There he goes again. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor recently told Fox News host Chris Wallace that “the government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does.” That’s a favorite mantra of Republicans. It may make a good sound bite, but there’s not a bit of truth in it.
For starters, Eric, government created your job and pays you $193,400 a year plus a very generous package of perks like health insurance, indoor parking, a lavish office, a large staff to massage your ego and image, all-expenses-paid world travel, and you’re currently on a five-week paid vacation, one of many you and your colleagues have given yourselves this year.
This is your seventh term in Congress, so you must have some idea of what’s going on. I know you’ve had trouble getting the House to pass spending bills this year, but surely you must know where that money goes.
A huge chunk of it goes to that famous five-sided building just across the river in your native state of Virginia. How many people work for the Department of Defense and for defense contractors — big and small — across Virginia? For that matter, how many besides you work for the legislative branch of government?
Eric, those are all government-created jobs.
When you drive home to your district around Richmond, you use I-95. Guess who paid for that nice piece of highway.
And if you go a little farther south, you’ll find the largest single employer in your state, the Newport News shipyard. If you don’t believe government creates jobs, just try canceling all the federal money going into the yard — you yourself have voted to send billions of tax dollars there — and see how the unemployment rolls explode.
Right now, they’re building two nuclear aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS John F. Kennedy, at $9 billion each, not including what it costs to equip them with everything from toilet paper to advanced missiles and jets, and then the rest of the ships that make up each carrier task force.
Each carrier alone will have a crew of 4,300 people. They get paid. They have families. They spend their government paychecks on food, housing, clothing and everything else — creating many thousands more jobs, most of them for those small businesses Republicans say they champion.
You’re not alone, Eric. All of your colleagues compete to spend federal tax dollars in their districts (even nice Jewish boys like you have a big appetite for that species of pork), citing the importance of creating jobs for constituents, all the while most of those on your side of the aisle are chanting their mantra about how government doesn’t create jobs. Who do you guys really think you’re kidding?
You’re not stupid, Eric, so don’t give us that anti-government bubbe meise, especially while you’re doing so well on the public payroll.
Government builds highways, bridges, airports, dams and other infrastructure that not only creates millions of jobs but also helps millions more people get to and from work, shopping, vacation and everywhere else.
Government workers fight our wars, protect our borders, provide security at airports and in the airways, maintain our marvelous national parks, protect the health and safety of our food and drug supply, teach our children, care for the poor.
And don’t forget everyone at the state and local levels as well. In all, about 22 million Americans work in the public sector.
You’re leading a congressional delegation to Israel this month, and you’re going to boast how the Jewish state is the largest single recipient of American foreign assistance. That $3.1 billion is a huge chunk of the minuscule proportion of every tax dollar that goes for foreign assistance — but most of that money is spent in this country and actually creates jobs right here at home as well as alliances abroad.
I’m not denigrating the private sector, just trying to dispel any thought that it is the great job creator and government just gets in its way. It’s time to stop using those 22 million public employees (except for yourselves, of course) as whipping boys and treat them with respect.
Many who tell us the private sector is the real job creator like to point to Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States with about 1.4 million employees. It is second only to the Defense Department.
Wal-Mart — like Target, Gap and other giant retailers — is also a job creator in China and Bangladesh, where working conditions for the women and children who make the clothing and other goods for those stores are notoriously unsafe and hours unbelievably long. Wages can be as low as 3 cents an hour in China’s “Special Economic Zones” and often between 13 and 26 cents in other Asian sweatshops.
Next to those wages, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 must look very generous to you even though it is well below the poverty level; I guess that’s why you’ve consistently voted against raising it. You and Speaker John Boehner voted “no” the last time it was raised, in 2007 during the Bush administration, and now that you’re running things in the House, you’re still opposed.
President Barack Obama wants to raise it to $9 an hour by 2015, which still isn’t a livable wage, and Democrats have a bill to make that $10.10. When they brought it to the floor, you and every other Republican voted “no.” You’re opposed because those job creators you say you represent complain that could cut into their profits.
Here’s a little math for you. A minimum-wage earner with a family of four who works 40 hours every week of the year makes $15,080, and probably gets no health coverage benefits; that’s $8,470 below the poverty level. And now you’re pushing for deep cuts in food stamps for the poor. Your salary, Eric, is nearly 13 times greater, not counting your very generous benefits package and pension.
Raising the minimum wage is not a profit thief but a job creator. The extra money will immediately be spent and percolate up through our ailing economy, helping those small businesses create more jobs. So, Eric, who’s the real job creator? Both the government and the private sector. It’s a symbiotic relationship too often obscured by demagogic politicians.
Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.