You might think, then, that doing something about the employment situation would be a top policy priority. But now that total financial collapse has been averted, all the urgency seems to have vanished from policy discussion, replaced by a strange passivity. There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers.
This is wrong and unacceptable. ...
Failure to act on unemployment isn’t just cruel, it’s short-sighted.
Let me be blunt: Why should I care about the "cruelty" of unemployment? I kind of feel bad in a vague, abstract way, but I can live with that. Besides, suffering builds character, or so I'm told. As far as "short-sighted" goes, didn't Keynes say, "In the long run, we're all dead."
Here's the thing: I'm a big capitalist. I own shares in a lot of companies that produce things that every working person needs to consume (food, clothes, shoes, etc.) and things that the rich want (gold-plated cell-phones). I have enough money in the bank (and thanks, Obama, for protecting that money for me!) so that my family and I can live dripping in luxury for the indefinite future.
Why should I support an emergency jobs program? What's in it for me? Right now, I can get people to work for next to nothing. Sucking millions of people out of the private labor force is going to raise my labor costs. I'm willing to pay my people the bare minimum for immediate survival, and put them on an ice floe when their productivity drops. Raising the general labor cost isn't going to help me, it's only going to help my more sentimental, bleeding-heart competitors. And if I somehow did Grinch-like develop a heart, I'd just be undercut by some competitor who could resist your blandishments. And if millions of people are starving, that just raises the price for my food.
It's been a real grind for us enormously rich capitalists the last 50 years. Do you know how hard it's been to find domestic servants? And finding servants we can control and abuse at will has been literally impossible. This whole situation is a godsend. I can tell you, the next time I abuse and berate my servants for serving me coffee that's taupe instead of beige (Oh! the humanity!), they're not going to quit on me in a huff with generous unemployment benefits. What's the use of power if you can't use it arbitrarily and contrary to the will and well-being of the
You seem to think we're all in this together, that we have a mutual interest in creating a just, fair and equitable society in which every person can live in comfort and dignity. Bullshit. I became a successful capitalist the same way that anyone becomes a successful capitalist, the only way to become a successful capitalist. No matter how much I had, I craved more, I craved it with all my being. If you don't crave more, sooner or later you'll flinch and fall to someone who does. And the only way to get more is to take it from others: from the weak, the slow, the stupid and, most importantly, the sentimental.
Your talk of morality and ethics is laughably quaint and naive. I give my workers the most valuable gift of all: the gift of life. No one deserves to live, and if they can't serve me and my brethren, they won't live. It's not only naive but positively immoral for them to demand more.
Tell you what, I'm a generous man: I'll buy your morality. How does a million bucks sound? I'll even throw in a house in the Hamptons and an opportunity to rub shoulders with the real ruling class at cocktail parties. Not buying? You have principles? No problem. There are tons of people will will happily sell out without a second though, people just as eloquent and persuasive as you. If anyone actually starts listening to you, I'll just use the million to marginalize or discredit you. Above all you are not stupid, and martyrdom is stupid.
[Anyone who thinks the capitalist ruling class will draw back its hand when dealing with its enemies might want to have a conversation with Salvador Allende, Mohammed Mosaddeq or Huey Long, just to name a few - Ed]
Mr. Obama also knows where his self-interest is. He got to the White House on my money, and when he leaves the White House he'll live on my money. And if he's smart, he'll use my money to push his children into the real ruling class, so they can own the next president. Obama is no chump: He knows the Democratic party is there to take the fall for the ruling class when we make a mistake, to flim-flam the voters during a time of crisis and distract them from their real interests. And he's doing a magnificent job; we'll take good care of him when he's out of office, don't you worry.
Dr. Krugman, you'll never in a million years persuade me to give up my power voluntarily or stand idly by when my government, bought and paid for, tries to take it away from me. Moral arguments are useless: all morality comes from self-interest, and I know where my self-interest is. Do you? The masses of people can have sufficiency, comfort and dignity only by picking my pocket. They'll have dignity when they take power, and they will take power over my dead body, and the bodies of my well-armed, disciplined soldiers and police, who also know where their self-interest lies.