The Republicans say that the main reason we’re seeing such trouble with the job market is that regulations are strangling employment. The Democrats say that the reason we have such a problem with employment is that we lack demand. Who is right?

Bruce Bartlett has a rather unambiguous answer, and it might not be the one some would like or expect..

The trouble for your average Republican is that for all they make the case that it’s regulation getting in the way of new jobs, the vast, and I mean vast majority of job losses are from the simple fact that there isn’t enough demand out there.

What makes those job numbers so unambiguous? The sheer disproportionate relationship, really. There were something like 4,854 jobs lost in 2009 because of regulations. No, I didn’t forget to add “thousands” to that. That’s precisely how many. It’s a fraction of a percent, .2 percent, actually.

But what about 2010? 2,971. This year, first half, has been 1,119. The proportion is steady, and tiny to boot. If five hundred people are laid off, just one, just one will lose their job because of regulations.

Lack of demand? For the same years, the numbers have been 824,834, 384,565, and 144,746. The first number is almost 40%, and the other numbers are about 30% apiece, of their respective totals.

If we’re talking proportion, then it is fair to say that the first years layoffs were about 200, then 150 times more the result of lackluster demand than regulation.

So, if the Republicans are aiming at regulation as the big job killer, then they’re sadly mistaken.

That, or they’re trying to look concerned with the job market when they’re actually after something else.

I mean, really. Is there actually a time when the answer to a question hasn’t been “deregulate”, when it comes to Republicans? Even when the actions or mistakes of the corporate class has clearly crossed some threshold of acceptable behavior, they’re saying the best thing is to relieve them further of burdensome rules.

Maybe it’s to their benefit not to have to concern themselves with the pollution, job safety, labor or other matters that a regulation might force them to confront, but is it cheaper for them for the right reasons? I mean, if everybody else is getting poisoned, broken by their jobs, made to work long hours for less pay, while their children and spouses end up neglected, well then, what are we doing? If the rest of us have to endure chronic unemployment, devaluation of our own property, the gutting of our retirement, etc, just to make sure that a few already rich men make even more money, then you’ll have to tell me where the benefit’s going to be in the trade-off.

It has been the nature of the rich and powerful to take advantage of those who are less rich and powerful than they. This is the simple nature of man, and it can happen whether the person is a lifetime blueblood heir, or whether they’re just some schmoe that got lucky. Put somebody in a position where they’re no longer responsible merely for themselves, and watch their estimation of their interests change.

This is not good or evil, it just is. What folks need to realize is that if they had looked after their interests earlier, if they had remembered and recognized the problems that came with the changes that those in the pay of the big corporations and the big rich folks wanted, they might not be in this position now.

Interests in this democratic republic of ours are meant to compete, not merely win outright, one way or another. You should not be always saying, “Oh, I shouldn’t call for greater regulation, because I might lose my job.”

When somebody’s going with that line, they’re typically trying to con you. The people who come up with these arguments aren’t trying to be compassionate, they’re trying to extort your will to stand up for your own interest, by essentially telling you, “know your place, or we’ll take it from you when we don’t get what we want.”

By not dealing with those things, many people lost their jobs in the long run anyways, and for their deference, they’ve been put in even more desperate positions. The simple axiom would be, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, for yourself.

I’m not saying we should just sociopathically define things in our own interests alone. Far from it. But we should learn to recognize when folks are just taking advantage of our anxieties, our prejudices.

As a person who studies storytelling, and does a little of it myself, I understand the ways in which reality is often compromised for the sake of an interesting story, or the presentation of an interesting story. So many of the things we see in movies, even the relatively realistic ones, are implausible or even impossible in the real world. But being fictional, such worlds and their representation can bring forth the impossible and the implausible with ease, with our imaginations often as their willing co-conspirators. I mean, our minds are built to be adaptable, capable of learning about and understanding many things. Since you can’t evolve in anticipation of everything, we are evolved to being able to imagine things beyond what even the real world can present to us.

Now that’s fine if we’re entertaining ourselves, but when we’re confronting the state of the real world, we need to be able to both imagine, and rule out certain stories, even if they are compelling. Science has brought us advancement at a pretty fast pace, simply by formalizing and improving that process of skeptical inquiry. Other disciplines benefit from it.

I know what it is to have a compelling set of beliefs, but beliefs are no replacements for truths. Each of us has an imperfect appreciation of the truth, so it is in our interest to improve on that, to learn, and shape our feelings by what we learn, rather than assume we know better.

I have already presented evidence that shows that job creation during the time of the Bush Tax Cuts was simply terrible. Even without taking away the jobs lost during his administration, his job numbers are little better than Reagan’s first term, and about half of what Carter created in one term in the mid to late seventies. Think about that.

But still, Republicans insist on tax cuts as a panacea.

If a policy doesn’t work, insisting on it won’t make it work, it’ll just make things worse. Of course, try telling the modern Republican that. Try telling a Republican who thinks they are fighting what is in all but name a communist fifth column conspiracy, who thinks that Democrats just want to ruin the economy, that they’re wrong.

That’s one reason their leaders have fed them that, by the way. Since they don’t want to lose support, they have to push their followers to believe that something much worse will happen if they settle down and work reasonably with others across the aisle, if they admit defeat. But look at the extremity of it, the sheer, implausible paranoia of it all!

If you’re having to scare people that badly, push them to that ridiculous end, then there’s not much more room for denial left. People are going to figure it out, sooner or later, because other compelling ideas are going to come along, and these ideas will have the advantage of being backed by good logic and good evidence. People are already tired of the conflict, tired of the political chicanery. They want answers, and they want change for the better. They’re not going to wait for this economy to recover, sooner or later they’re going to demand that the government helps.

It worked before. It should work now. The era of anorexic government is over. We’re going to return this government and this nation to a healthy weight, and a healthy attitude, where polices are based less on political hysteria, and more on theories constrained by the real world, and moderated by practice.


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