Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Violist's Guide to Electoral Politics

I feel the need to write these fresh-from-the-shower thoughts (that have nothing to do with musical politics, a field that I find perplexing, subjective, and complicated) and share them. I should let you know that all I know about business is what I learned from a year of word processing at Bain and Company back in the 1980s.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, so the big money that corporate donors are giving to the current Republican campaigns (and they are broadcasting their donations far and wide) really can only be thought of as investments. These are shrewd business people who got to their positions by selling stuff to people and then selling shares in their companies to people who want to profit from the fact that they are selling more of the stuff than other companies. They also got their wealth by having their stuff made in the cheapest way possible, so they have it all made in places where people will work long hours for very low wages and will work in conditions that may be unsafe or unhealthy. The laws of the lands where the workers that make this stuff live dictate the working conditions and the wages, and the companies that own the factories profit from the advantages of having an eager and competent bunch of people who seem to be happy to do piecework at an hourly rate that amounts to pocket change for most Americans.

These heavy-hitting corporate donors promote candidates who will weaken (or destroy) unions and candidates who will reduce (or remove) government regulations. They will do their best to keep the corporate executives who make gobs of money from having to pay taxes at a rate appropriate for their income level. The Representatives that made it to congress in 2010 made sure to block any job creation bills that happened to come through the house in order to keep the jobless rate a level they could criticize in the 2012 election. Those people promise more jobs if they are elected, but the won't tell anyone exactly how. Or what jobs (outside of the oil industry). Or where. Or even when.

Here's what I think. If Romney were to get elected, and if he proves trustworthy to his supporters (not the ideological ones, the corporate ones), those companies will build new factories in America (using American labor). They will "create" part-time jobs (for which they plan not to provide the health benefits to their employees required in the Affordable Care Act that they will insist Romney repeal, even if by executive order), pay wages as low as they can get away with, and then claim (honestly for once) that America is "getting back to work again." They would make sure that the path toward unionization would be blocked, kind of like the way Walmart does it (a good model for this kind of thing). Those workers, even the ones with low-paying jobs, would still pay taxes. There would be a lot of them, so they would shoulder the burdens of running the government. There would, of course, be managerial jobs here and there, and those people would probably be paid well to keep the costs of running the factories down and keeping production up using whatever means possible.

There would certainly be a bunch of high-paying jobs, particularly in the fields where people make stuff for warfare. Romney declared that he would strengthen the military. I'm curious about what he really means by a strengthening military beyond increasing contracts for the people at Halliburton (who also make stuff for digging for oil). I kind of thought our military has been running very well. Romney must mean putting money into stuff, and then waging war so that we have an excuse to use it, or trot it out to show how powerful we are.

Where does it leave people like me and my family (made of musicians and teachers)? I am afraid to think about it. We all try to instill a love of learning, literature, music, curiosity, and community responsibility into our students. Another generation blighted by the problems we saw during the Bush administration (those are the students Michael and I teach), with the added problems of increased gender inequality, religious intolerance, racial intolerance, homophobia, and lack of adequate health care (with all its implications) scares me.

I want the children our kids teach (all who have come of school age during the Obama administration) to have the kind of future they have been promised: that you can accomplish anything if you work hard and play by the rules. I want to be able to teach those students when they get to college, and I want those students to be the leaders of the future. Maybe the Republicans want most of those people to be the workers of the future rather than the scholars, scientists, historians, and philosophers (and musicians, artists, and writers) that would give us a more civilized world.