Jay Livingston slams a GOP talking point lent legitimacy by Gary Becker:
[Becker] pushes uncertainty to the front of the line-up and says not a word about the usual economic suspects – sales, costs, customers, demand. It’s all about the psychology of those in small business, their perceptions and feelings of uncertainty, Not only are these vague and hard to measure, but as far as I know, we do not have any real data about them. Becker provides no references. The closest thing I could find was a small business survey from last year [above], and it showed that people in small business were far more worried about too little demand than about too much regulation.
So what can we do about It? We can promote the creation of new jobs by small business in our own communities. If small businesses with fewer than 100 employees were to commit to hiring one person – just one person – the effect on the community could be significant. Take Rhode Island, for example. The state has about 6,200 businesses with between 10 and 100 employees. If each one of them hired a single new employee, that would be 6,200 Rhode Islanders with a job that previously did not have one. It would reduce unemployment in the state by one percent. It would mean that 6,200 fewer people would be receiving unemployment benefits and other government aid. 6,200 more people would be contributing to, rather than draining, public resources.
But maybe there is a way to prime the jobs pump. The goal should be to put more people to work so that they can distribute their income back into the economy. This effort may take some measure of faith on the part of the businesses who take the initial step to hire a new employee. Some businesses may not be able to fully justify a new hire. Do it anyway! The potential upside for the business and the broader economy makes it a reasonable risk. There is a sort of patriotic duty to assume such a risk on behalf of the welfare of our country. If enough of your neighbors join in, the rewards will be substantial. In the worst case scenario, you may have to let the new employee go in a few weeks or months. But at least he or she would have been employed briefly, and the cost to the business would have been negligible. It’s the sort of speculative investment that is worthwhile even if it does not guarantee a return.
On the other hand, if it does succeed, the nation’s economic health can be restored community-by-community. We can build out this program and spread it across the country. Neighbors helping neighbors. No dependence on government programs that do too little and are too difficult to implement. Medium-sized businesses can participate by hiring two or three new people. Big businesses would eventually recognize the momentum and loosen up their own purse strings to hire in even greater numbers. And the spending by all of these newly employed citizens would finance the economic rebound that everyone has been hoping for.
Does this seem too idealistic? Too fanciful and unrealistic given the harsh dimensions of our economic hardships? Let’s ask the city of Atlanta whose “Hire One Atlanta” program is already in progress and showing promising results. So far, nearly 1,500 businesses have added more than 13,000 workers. They are aiming for 150,000 jobs over the course of a year. They make a compelling argument on their web site:
“Hire one new employee and you’ll start a chain of events that can positively impact individuals and our entire economy. According to one analyst, a single new hire can (on average) increase U.S. GDP by about $100,000. Imagine if 150,000 businesses each hired just one person.”
That’s a $15 billion boost to the economy, and that’s just in one city. Last week the city of Greensboro, North Carolina announced that they will implement a program similar to the one in Atlanta. Why not spread this across the nation and put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work? The spike in spending, investing, and consumer confidence could be just what is needed to finally bring the economic recovery to the job market. And rather than just the top 1% of the nation’s wealthy elite enjoying the benefits of a rebound, all Americans can share in a growing and healthy economy.
The best part is that all of this can be accomplished by ordinary citizens inspired by the power unleashed in the simple act of of hiring their neighbors. So let’s get started. This is what we call Hire Power!
Last August, on a blazing-hot Nebraska evening, I sat in a cool hotel bar in downtown Omaha and listened as a team of Dockers-clad union organizers joked, drank, and argued their way into an alliance with a group of southern and western ranchers. The organizers, from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), made a simple argument: Meat-packing houses like JBS and Smithfield— their already immense power swelled from years of mergers—are using their dominance of cattle markets to hammer down what they pay for beef and for in-house unionized meatcutters. So rather than “scrap over nickels,” perhaps the ranchers and workers should lock arms and fight for bigger stakes.
Cowboys and labor? Plotting together? Polo shirt and bolo tie? In recent years, the two groups have, on occasion, signed the same statements against foreign trade. But closer to home, ranchers and unions have tended to view one another as rivals for the same wafer-thin slice of the retail dollar— and as parties on opposite ends of a gaping cultural divide. “It wasn’t easy,” one union organizer summed it up recently. “In recent years, we have not been friends.”
Yet half a year on, it’s evident that the alliance was no momentary fling, no mere “enemy of my enemy” excuse to clink a few beer bottles before stumbling back to opposite ends of the political corral. When the Justice Department held a series of hearings last year on concentration in agriculture markets, including cattle, the UFCW helped to pack the room for the cattlemen’s testimony, one of the only times in recent decades that an American labor union has promoted stronger enforcement of anti-monopoly law.
And in exchange? While in that room, the UFCW got a chance to make the case that the trustbusters should take on Walmart. The union views the retailing goliath as the main force smashing down the wages and benefits of the retail workers the union represents. More to the point, the union has also come to view Walmart as the real power driving the big meatpackers’ assault on both cattlemen and packinghouse workers. (The basic thinking here is that Walmart now controls such a giant swath of the U.S. marketplace that it can dictate prices even to the biggest of suppliers, which leaves less money in the system for the people who actually produce goods and provide labor.)