It’s not up to us to try to figure out what RNC Chairman Michael Steele meant by his patently inane remark to Wolf Blitzer on Monday that,
“Not in the history of mankind has government ever created a job. Small business owners do, small enterprises do, not the government. When that government contract runs out, that job goes away.”
But we will try.
A job, as I always understood it, is an activity in which a person produces goods or renders services that someone else values, in return for wages and/or other benefits.
Steele, speaking for the Republican Party, has a more narrow view. He seems to envision the craftsman hunched over his workbench, producing his specialty gizmo for … well, for anyone except the government; it would not be a job in that case. The craftsman does his work, whatever it is, forever; his output has value forever; and his ‘occupation’ exists in perpetuity.
By Steele’s definition, no job within the government would be a real job. Neither would a job paid for with government funds. And jobs that eventually go away? Those were never real jobs after all.
That will come as news to history buffs life me, who always thought the WPA created lots of jobs. The products created by all those non-workers – engineers, contractors, laborers, artisans, and others – still grace the American landscape. Probably they did all that makework for fun or to keep busy, since they had no jobs.
Steele’s view of what constitutes a ‘job’ will come as a nasty surprise to the legions of teachers, police officers, firefighters, public health workers, military people, prison guards, and others whose work today derives from centuries of public policy. They don’t make a damn thing except smart kids, safe communities, and healthy people. Of what economic use are those workers?
Lawyers and accountants will be disappointed, too, since their work arises directly from or in response to government edicts – the laws. Indeed, the Internal Revenue Code could well be renamed the Accountants’ and Lawyers’ Full Employment Act. Steele must count those people among the nation’s wastrels – no productivity from them.
Politicians can count themselves among the useless, although many people believe that no definition from Michael Steele is needed to reach that conclusion. In fact, Steele is a lawyer and a politician – doubly useless by his own definition.
Workers like steelworkers mineworkers, and autoworkers certainly count among the sluggards in Steele’s worldview. Their enterprises are not small and much of their work comes from government contracts.
What’s more, many of those jobs have gone away since the days when I worked in a steel mill to get through college. One of the projects I worked on was the steel façade of the government-funded World Trade Center. Now, the job and the work product are both gone. Apparently, I was not working after all.
In fact, anyone whose work derives from any type of contract (regardless of who the contracting parties are) must not be doing a real ‘job’ because when the “contract runs out, that job goes away.”
So who’s left, besides Amish farmers, blacksmiths, and short-order cooks? Have we really become a nation of idlers and deadbeats?
Steele’s point is absurd, of course. But underlying the absurdity are three presumptions that may be worth paying attention to.
The first presumption is that that no one in or close to government does legitimate work. If that is true, then government spending is by definition wasteful spending and government has no power to stimulate the economy through spending. Private enterprise alone can do that. And the way to get private enterprise to do that is by reducing their taxes and giving them more money to spend.
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