|Photo by Michael Vadon|
To this point, Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign has been about showing that bother George isn’t the only one of the Bush siblings whose foot feels an irresistible attraction to the lower reaches of his throat. Until recently, Bush’s most obscene statement involved a declaration that he, too, would have made the same decision to launch an illegal, immoral, ill-conceived war of aggression against Iraq that scattered terrorism across the Middle East, destroyed that country’s infrastructure, and killed thousands of Americans and tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Last week, perhaps wanting to reassure concerned Republicans that yes, he is as much of an ignoramus when it comes to domestic policy as the rest of the field, Bush argued that the solution to the country’s economic woes was simple: “We have tobe a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-timemodern lows. It means that people needto work longer hours”.
Perhaps realizing that this might sound a little crass, Bush quickly sought to correct, saying that he just meant that the under-employed should have the ability to work more hours.
But both the original statement and the effort to correct illustrate an ignorance of what plagues the U.S. economy, and an inability or unwillingness to see the contradictions in conservative economics.
The idea that people will do better if they are more productive is simply absurd. Productivity has been on a long, steady rise for workers in the U.S. However, their compensation—thanks to the Reagan Revolution and its embrace by the Republican Party, the plutocrats, and the Clinton-wing of the Democratic Party—has stagnated dreadfully, with the gains associated with their increased productivity flowing directly to the wealthy interests at the top…the interests that coincidentally exert such sway over the Republican Party.
Bush is right to say that everyone seeking work should be able to work in a full-time job. But his party, at the behest of its corporate backers, has been primarily responsible for ensuring the casualization of labour in the U.S.: that is, the plutocrats have sought to keep large swathes of the workforce from working in full-time jobs that would mean better compensation, more benefits, better retirement, more promotions, and more workplace stability.
The plutocrats who back Bush and his fellow troglodytes—Walker, Rubio, Fiorina, Trump, Santorum, Cruz, Paul, Carson, Christie, Graham, Huckabee, Jindal, Kasich, Pataki, Perry—know that they can make greater profit if they can rely on easily-fired, non-unionised workers who they are not obligated to support with healthcare or other benefits. They are less likely to have to promote much of this economically besieged workforce, and are unlikely to face, in a part-time and weakened workforce, organized demands for better wages and better workplace conditions.
I assume that Bush is not a complete idiot, and knows that his first statement was completely fault, and merely uttered it—as all of the Republican field does—to whip up the base, directing their attention from all of the ways in which the GOP field has undermined their constituents’ welfare, toward the imaginary 47% of “scroungers”.
Indeed, Ted Cruz called out Bush for failing to “avoid the kind of comments that led voters to believe that Governor Romney was out of touch with the economic struggles many Americans are facing”. In other words, Cruz’ problem was not so much with what Bush believes—Cruz, after all, is a loyal foot-soldier for the plutocrats—as with the fact that he let the cat out of the bag.
But Bush’s second statement is a perfect illustration of the gap between the faux populist rhetoric of the economic gangsters in the Republican Party and the actions that they carry out on behalf of the corporate interests who have purchased their loyalty.
The Republican Party’s platform is based on convincing people to live squalid, insecure lives, their economic hardship offset by the ability to be righteously angry and bitter towards their fellow citizens. The more efficient services the GOP assures us will come out of divestment from the public sphere will only be available to the most affluent in our society, a group who will be further and further removed from the rest of the public thanks to the efforts of the GOP and the Supreme Court to enshrine corporate rights.
The Republican Party has managed to persuade a great many people that lower taxes make up for all of the ills that come along with poorer schools, more expensive universities, ageing infrastructure, more expensive healthcare, lower pay, fewer benefits, reduced rights in the workplace, and the dethronement of democratic politics by corporate rule.
I recently arrived in Zambia after five weeks in Sweden, a country that takes much the opposite approach. People in Sweden pay high taxes. The country has its share of problems: the government’s slow response to the flood of asylum seekers from conflict zones created by U.S. foreign policy; the perception that foreign workers are displacing Swedes; a still-powerful corporate sector that uses archaic institutions to interfere in democratic policymaking.
But because of the investments they make, Swedes are able to have affordable healthcare; free universities; decent schools; regular, paid vacations; strong workplace protections and bargaining rights; security in unemployment; lengthy and flexible maternal and paternal leave (cutting down on the need for expensive childcare); good infrastructure; efficient transit systems; a representative political system; and a thorough environmental regulatory system.
There are some in the U.S. who on reflection—particularly if they are amongst the super-rich who believe that they have no obligation to aid their fellow citizens—might think that this is a bad deal. Some might agree on obstinately ideological grounds.
But there is no denying that this is a dramatic alternative to the organization of the U.S. economy and workforce, one which has much to offer to a great many people. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is promoting precisely such a vision, and offering such an alternative.
So when the Republican Party tries to blame all of the people in the U.S. who have, through no fault of their own, suffered economic hardship or misfortune, we know that there are alternatives to the cruel, market-centred economy we have constructed, and which the Republican Party and its paymasters amongst the elite are feverishly attempting to defend, however transparently immoral it might be.
The answer to our ills is not to ask the middle-class and poor in our country to work harder and make more sacrifices. The answer is to demand a greater degree of equity from our economy so that no one has to suffer hardship needlessly, and perhaps, peering through the fog of our conviction that we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world, to see how a myriad of other nations have constructed fairer, kinder, more equal societies than our own.