Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Henry was Right
AJ Robinson

This week contains a very important anniversary. It was a hundred years ago that Henry Ford implemented an interesting payroll plan. He started paying his employees five dollars a day, which was about twice what they had been previously earning. It was quite the pay boost.

Some people called him crazy, but there was, as the saying goes, a method to his madness. He felt that if he paid his employees more they’d be able to afford one of his Model T Cars and he’d boost sales. The money would end up coming right back to him.

Quite the smart economic model, wouldn’t you say? Pity businesses, politicians and pundits haven’t learned the lesson of history. These days, there are two key issues concerning workers: unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. The latter is the issue that Henry worked on, and he knew the secret to stimulating the economy. It’s not about any silly “trickle down” economic theory. It’s “trickle up” that drives things. Look back at our post-war boom, and I’m not just talking about babies being born. Now, those babies contributed to the economy, they needed diapers, formula, booties, and all manner of consumer goods, but they weren’t alone. Think of the products the adults needed, and were able to afford, since dad was pulling in a decent income. That mom and dad were out there buying cars, homes, furniture, and so on drove the economy. It wasn’t due to massive tax cuts to the rich. Actually, back then, back in what conservatives still call the “Good Old Days,” the top tax rate was about ninety percent!

Where was the “trickle down” then? No, give the poor and middle class more money, and they’ll use it for the necessities of life: food, clothes, housing, education and so on. That’s the fuel for our economic engine. When the rich, the so-called “job creators” get money, they squirrel it away or waste it on a third home, second vacation villa or maybe an elevator for their garage! These expenditures do not boost the economy.

Then there’s unemployment insurance. I find it interesting that the Republicans are unwilling to extend it. Mind you, I used the word “interesting” and not “surprised.” The GOP has no problem with wasting resources; they’re actually the champions of handing out money. Look at the massive subsidies they give the corporate farmers and the oil industry, to name only two. Those are a little economic boost, some think. Oh, and let’s not forget the billions they gave to the banks! I find it ironic that the banks, after practically destroying our economy, get bailed out, no questions asked, no strings attached, and yet people struggling to stay afloat don’t. Here are people needing money to put food on the table and just keep the lights on, literally, and all of them are in this boat due to no fault of their own. Yet, they’re called lazy and unworthy. Unlike the banks, these people do have to do something to get their money: they have to look for work. I know, I was on unemployment after losing my engineering position.

For months, I sent out resumes and letters and got no replies. The economy was bad, no one was hiring; there were probably thirty engineers for every position available. How do you get a job under those conditions?

You change occupations. I went through quite a few new jobs; along the way, I had to rely on unemployment insurance on more than one occasion. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I was so glad to get off it, but I sure was glad to have it when I needed it.

Yeah, I have to agree with Henry on this: you help the workers first! Big business, the rich, well, they sure don’t need any help.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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