24 January 2007
Well, it was nice to hear Senator Webb acknowledge (even if only implicitly) that the economy is as good as the President says it is. The real problem, Webb informs us, is how the ‘benefits’ of a good economy are ‘shared.’ If that's the case then it just seems to me that there will never – never – be an economy good enough to satisfy Democrats: someone will always – always – be doing better than someone else; the ‘benefits’ of a good economy will never be equally shared.

I recall that when there was a Democrat administration they defined a good economy by the same factors as the President last night. This remained the case during the 2000 election campaign when they claimed that
then-candidate Bush was talking the economy down, the ‘good’ economy, as defined in terms of the same factors the President used last night. Now a good economy is defined by how the ‘benefits’ (i.e., of an otherwise good economy) are ‘shared’.

Part of Senator Webb's argument about how poorly the benefits of our good economy are ‘shared’ included a complaint about how high executive salaries are in comparison with those of average workers. Senator Webb informed us that when he graduated from college (1968, from the U. S. Naval Academy) the average CEO made just twenty times what the average worker earned. Now it’s 400 times. I’ll stipulate to that.

But when that difference between CEO salary and average worker income was as low as Webb asserted that it was people still complained about that difference. (I know this first hand because some of the people complaining were the adults in my family when I was a child.) If it wasn’t acceptable when it was twenty times more then when will it be acceptable? When (by federal fiat, I suppose) we’ve got it down to only 10 times? Five times? Will anyone be happy if and when the day comes that the average CEO makes only 2.5 times more than the average worker?

It seems to me that if you are going to assert that some given set of circumstances is ‘bad’ you ought to clarify what set of circumstances you will concede is ‘good’. Democrats think that CEOs making 400 times more than average employees is ‘bad’. I get that. Would they please tell us now what ‘good’ will look like?

What Democrats (as well as ‘Democrats Lite’, a.k.a. Republicans) assert, really, is that how much a man who has a job to offer pays someone to do that job depends upon something other than how much it is worth to the employer for someone to do that job. Democrats seem to think that if I own a grocery store it is largely irrelevant what it is worth to me to have someone run a cash register, how much it is worth to me to have someone sweep a floor, how much it is worth to me to have someone stock those shelves. They also believe that if in my grocery store I employ a handful of executives it is largely irrelevant what it is worth to me to have those executives do the work that I pay them to do. And apparently it is irrelevant if I – the one paying those wages and salaries with my money – think it is worth more to me to have the (educated, trained, skilled) executives do the work that they do than it is to have the (relatively uneducated, untrained, unskilled) do the work that they do. It is irrelevant that it may be worth it to me, the owner of the business and the one paying the bills, to pay my executives 400 times what I pay my average employee.

I know. How about – since I now have my nest egg – I just close up shop? I don’t mean sell; that would mean that those poor mis-treated employees still have those terrible jobs. I mean close up the shop. Shut it down. Take all the stock on the shelves, load it into trucks, deliver it to my nearest competitor and sell it to him for (given that I already have my nest egg) $.25 on the $1.00.

Does that seem mean to you? If so, then I can only conclude that you think that I was somehow obligated to go into the grocery business, rather than free to do so. Or perhaps you think that, having gone into the grocery business I was obligated (a) to pay a wage as dictated (in a ‘free’ country, mind you) by a government which cares nothing of the value to me of the jobs that I own; and (b) to remain in business in perpetuity for no other reason than that the people I employ need the jobs that I own.

Democrats, to listen to the senator last night, must believe that there is another obligation: (c) to keep my business, or just the jobs that I own, in the United States, despite what it may be worth to me to move those things overseas. Somehow, part of ‘sharing’, or ‘distributing’ the ‘benefits’ of a good economy includes ensuring that companies doing business and, more importantly, providing jobs (not the goods and services which create those jobs) do not move those jobs overseas, despite what it may be worth to the owner of those jobs to do so. And if a company moves those jobs overseas this is a problem for government. And the party in power when those jobs move overseas is somehow responsible.

I guess we just need to make it illegal for American companies to move jobs overseas. Of course, to be fair that law will have to be made applicable to foreign companies who bring jobs here. Once they bring those jobs here, those jobs must stay. (It wouldn’t be fair to have a law that says American companies have to keep jobs here but foreign companies are free to move jobs around as they please, especially when Americans are depending on those jobs.

Remember: whatever an American needs, there is someone somewhere who is obligated to provide it. Never mind the probability that foreign companies would likely, in such circumstances, find it beneficial to them to take their businesses, and their jobs, elsewhere.

And just so I don’t get accused again of believing in the ‘righteousness of the Republicans’ let me point out that there is something to my reference to them as Democrats Lite: “We believe,” they seem to be saying, “that government ought to provide all the things that Democrats believe government should provide. But we just believe that it should provide a little less of them.” Republicans have put the saliva-moistened finger into the air and noted that a sufficient number of Americans believe they are entitled to whatever they need that they must accede (at least somewhat) to the people’s demands. Never mind the ethics (or lack thereof) of those demands.

Republicans could be providing leadership. They could be providing leadership away from policies rooted in little more than covetousness. But they really can’t: they can’t chastise the covetousness of those who think someone is obligated to provide for all their needs (and a few of their desires) and at the same time ignore the greed of those who have all their needs met and yet main unsatisfied (and so must provide for everyone else’s). (It is any wonder that I still hold out hope that there will one day be a viable third party?)

Of course, that assumes that there is something wrong with covetousness and greed in the first place. What we can learn from Democrats and Democrats Lite is that it’s okay for the poor and middle class to be covetous, and wrong for the rich to be greedy.

Let me be clear about something: I've said elsewhere that I'll stipulate to the fact that executive salaries are inordinately high. The fact that the CEO of Ford Motor Company can make the kind of money that he makes does strengthen the Democrat (and Democrat Lite) case. And it does so not by virtue of logos but by virtue of ethos. Continuing to pay executives more and more while 'explaining' why you can't or won't give wage earners raises, or why you must 'let them go', just makes us sympathetic to the wage earners -- even if the logic of property rights is on the side of the employer. The problem is that this (understandable!) sympathy gets substituted for a rational case.


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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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