Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Trouble With Capitalism Is Capitalists

And what, exactly, is that trouble?  "They're too damn greedy."

Those aren't the words of some bleeding-heart liberal, though most bleeding-heart liberals would agree with them.  They are the words of Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st President of the United States and the man who, in the words of the National Lampoon, did a little thing called "the Crash."

The Great Depression of the 1930's destroyed the economic life of the country, and (worse yet) many lives, including the lives of men who should have seen the abyss that was coming and pretended that we would never reach it.  Hoover was arguably luckier than those men; the Depression merely destroyed his political career and reputation--and even those made a small comeback in later years. You can read more about all this here, including the above-mentioned quote.

Capitalists, in any case, were definitely Hoover's kind of people, so his words are worth pondering in the hyper-capitalistic world of today.  Sometimes, it seems that very little has changed.  Capitalism is still run by capitalists who are, in Hoover's words, too damn greedy.  Take Walmart, for example, which, despite phenomenal profitability, has historically paid its employees so little that they have to rely on food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet.

Historically, that is.  That's all changing now.  Walmart has launched a new program to address customer complaints about unsanitary, poorly-stocked stores.  A key part of this program involves significant increases in wages.  The program has reduced the number of complaints and let to sales increases.  You can read more about this program here.  Interestingly, Wall Street is thus far unimpressed with Walmart's program; despite the rise in the retailer's revenue, the Street is fixated on the short-term impact to Walmart-s bottom line.

In other words--in Hoover's words, to be exact--they're too damn greedy.  Where in the world do they think Walmart's profits are going to come from if Walmart's sales revenue fails to go up? Throwing more people out of work by closing stores?  That's the preferred 1% way of improving the balance sheet.

Except that, like it or not, society exists for the long run.  And in the long run, this doesn't work.

To quote Hoover's Oval Office predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, when more and more people are out of work, unemployment results.  And, when more and more unemployment results, people have less to spend.  And, when people have less and less to spend, they spend less.  And, when people spend less and less, business revenue falls like a brick off a cliff for everyone.  And, sooner or later (more likely sooner), there's nobody left to fire.  Unless, of course, you want to shut society down altogether.

This isn't gooey-eyed lefty talk.  This is math.  The Republican establishment had better start learning how to do math again, and learn to develop a level of patience that runs beyond the arrival date of the next quarterly earnings reports.  Those Trump voters willing to sell their souls to a trust-fund con artist?  They're your employees.  And they're tired of being given a middle finger by the people who employ them, and being told that they should worry more about immigrants taking their jobs.

If the Republican establishment wants a little unsolicticed advice from me--if it can stand to listen to it--here it is:  Be a little less greedy.  Bridge the financial gap between the have-nots and the haves with decent wages and benefits.  Treat customers and employees like decent human beings, because that's what they are, and your profits don't exist without both of them.  Do that, and you will find them to be less attracted to the Cheeto Hitler and more willing to vote for the boring empty suit you put up who wants to fight for freedom from capital-gains taxes.

In other words, you'll be back in the saddle, and still making obscene amounts of money.  Plus, the Democrats will be knocked out of power for a long time, and you'll save money because you'll only need to buy one political party instead of two.

Personally, I'm hoping you're not listening.  Personally, I'm hoping that you collapse under the weight of your own greed, so that a truly progressive government can take over and give America the government it needs and deserves.  But at least you can't say, in any case, that I didn't warn you.

You're your own worst enemy.  Get over it.  Herbert Hoover and I said so.  That should be bipartisan enough for everyone.

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