Over the weekend, Dean Baker wrote, Will Hillary Clinton Have a Serious Plan to Persuade Companies to Invest in Workers? It seems that Clinton is calling for companies to invest in their workers, and Baker would like to know if she has any plans to cause that to happen, or whether she is just expecting that her pretty words will convince them. It isn’t surprising that the mainstream media is not interested in the question. After all, they too are in the pretty but anemic words business.
Baker noted, “It actually is not hard to give companies more incentive to invest in their workers, we can just make it harder for them to fire them.” This is something that is very big in Europe. But in America, we have done nothing over the past 60 years but move away from this. The argument is that businesses must have total flexibility or we won’t have acceptable growth. What workers might need doesn’t matter. But it is interesting that allowing businesses to lay off workers at the first sign of an economic downturn just plays into the paradox of thrift.
If a business sees a recession is coming on and lays off half its employees, there will be a all those employees who are not buying things. This will cause the recession to get even worse — even faster. Now, this is a fine strategy for any specific business. But in the aggregate, it is bad for all businesses — because there will be fewer people around to buy their products. So legislation that stopped businesses from doing something that will ultimately be bad for them is a good idea. Or at least it is if the concern really is economic growth.
Of course, I don’t think that is why conservatives want to give businesses the most flexibility and workers the least flexibility. More and more, I look back to Edmund Burke when thinking about conservatism. The great concern is that if you allow the workers to get comfortable, they will revolt. And by “revolt,” they mean “ask for anything at all.” So I think the whole idea here is to make workers as insecure as possible. But all that ultimately does is put off the day when workers demand some kind of equal share of the resources of this country. But I guess the conservatives figure that they’ve been able to finesse it this long, and now with Fox News, it is a good bet that they can continue on indefinitely.
I like Hillary Clinton. But I have no illusions that she isn’t part of the power elite. She will not do anything that taxes her class. But even if she did do something, it would be changed over time to help the business community. Dean Baker discussed how a Carter administration program to allow workers to become part owners has been instead little more than a “tax break for creative owners.” To me, it is all about this: it isn’t enough to elect a president. Unless we can keep a liberal government in power for a decade, we are going to get relatively little reform. And given that a large section of the liberal coalition has something better to do during off-year elections, we have a problem.