Whenever there is any move by our government to allocate funds for any service (other than the military, giant corporations, or the banks that perennially wreck the economy) there is a great hullabaloo usually from the right about how we are undermining the profit motive, which any good student of neoliberal stoogery knows to be the sole motivating force for human existence (other than, maybe survival).
Let’s just pretend that’s true.
The rationale for this argument, propagated by many working people on behalf of the rich people who don’t want to pay more taxes, is that taxing those rich people and corporations who graciously allow us to work for a fraction of the profits we as laborers generate for them, would discourage them from employing us and thus lead to an economic collapse where the allegedly benevolent rich don’t give their serfs jobs anymore, and maybe even replace us with machines! Therefore, regardless of your own economic interests, you must support tax cuts for the rich! After all, Reagan who (is second only to Jesus in magnificence) taught us that wealth will trickle down, therefore, take from the poor, give to the rich, wait for the poor to benefit, and repeat until an economic collapse forces us to bail out the rich again. I mean, thou shalt not undermine the profit motive is the 11th commandment.
This same perverse logic has also captured many people on the “left.” They point to a mythical time where America was great (for white men) and businesses and executives contributed to their communities – and were taxed A LOT. The profit motive was socially oriented. Yet, despite their identity politics, the paradise for the liberal “left” remains the 50’s and 60’s where white America got economically comfortable enough to become conservative. What a utopia.
There is, however, a third option that recognizes that profits do motivate people. Indeed, they motivate unpatriotic companies to destroy our economy and ruin millions of lives in the process. ‘Tis the glorious profit motive which takes our job overseas with trade deals like NAFTA and the dead for now TPP. What a great motivating force for our society. As the religious Mitt Romney said “Greed works.” After all, it must be the profit motive Mormons have to thank for their 10% tithe of their income to the church which then redistributes some of the money to help the poorest of their congregation. Commies. Indeed, Mitt forgot to add “…for the rich” to that statement. It is holy greed that takes our jobs overseas and wrecks our economy. It is the same greed that lets the owners of our society profit off of our labor. The conservatives seem to deny the validity of the profit motive when it comes to raising the minimum wage, as we aim to do in Idaho with FairWageID.org, to #RaisetheWageID to $12 an hour by mid2024 by ballot initiative.
Many working people seem to fight tooth and nail on behalf of the CEO of Carl’s Jr. who believe that a higher minimum wage would be a disaster for our economy, as those “calamity howling executives” that FDR warned us about when he introduced the minimum wage during the Great Depression tend to do. Yet, such disasters have not yet occurred. The restaurant scene in the People’s Republic of New York City is thriving according to a recent article in Business Insider, the People’s Republic of Seattle has an unemployment hovering at or around 3%, and according to Bloomberg News states that raised the minimum wage are doing just fine.
Here is another idea though. Instead of relying solely on taxes to fund welfare for public goods, the vulnerable, and low income people (thereby subsidizing low wages and corporate profits), why don’t we fight inequality and poverty head on. In order to not simply fight economic inequality, but to fight for equality we must pursue policies such as The Right of First Refusal.
This policy states that if a business declares bankruptcy or shuts down a workplace for whatever reason (such as an unpatriotic move out of country) the workers must be offered the opportunity to buy the assets first. If they vote yes by a simple majority of workers (50% + 1) to buy the assets, the government (instead of throwing away trillions of dollars to bail out rich, poorly managed companies with no strings attached as they did in 2008) will loan the workers the money and the workers will keep their jobs in the US, safeguard against rising unemployment during a recession, and – most significantly – run their workplace as a cooperative where the workers democratically elect, hire, and fire their managers. Why is it that the workplace, where we spend the majority of our adult lives, is not a democratic institution? Why do we work under miniature monarchs? Get more informed at DemocracyatWork.info (they are also on Youtube).
The only answer I have received from conservatives is, after a few seconds of blank stares, “THE PROFIT MOTIVE AHHH.” But this simply does not justify letting the bosses take our wages for their profits. If you get a job at Walmart and make $12 an hour while making Walmart $100 in that hour, sure a little bit of that money goes to keeping the lights on, and a bit more goes to corporate bureaucrats we call management, but more, and likely most, of it goes to the Walton family who reigns comfortably among our owning class and makes more money in a single minute than an average Walmart worker makes in a year. All hail the profit motive.
So, why don’t we socialize profits? Thereby socializing the profit motive? Won’t the workers be more motivated and more productive? Indeed, Adam Smith found slavery to be far less efficient than wage slavery (were the humans are rented instead of owned, and also less abused). Imagine the efficiency of a system where all share in the profits they produced, where workers have rights to the produce of their labor!
This is essentially the definition of Democratic Socialism and will be the transition from crisis-prone, crony capitalism to societally-oriented, sustainable socialism. Are you surprised you agree? So are some lifelong conservatives I’ve met. Just the other day I shared the concept with a sweet older couple who considered themselves to be lifelong conservative capitalists. They were baffled to find that they agreed more with Democratic Socialism (“democratic” because unlike Soviet Socialism, it empowers the workers over their workplaces) than with the conservative and bourgeois liberal management of our economy which includes profit-motivated wars, crony corporate handouts, and bailouts of corrupt companies.
This is why we have started a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America in North Idaho. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at NorthIdahoDSA.