Global Matters: The creation myth

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During this protracted period of national political paralysis, you may have heard the term “job creator” used on many occasions to describe our economy’s chosen people, i.e., the entrepreneurs and business owners whose skills, creativity and capital fuel the economy and make it possible for the rest of us to draw a salary and eke out a living.

The exalted job creator has earned his wealth from the risk capital he has invested, the company he has created, and ultimately the products and services he has developed. The fruits of his labors are his royalties, his earnings, the value of company stock and the assets he has accumulated.

Without the job creator and his relentless drive to innovate, produce and sell, the larger society of non-job creators, whom we call “workers,” would be idle and impoverished. Workers owe job creators their very existence and all the accouterments of daily life, from their homes and cars to the food on their tables.

Therefore let us humbly pay obeisance and offer tribute. Let us ensure that all resources at our disposal are made available to the job creator, that no hindrance be imposed upon him, that no tax or regulation bind him or keep him from the exercise of his efforts.

Let us enshrine him in law and render him immune from efforts to extract from him resources he might otherwise invest, with which he might create more jobs, or simply accumulate and pass on to his children.

Outraged?

Whether or not you find the foregoing discussion patently offensive or perfectly descriptive likely depends upon where you stand on issues relating to our country’s deficit and ongoing efforts to reduce our burgeoning debt.

We can probably agree that there’s nothing offensive about cultivating high regard for entrepreneurs, nor is it wrong to develop policies that encourage entrepreneurs to do more of what they do best.

The problem is that the term “job creator” has become a kind of code, or even an alias, for “person of means.” If in the diatribe above we are referring to actual job creators, and not merely persons of means, the blather is a lot easier to stomach.

The truth, however, is that this country and this state are awash in persons of considerable wealth, and many are not job creators. As a result, legitimate and rational efforts to help solve our budget deficit in part by raising revenues from persons of means, including persons who have never created a job, are being stymied by disingenuously lumping all such high-wealth individuals in the category of “job creators.”

Yet the individual sitting on his assets or idly preserving his wealth is no more creating a job than the clerk who collects his modest paycheck at the end of the week and deposits in the bank what’s left after the groceries.

What’s worse, when we bandy about terms like “job creator” and knowingly use them to mask our true policy objectives – exempting the wealthiest Americans from higher taxes – we demean our fellow citizens. By using the job creator trope so extensively we implicitly denigrate the worker, even as we lionize the entrepreneur.

If you’re not creating a company, you are, in effect, a parasite. If you’re not signing the checks, you are a drain on the coffers. Because you extract wealth and simply recycle it through spending, your efforts are less valuable to society. Thus, you should be taxed, while the job creator, who contributes more to the greater good and is therefore more worthy, should be relieved of as much of that burden as possible.

It is an ugly exchange that we can ill afford as a nation, and certainly should not countenance in Maine.

Geography, nature and history have long presented us with challenges, but we have so often overcome them by working harder, by working smarter, and by being reliable, consistent and dependable.

The men and women who worked looms, stitched shoes, stamped metal, raked blueberries or pulled traps from the ocean are part of that rich legacy. They didn’t create the companies for whom they worked, but they enabled those companies to profit through their skill and dedication.

It is no less true today that those who draw a paycheck enable the companies for whom they work to profit. The smart entrepreneur and the successful businessman know that treating workers with disdain is poor policy and a recipe for loss.

Would that our policymakers understood that just as well. Sooner or later they will realize that calling someone a job creator doesn’t make him one, and that telling a man he is worthless will only lead to depression, both human and economic, for which no quick cure exists.

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Perry B. Newman is a South Portland resident and president of Atlantica Group, an international business consulting firm based in Portland, with clients in North America, Israel and Europe. He is also chairman of the Maine District Export Council.

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