Are we all in love with Elizabeth Warren yet?
Steve Benen provides a partial transcript of this clip:
“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,’” she said. “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
One of the things I love about EW is that she sees and clearly articulates how the economy is a web of interconnections, each part supporting or being supported by the other parts.
One of the things that has long driven me bats about “conservatives” is that they don’t see that. They don’t see how allowing bridges to rot hurts them, even if they never drive over those bridges personally. They don’t see how making higher education too expensive hurts them. They don’t see how under-funding public education hurts them. They don’t see how letting someone else’s family get buried (possibly literally) in medical bills hurts them. They don’t see how allowing a predatory banking system to rip millions of other Americans out of their homes hurts them.
The hurt may not be immediate, but when one part of the system fails it sets off a ripple of effects that damages other parts. If the overall system is strong it can absorb some failures here and there so that the shocks are localized and contained. But when there are a lot of big failures causing widespread damage to the system, and no one is stepping in to repair the damage, eventually it’s all going to fail.
Very simply, that’s what caused the Great Depression. It wasn’t any one thing. The allegedly strong economy attributed to Calvin Coolidge was a volatile boom-and-bust sort of critter that allowed some people to get rich but left millions behind. And it collapsed like a house of cards because the all-glorious free market did not repair the damage from several smaller failures, and the Coolidge/Hoover administration refused to intervene. Bad for business, you know.
You can see EW’s complex thinking at work in this Morning Joe clip. Someone asked her about China as a dominant military power, and she began to answer that China is investing some significant part of its GDP in infrastructure and technological development, and someone interrupted her and said, no, no, we’re talking about China’s military, not China’s economy. And Warren said, but they go together. The military and economic dominance that China is building are of a piece.
I still don’t think the bobbleheads got that. But what do we call a nation with a big, expensive military and a stagnant, unproductive economy? The USSR.
Part of our problem is that too many Americans have bought an ideology about what’s supposed to be good for business that looks at business in a vacuum, as if all the other parts of the system — such as sound infrastructure, an educated and healthy workforce, and lots of consumers with disposable income — don’t matter. In fact, the thinking is that we have to sacrifice those things in order to pump more money directly into business. This is insane.
As long as business executives get lots and lots of untaxed money, they will grow jobs and make the economy better, they say. The fact that business is losing customers because the working middle class is being squeezed out of existence doesn’t seem to register. And it doesn’t seem to register with business owners, either.
So you’ve got Rick Perry thumping his chest and saying he grew jobs in Texas by lowering taxes, cutting health care spending, and shredding environmental and consumer protection to lure business from other states. So how is that race to the bottom supposed to work nationally? Are we going to cut wages and working conditions even more to lure business from India?
And even then, right now Texas has its highest unemployment rate in 25 years. Way to go, Perry.