In negotiations over the desirability of putting tax cuts into the Democratic Administration's so-called Economic Stimulus Bill, the Republican minority has resumed its party's traditional, familiar refrain of advocating tax cuts as the best method of creating economic incentives for the growth of employment, the freeing up of investment capital, and the general health of free enterprise.
The Stimulus Bill is in its specific parts, essentially a huge spending bill emphasizing public works and government programs, along with a large dose of tax cuts. During the Bush Administrations, the rich and the corporations benefited mightily from tax cuts, designed to stimulate investment and job growth. But those tax cuts did not have that effect.
Domestic investment and employment in this country have been steadily decreasing for the last two decades. American capital has turned its back on American workers, transferring hundreds of thousands of manufacturing and semi-technical positions overseas. These jobs were once the backbone of American prosperity.
Apologists for the Right argue that American workers, with their unreasonable demands for high wages, favorable conditions, health care and pension benefits, can't compete on the new "global market." They tell us that Americans need to "gear up" for the future technological era, when everyone will need to be skilled and flexible and "work smart."
At any given time, there are relatively few professional and technical positions in the general economy. If you put all the skilled jobs from science, management, law, and technical fields together, even those imagined by the dreamers of tomorrow-land, they wouldn't employ more than 15% of the able workforce. Despite what people say about the technological revolution, our electronic gadgets and the computer age, unskilled or semi-skilled labor still is the basis for the great majority of employment in the world. Sending "everyone" to college, even if that were feasible, isn't going to "produce" jobs or maintain a strong middle class. The factory system and the mass employment it requires is the real engine of prosperity in the modern world.
China now dominates the manufacturing field. It has transformed itself from a primarily agrarian society, to a fully industrialized one in less than two generations. And it now out-earns and out produces the United States by a significant margin. It also maintains effective trade barriers (de facto tariff), and currency policies, to insure that that advantage continues.
This trend has led to the wholesale destruction of our American middle class. The social and political implications are staggering.
Until or unless we are willing to address this destructive paradigm in our economic policies and practices, our position in the world, and the welfare of our nation, will continue to decline.