12 October 2011

Regulatory uncertainty versus food insecurity

The trope is that big businesses aren't creating jobs because of "uncertainty." Would someone please explain to me the nature of this uncertainty? GE paid no federal taxes in 2010 and its profits have regularly exceeded $1 billion per quarter. Private equity wizards, Tea Party financiers, and terror profiteers Charles and David Koch are (each or both, but at this level it hardly makes a difference) worth $25 billion -- which sounds like a number you'd make up to exaggerate for comedic effect, you know?

What is the uncertainty here? You hire someone and pay them $28,000 a year, or $120,000 a year? That will have an almost literally negligible effect on GE's profits. What am I missing in the math? GE makes over $1 billion extra every quarter; they'd pay the hypothetical new hire some $7,000 or $30,000 out of that. The Kochs add some new, highly capitalized business or a family of brands to their equity portfolio, and they've spent, what, a few hundred million dollars out of their $25 billion.

I guess "regulatory uncertainty" is the phrase spoken trippingly on the tongue as well. But really? The argument is that businesses won't hire now because they don't know if the rules will change in the future, making their permanent employees more expensive. But OSHA is notoriously understaffed and underfunded and has been for years and multiple administrations. It's not as if some new rules or increased enforcement will happen any time soon to wreck your factory's productivity. As for the energy sector (oil drilling, fracking, and so on), how many actual jobs are we talking here, versus, for example, Exxon's $10 billion in quarterly profits?

Why do people repeat the "uncertainty" line without making the people who claim uncertainty explain it?

I'll tell you what uncertainty is. It's not knowing whether you can pay the rent or put food on the table next month. And states are cutting TANF left and right. TANF -- thank you, President Clinton -- is difficult to get in the first place, offers no childcare to moms while requiring them to go to work, and discriminates against non-married, non-nuclear families.

I said it yesterday and I'll say it again. It's no wonder that there's a tent city at City Hall, and I don't see why anybody there would hurry up to leave. There's nothing left to lose, and the critics are free to hire them so that they move into a higher tax bracket.

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