Another great letter to the editor from my husband Tom to the Gloucester Daily Times, September 29th, regarding the upcoming Massachusetts gubernatorial election.
To the editor:
As the November elections draw near, the topic that is dominating our national and state discussion is unemployment. There is hardly a candidate for any office, either in Massachusetts or in any other state, who does not agree that the current national unemployment rate of nine percent is unacceptable. However, there is tremendous disagreement on who is to blame and what should be done to reduce it.
The Republicans, including Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, are offering a familiar menu of tax cuts and business deregulation. The theory is that business, once free of the chokehold of government taxation and regulation, will be empowered to grow and to increase hiring. Everyone who wants a job will be able to find one.
It is a deceptively simple tonic that resonates with many voters. And, as is usually the case, it is up to the Democrats to offer the more nuanced and more accurate assessment of the problem and the solution.
The fact is that companies, whether large or small, are not in the business of creating jobs. This may sound shocking to our Republican friends, but the bottom line is that businesses exist to make a profit for their owners. Making a profit and providing jobs are not identical. In fact, they can be mutually exclusive. An unprofitable corporation that needs to become profitable will cut expenses. Often the quickest and most effective way to do this is to cut jobs. Employees cost money, and the fewer of them you have, the lower your costs. If you need more employees to increase revenues, then you hire them. But they are an expense, just like a new truck or a computer. It is not in the mission statement of any corporation, anywhere, that the goal of business is to create jobs. The mission is to create profits. In the current fiscal quarter, American businesses are doing this very well and the stock market is continuing to rise.
This is one reason why we are having a “jobless recovery.” Profitable businesses aren’t hiring because they don’t have to.
Voters should always suspect the candidate who touts a successful record in business as qualification for elected office. Sure, Charlie Baker “saved” Harvard Pilgrim. He did this by jacking up rates by 150 percent. This scheme to generate revenues the easy way may have worked at Harvard Pilgrim, but it has nothing to do with being the chief executive in government. The mission of government is to help people live better lives. This very different from simply posting a quarterly profit. To balance the state budget, Charlie Baker blithely says he will cut 5,000 state jobs. Where will these people end up? On the state unemployment rolls. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Candidates like Governor Deval Patrick who clearly see the forces that shape our economy know better than to bring simplistic corporate solutions to the vastly more complex world of government.