21 October 2012

American Except-alism

My favorite thing in the world today is Mark Rice's blog, Ranking America, which dispassionately reports on the United States standing in the world on anything from alfalfa exports (2nd) to child poverty (2nd worst) to percentage of rural population (167th) to penis size* (50th) to nocturnal safety (30th), which are the five most recent entries.  Rice's blog pinpoints the childish mentality of needing to only hear that America is the best, richest, most powerful, free-est, awesome-ist, nicest country in the world.  Yes, the United States is Number 1 in small arms ownership and incarceration rates.  That's American Except-alism, number one except for most everything that matters.

I was directed to the blog by an editorial in The New York Times, which replays the quadrennial lament at our politicians' inability to be straight with citizens.  The article essentially asks "What would happen to a presidential candidate who instead of pandering about American Exceptionalism pointed out disgraceful facts like our rank of 34th among the 35 most economically advantaged nations (we beat Romania!) in terms of child poverty?"  They'd lose, is the quick answer, then un-reflectively moves on to say "too bad."  If only we lived in a media environment, says the most prestigious media outlet in America, that was better at creating true political dialogue rather than posturing and pandering...

Point of fact, there is a presidential candidate who is making these kinds of arguments (while offering solutions to some of the same issues).  In her too brief interview with salon.com, Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president rightly argues for her inclusion in the televised debates (she's on 85% of ballots across the country) and also rightly points out that 90 million Americans don't have a candidate who represents them (that's a small estimate if you ask me).

This morning, I finally became a Decided Voter for the 2012 presidential election.  I will vote for President Obama despite the fact there are other candidates who better reflect my beliefs and hopes for the nation.  I do this out of fear and despair, because I live in a "Swing State".  I would encourage anyone who doesn't live in a swing state to do what I am not brave enough to do, vote for a candidate for president who represents not Mitt Romney's supposed "47%" of Americans who will vote for Barack Obama no matter what or the "43-47%" of partisan republicans who "decide" to believe what outlets like Fox News report, but the "43%+" of people who have so little representation in their elected officials that they don't even bother to vote.  Vote for Jill Stein if you are free to.

*This just in, Roman Numeral J site visits just increased by 13,056%

19 October 2012

Will Work for Jobs

It's nearing election day and the blathering "jobs jobs jobs, jobs jobs jobs jobs" (said with the intonation of the Peanuts adults) speeches are out in full force.

With an unemployment rate hovering around 8% candidates present themselves as viable alternatives for "job creators-in-chief", but it seems to me that such a role is another in the long line of fictional platforms on which we judge our candidates.

Mitt Rombley (as I think I heard Candy Crowley call him in the 2nd presidential debate) loves to say things like, "The government doesn't create jobs.  I know how to create jobs, because I was the head of a massive institution which was able to create jobs, but governments definitely cannot do that because they're not corporations, which are people."

President Obama, on the other hand, says things like, "We've created almost over 4.5 million new jobs over the past 29 (ish) months and while there's more to do, we're on the right track."  His statement is a little more true than Romney's if we assume the "we" refers to 'the American economy', i.e. everyone in and involved with the United States.  Slow, steady growth has been a feature of our recent recovery.

The fiction, of course, is that either candidate's plans will, necessarily, lead to more jobs.  It seems to me that if we consider a job, 1 person's opportunity to do a certain amount of work on behalf of someone else, what we really need to talk about is how do we make "more work" not "more jobs".  Creating work is much more straight forward than creating jobs, because 'work' is a scientifically-specific term.  You can create new work, I think, in only one of two ways: by creating additional work or new needs, which amounts to the same (see Jeffrey Kaplan's excellent article on the topic) or by decreasing efficiency in the workplace.

Making new work was a central piece of The New Deal and is what is now (and then) being largely reviled by conservative or big-business thinkers.  The idea that Romney and others keep repeating is that "government doesn't create jobs".  Set aside the fact that almost 6 times as many people are employed by the government (11.8 Mil jobs as of 2007) than by the nation's next largest employer, Wal-Mart (2.1 Mil jobs as of 2010).  That idea of the right that jobs can't be created by government is exactly false.  In fact, government is the most straightforward way to create new job, because it can call for new work to be created... 'build that bridge, teach those kids, photograph that crucifix in the glass of urine...'

The first stimulus bill worked, but it hasn't worked as quickly as we may all want it to (and in fact most Obama supporters at the time were saying that it didn't go far enough).  The stalling of an additional stimulus and now the calls for anti-stimulus (drastic spending cuts) at a time when everyone says jobs are the most important issue is... well... exactly what we've come to expect, I guess.  It should be no surprise to anyone that the republican ticket will be turning back to what has worked so well for them.  Incomes and assets of the 1% (and especially the .01%) are up astronomically in the past 12 years, so why shouldn't they want more of the same?