Romney-Ryan Rickshaws

Both candidates say they want to pull us out of the recession and put people back to work – to create jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs, the election seems to be about jobs.

President Obama is straightforward – to create jobs, we need to hire people, create needed programs and businesses that will hire people, for infrastructure repair, schools and environmental projects, like wind turbines and solar-electric panels and arrays. Environmental projects would take back fields we had pioneered before our government dumped environmental investments and let all the accumulated expertise go overseas in the 80s. And it would help the environment, our biggest and most serious concern.

The result is what economists call a multiplier, because the spending and wages will require other business to get moving. Since there is more money hanging around in American banks and businesses than they know how to spend in the U.S., real projects and real jobs will get the economy moving again, encourage businesses that have been waiting on the sidelines looking for demand for their products, to get back to work here in the U.S., producing more jobs. That is straightforward, makes sense, is tried, true and works. It is the standard economic prescription for a depression. And it actually reduces the deficit by stimulating the economy, unlike the Greek & EU style contraction which multiplies the problem, not the solution.

How about Governor Romney? He is taking aim at regulation. The idea is that if you make it cheaper to produce, business will make more stuff, even without any more demand. He doesn’t say what regulations. Does he mean OSHA regulations that protect the safety and health of American workers? My ignorance of OSHA regulations nearly resulted in very serious injury to someone helping me dig out the footers of my old house years ago. That wouldn’t have been cheaper. It would have meant that Ted and I would have paid very dearly for that mistake – he would have been in the hospital and I’d have had a very large bill to pay. Ignoring OSHA rules passes the buck to people who either don’t know the risks or have to accept them as the cost of holding a job.

Other regulations guarantee that we all get paid, in full, fund social security and Medicare, and prevent people from putting poison into the things we put on or in our bodies. Remember the huge fracas over mercury and arsenic just a few years ago. There is no excuse to fight for the privilege of poisoning us, but with support from Republicans in Washington, well-connected businesses thought they had a right to do just that. Sorry Mr. Romney, your anti-regulatory posture is both careless and dangerous, putting our wallets, our health and our future at risk.

And there’s another more serious problem. Romney and Ryan propose to make America more competitive by making American workers cheap, like foreign labor. Think of it. We could have Romney-Ryan maquiladoras, Romney-Ryan rickshaws, Romney-Ryan craftsmen sitting on the dirt floors of their shops producing trinkets for tourists, like the men, women and children my Peace Corps colleagues and I visited all over the world.

Romney-Ryan have not produced any acceptable vision for America except that most of us will do with less. Never mind the pennies in promised reductions in the taxes we’ll pay on the lower incomes he has in store for us. Meanwhile his friends will get more, more, more. Those of us who study what happens in many foreign countries have a technical word for it – kleptocracy – rule by people who use their power to steal from everybody else. Then what will America stand for?

— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, October 23, 2012.

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