, thanks pal. Now that they've cut the Office of Womens Affairs or the Office of Minority Affairs, how are they supposed to figure out how to beat out the big white boys who have a head start that goes back 400 years?
And don't even get me started on what they are doing to liberal arts. Liberal arts is where students are supposed to cultivate creativity and to weigh in on complex moral and ethical choices.
To hell with them. Let 'em get the info off Google or look it up in the dwindling shelves of our threadbare public libraries. And as for debating complex moral choices, who needs that? Our moral guardians on Wall Street do a much better job than some bearded hippie philosophy PhD stuffed in a cubicle with their Plato and Camus paperbacks.
Small business has no moral and ethical decisions to make that can't be solved by some kindly advice from Fortune Magazine or Forbes. Who needs to read about some crazy Greek guy who pushes a rock up a hill. What a loser. So empty out those literature and history classrooms and put in some courses that spit out more lawyers and MBA's.
Our free market saviors need those universities to do product research on the taxpayers dime. Build more labs in "partnership" with multinational corporations so they can patent genes, drugs, crops, software routines, new life forms or whatever. Make sure that scientific and engineering research is closed off by fences around "intellectual property." Make sure that small businesspeople (and that includes the farmers who grow our food) pay through the nose if they want to take advantage of these advances.
As for being able to write a clear English sentence and string those together into coherent paragraphs? Let that be taught by some struggling underpaid grad student with a mountain of debt and no time to grade the gazillion blue books the poor sap has to wade through. Corporate America sure has a brilliant plan for our colleges and universities.
I could go on, but I gotta get back to work. I have a whole list of digital snafus to fix and there is still code to be debugged, copy to write, clients to query and cartoons to write for our semi-comatose labor movement.
Have a nice day and long live the free market.