The old Clinton campaign adage, quoted by hack writers as often as wedding band guitar players mangle Chuck Berry riffs, goes like this: it’s the economy, stupid.
It’s obnoxious, off-putting and smug. (How dare you call me stupid. You don’t even know me!) And it’s also wrong. It should read like this: the economy is stupidity. It’s about stupid things sold in stupid ways by stupid people to other stupid people.
Capitalism’s success, at every level, is dependent on someone else’s stupid decision.
A property owner sells a plot of land on the bet that someone will be stupid enough to buy it. A property developer builds it up because they bet that someone will be stupid enough to want to operate a business in it. The business owner is betting that someone is going to be stupid enough to spend money on their product. That person is hoping that someone is stupid enough to let them stay at their job.
The second someone makes a smart decision, the flow of stupidity stops. If someone realizes the former warehouse’s neighborhood couldn’t possibly support a high-end coffee shop, then the space stands empty. Supplies go unsold. Labor isn’t needed. Insurance agents and accountants sit idle. There’s no need for marketers and advertisers or even baristas.
And that’s why the argument that rich people need tax breaks because they are wealth and job creators falls apart. Rich people are smart, at least about money. They make sure to invest as much as possible in things will make them money or will not lose them money. Give them tax breaks, they are more likely to save than spend.
Which is smart. And is therefore a danger to America’s economy.
The real wealth creators are poor people; specifically, poor people who make poor decisions. Someone who will spend a $400 tax return on a flat screen TV even though they’ve been living paycheck to paycheck for months. That flat screen TV sale is going to convince a Best Buy manager to keep an on-the-edge employee on staff for another week. And then that guy is going to buy a beer somewhere and leave a tip he can’t afford to impress a waitress who is trying to get an associate’s degree at a school that probably shouldn’t be accredited and so forth.
It’s not a pretty system. But it’s ours. And it would take years of pain to change it.
Also, the picture in this post is the number one google image search for “USA USA USA.”