Monday, November 30, 2009

Who made your trousers?

It's all about jobs. "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!" said the DFL Gubernatorial Guys from the Iron Range.

Today, Monday, November 30th, NY Times Columnist Professor Paul Krugman urges the President to do another economic stimulus right away to put people back to work.

For the one out of ten adults still looking for work, the available jobs that do open up have six applicants for each opening. And the number of long term unemployed in the U.S. is the largest since the 1930s.

How did this happen? And what should be done about it? Your answers depend on where you sit. Or "where you stand."

This retiree on a fixed income has a stake in the lengthy and partisan health care debate that has taken a year so far, in our Congress of Millionaires. The shame of death due to "a lack of medical coverage" seems only to concern those "bleeding hearts" who don't understand how the American Free Enterprise System delivers its blessings, for which we have just given thanks.

Examples from this "System" can be found on the labels of my sturdy L.L. Bean trousers, my birthday present this week. Made in China. And seen on a tee-shirt mailed last year from Prickett's Fort in West Virginia? Hecho en Honduras.

I did not choose this "foreign merchandise." I did not vote to terminate the organized United Garment Workers of the United States. I didn't even shop around to see where I could save a few bucks. The pants were mailed from the American Headquarters in Maine by this company with a reputation for "Down East" quality. The tee-shirt carried the logo of my pioneer heritage from the 18th Century.

No, some Bean Counter, some Wise Guy CEO from a business school, decided for all of us, that his "Return On Investment (ROI)" would be higher, his bonus for short-term Profit would be greater, if he gave the jobs to poor Chinese farmers rushing to the new factories that Americans were developing in Asia. Shame on us. All of us, for letting this economy go to hell in shipping containers.

So, what now? Well, Paul Krugman says "Trickle down didn't work." We can't spend our way out of this, when mortgages are still foreclosing and unemployment payments keep running out. People are scared and not spending, if they don't have to.

The government needs to create about a million public works jobs.

Roosevelt did it, and it did a lot of lasting good.

In Minnesota we need to follow the advice of the noted bank robber, Willie Sutton. You go where the money is. In his case, it was in the banks. In our state, the place is the Individual State Income Tax. Before we allow the desperately poor to be kicked off of General Medical Assistance March 1st, by Tim Pawlenty's grab for no-taxes power, we need to act in St. Paul.

If you are jobless, an income tax increase is not a big problem. But your medical care sure is. If the necessities you buy are taxed at 6.875% or higher, a sales tax increase is a real added burden. We have known about a "Progressive" tax rate on incomes for a century. The rate progressively increases as one's taxable income rises.

All this hue and cry about "Taxes," comes largely from those well up the prosperity ladder. Kill the idea of any tax, damn the cost of any government. Make users pay "fees for services." For two decades the wealthy haved walked off with larger and larger shares of our economic pie.

So teachers, nurses, and firemen are losing jobs. The harsh public policies harm our children, the sick, and the newly needy.

With Chinese workers making our clothes, our refrigerators, our lawnmowers, our toys, and shoes and electronics... we need a New Industrial Policy, a Jobs Policy.

President Obama has called a Jobs Summit in Washington this month.

Let's pay attention.

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