In my adult life several game changing shifts have taken place in the American economy. At first glance they would appear to signal a clear step backwards in our comfortable lifestyles. In each case we were told by select think tanks, business leaders, and their employees in Congress that economic changes are always difficult but change is what made America great. We were confidently assured that after a period of adjustment this or that restructuring would make us all rich.
When the “rust bucket” industries went belly up we were told “Don’t worry about “reindustrialzation.” Heavy manufacturing will be replaced by clean, well paid “knowledge work” – computers, software, and the work-at-home jobs they make possible. We will all be rich.
The computer age came, followed by the internet sequel. However, they seemed to make only a few people rich or better off. The goodies must have gotten stuck in those boxy computer things we now all use. We just have to figure out how to get our riches out of the boxes. And all those work at home jobs? They appeared as promised…. but the homes were in India.
Another “make us rich” scheme was the replacement of “employees” by contractors, usually outsourced contractors who often made job offers to former employees at a fraction of the pay and benefits they were receiving. Apparently we have to wait until we are all replaced by contractors before we can all be rich.
NAFTA had to be a sure winner to make us all rich, right? After all, a larger free market area would be a larger area to create wealth. No one suggested that it might make a difference whether this mega free trade zone should adopt Mexico’s standards or the United States’ standards. I guess they flipped a coin and decided on Mexico’s.
Speaking of contracting, someone decided that outsourcing shouldn’t arbitrarily end at America’s border. Allowing our corporations to contract with China’s corporations to make America’s products had to be an amped up path to contracting riches. In fact, our corporations would only be too happy to share the piles of new found wealth with the rest of America.
Backtracking to the original brainstorm to make us all rich by giving a few talented visionaries political privileges, there was the 1913 decision to give a few private bankers, humorously named the Federal Reserve System, exclusive control over the money supply. This was necessary to eliminate wealth destroying boom and bust cycles. Now you know the inspiration that gave America a century of financial stability.
Slashing taxes on the wealthy and dumping those opportunity crushing wall street regulations had to be a no-brainer in making us all rich in a stable, risk free environment.
One tactic that also allowed working people to also participate in getting rich without tangible production was land speculation. This was charmingly referred to as “flipping real estate.” It works better if you put a minimum amount down on several properties and flip them before some party pooper forecloses on you. The beauty here is that those who didn’t do their part in making us all rich were penalized with higher house prices or higher property taxes.
The latest proposed installment in making-us-all-rich inventions is the Trans Pacific Partnership. This will magically bring to us all the good things to us that international corporations have by silencing those barriers to riches called American Laws and Regulations. Think of the TPP as NAFTA on steroids or maybe crank.
OK, so most people don’t feel rich after all that has been done for them by our leaders. That’s because they haven’t learned that being rich for us is more of a state of mind than a physical reality. We are all rich by definition.