Greed is good. If you’re capital.
If you’re labor, greed is synonymous with being lazy.
In essence, that’s the message peddled daily by the financial media, corporations and GOP lawmakers. It’s actually refreshing to hear when it emanates from the latter, as it at least suggests some Republicans are trying to refocus on traditional party talking points (however misguided) instead of spending their days pandering to America’s autocrat in exile.
US job openings jumped to a record high 8.12 million in March, data out Tuesday showed. That put the gap between vacancies and hires at 2.1 million, also the highest ever (figure below).
Also Tuesday, NFIB said a record 44% of small business owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill in April. “Small business owners are seeing growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg remarked.
Dunkelberg said “finding qualified employees” was the “biggest challenge” for small businesses in the current environment and warned the labor shortage may lead to “slowing economic growth.” Business owners, the NFIB noted, “are raising compensation, offering bonuses and benefits to attract the right employees.”
I have infinitely more sympathy for small business owners than I do for large corporations, as I’m sure almost everyone does, including management teams at large corporations. You’d have a difficult time finding anyone in America who isn’t pulling for small businesses. They are, as the saying goes, the “lifeblood” of the economy and account for nearly half of all jobs, on some measures.
That’s a circuitous way of saying that part of me (and likely part of you) feels like it’s unfair that small businesses have to “compete” with federal transfer payments in order to attract employees. Making it through the crisis was hard enough, and now the survivors are finding it difficult to fill positions in part because some would-be employees may be receiving more in combined federal assistance than they’d make if they went back to work.
Going back to work while the virus is still floating around is a health risk, especially for occupations that require person-to-person contact. Some would-be workers in leisure and hospitality are likely assigning a monetary premium to that risk, especially when many Americans refuse to be vaccinated. So, in addition to paying workers more than they’re receiving in federal benefits, employers need to pay that premium too.
Don’t forget: This is a market transaction. You want labor? Fine. You have to pay for it. And the price has gone up.
“Oh, your input costs are already rising?,” a worker might ask a prospective employer, rhetorically. “Well, that’s a shame, but so are my personal overhead costs, including rent. And by the way, are you requiring patrons to show a vaccine card before they dine indoors? Because I can’t afford a hospital visit. Haven’t you heard about the double- and triple-mutant variants?”
You’re expected to feel sorry for corporations and business owners (of all shapes and sizes) in this scenario. They’re offering to hire folks, folks aren’t taking the jobs and it’s no coincidence that a record gap between vacancies and hires coincides with the most generous fiscal policy seen in America since the Depression (the other one, not the one we just went through). That’s the general narrative.
Thanks to several decades of indoctrination, Americans truly believe business owners (capital) are the source of all things good in the economy. As if no one other than management has any role in making a widget (physical or digital).
So, people instinctually exhibit more sympathy for capital’s narrative than they do for the plight of the workers, even when they themselves are invariably the workers. It’s another manifestation of a public that’s been duped into voting (figuratively in this case) against its own self interest.
Capital can justify pretty much anything (including offshoring your jobs and replacing you with robots) in the name of the almighty bottom line. Yet, when you demand an extra, say, $20,000 per year (if you’re fortunate enough to be in a line of work where such an ask isn’t a total nonstarter) or an extra $5 per hour (for the rest of you) to go back to work because, given the prevailing circumstances, that’s what it would take to protect your bottom line, somehow that makes you greedy, at best, or a lazy freeloader who’s “living off the taxpayer” at worst.
But remember: Greed is good. That’s what the capitalists said. And if you take a look at your tax rate and compare it to the average effective corporate tax rate, you may discover that, in fact, you’re “freeloading” off yourself, because in many cases, corporations pay less in taxes than you do.
To quote Jay Wayne Jenkins, “you let ’em tell you anything, and you’ll believe it too.”