I Plan To Buy This Book

I have previously quoted Nick Hanauer, a billionaire with a clear vision of economic reality and a refreshing respect for data and evidence.  I first encountered him when he was supporting Seattle’s “Fight for $15.” He pointed out that jobs are created when workers have sufficient disposable income to purchase the goods offered in the marketplace. (If no one is buying your widgets, you are very unlikely to hire additional people to manufacture them.)

In the absence of any empirical evidence,” Nick explained, business owners kept repeating the same false threats over and over: “It’ll be a job killer. It’ll harm the very people it’s intended to help.” Even though these warnings had no basis in economic research, local media repeated the lies uncritically.

Seattle did, in fact, raise its minimum wage, and despite the dire warnings from opponents of the measure, its economy survived. Nicely.

Hanauer was introduced to Donald Cohen, who had noticed a similar effort– businesses arguing that safety regulations kill jobs–and the two of them teamed up to collect other examples. There turned out to be a clear pattern: whenever a social benefit has been proposed, powerful voices have warned that the policy would only hurt the very people it’s intended to help.

They decided to write a book, and enlisted progressive author Joan Walsh. The three of them have produced a volume they’ve titled “Corporate Bullsh*t,” tracing decades of (surprisingly similar) arguments from America’s captains of industry—against abolition, against child labor laws, against women’s suffrage….

There’s a pattern.

According to a letter sent by a friend describing the book (no link available), the book uses a lot of humor to make its point. As Hanauer is quoted,

If you think that you are going to talk the Chamber of Commerce out of saying that raising wages kills jobs by showing them the economic evidence [to the contrary,] you are deeply, deeply naive,” Nick says, adding that ridicule plays “an essential role” in debunking these claims and changing the public conversation for good.

A review of the book from The New Press goes into more detail:

From praising the health benefits of cigarettes to moralizing on the character-building qualities of child labor, rich corporate overlords have gone to astonishing, often morally indefensible lengths to defend their profits. Since the dawn of capitalism, they’ve told the same lies over and over to explain why their bottom line is always more important than the greater good: You say you want to raise the federal minimum wage? Why, you’ll only make things worse for the very people you want to help! Should we hold polluters accountable for the toxins they’re dumping in our air and water? No, the free market will save us! Can we raise taxes on the rich to pay for universal healthcare? Of course not—that will kill jobs! Affordable childcare? Socialism! It’s always the same tired threats and finger-pointing, in a concentrated campaign to keep wealth and power in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.

Corporate Bullsh*t will help you identify this pernicious propaganda for the wealthiest 1 percent, and teach you how to fight back. Structured around some of the most egregious statements ever made by the rich and powerful, the book identifies six categories of falsehoods that repeatedly thwart progress on issues including civil rights, wealth inequality, climate change, voting rights, gun responsibility, and more. With amazing illustrations and a sharp sense of humor, Corporate Bullsh*t teaches readers how to never get conned, bamboozled, or ripped off ever again.

I haven’t read the book yet, so I am approaching it with my own prejudice: the importance of credible empirical evidence.

If X is damaging, how do we know? Has it been tried? Under what circumstances? With what results? Have those results been replicated?

It is perfectly possible for a well-meaning policy to be unworkable or damaging–but an assertion to that effect needs to be backed up with evidence, not rhetoric.

Americans have a bad habit of giving credence to arguments made by the wealthy and powerful simply because those making the arguments are wealthy and powerful. It reminds me of that lyric from “If I Were A Rich Man.”  “The most important men in town would come to call on me, asking questions that would cross a Rabbis eyes–and it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong…When you’re rich they think you really know.”

Come to think of it, that goes a long way toward explaining why naive people listen to Trump…


  1. Exactly!! I have always said if you raise wages…give child tax credit in real time…people will spend every penny of that wage, because they haven’t had it to buy what they want and need. I think I’ll buy that book, too!

  2. And let’s not overlook the major league scammers who convince the poorest of the poor to finance billionaires’ arenas and stadia.

  3. I’ll be buying that book which, along with Rachel’s book Prequal on fascism I have already thanks to my daughter. I think I could write the Seattle think book myself if I had the necessary literary skills since I have been an economic Keynesian after taking an undergraduate degree in the discipline, and Keynes attributed economic growth to demand – and how do you enhance demand? By putting more money in the hands of consuming workers, as Henry Ford noted when he long ago decided to pay $5 a day to his then novel assembly line help to the hue and cry of his fellow industrialists that he was a communist, socialist etc. when in fact his views were more of a fascist turn even as he correctly defended his good wage model at $5 a day when a dollar was far more valuable than a dollar today, and became a billionaire.

    Ford didn’t pay the outrageous wage of $5 a day to his employees out of the goodness of his heart; he was the consummate capitalist who liked authoritarian governments. He paid it to provide demand and, as he said (as paraphrased) “I want to pay them so they will have the money to buy my cars,” and they bought his Model Ts and As big time with such largesse. All prospered due to such a bump in demand.

    As a Keynesian I have never subscribed to the capitalist propaganda that the end is near if we increase the minimum wage, union representation, and other means of increasing demand. Quite the contrary, since demand demonstrably drives corporate profits as well as productivity
    and proves one of Keynes’s many views of market reality. It must be a sacrifice capitalists are willing to endure in order to maintain power in the marketplace. . .

  4. I already have this book! I highly recommend Nick Hanauer’s weekly podcast ‘Pitchfork Economics’. It’s eye-opening.

  5. I love to read books both describing the history that I remember and the more extended history between the birth of our species and my being born. I also like science-based books on the future facing my now out-of-college grandchildren.

    Now, Sheila recommends a book about when I was still alive and intellectually curious. Sigh. OK, but I warn you that this step may put me entirely out of touch with my Republican roots,

  6. I had a conversation with a Rich Person many years ago when I was grumbling about the miserable pay that workers at fast food places, etc, were getting and that I thought minimum wage should be raised—a lot.
    RP: If the minimum wage is raised it’ll kill jobs!
    Me: Au contraire, it’ll give workers more money to spend and help the economy, and create jobs!
    RP: If they want better pay, they should get a better education and get a better job!
    Me: Then who’s going to flip your burgers and wait on your tables?

    (Like on the pay rate, an education is even possible!)

  7. If you worked in the trenches (literally)of blue collar work, and watched the whittling away piece by piece of labor and wages since 1978, you would have a picture of survival now and how the fair credit reporting act 1985 solidified how to stay in debt is better than a living /union wage. give the masses what they want while we sift off thier profits from labor and needs to live.the scam now is that debit card (chase bank is chasing your kids to be in debt now) your kids can have at 16 to lead them into debt over fighting for a living wage. so much easier ya know. In trucking,ajusted for the money and times,drivers today take home about what i made in 1984.. theres no better poster child in exploited labor as a truck driver for milage only pay,which is,by labor standards supported by federal law,paid by the mile. sit a few days 1000 miles from home in a dirty truckstop and see there is no compensation for baby sitting a quater million in assets at your own dime, while you wait for a load outta there..no dock pay,nothing. .. best wishes…

  8. Thanks for sharing the news about this new book. I haven’t seen or heard anything about Nick Hanauer in several years and am glad to know that he is still fighting for a more fair economy. His message has been getting drowned out by the constant corporate lies that the republican politicians sell their souls to spread.

  9. The message/info in this book needs to be shared in high school economics classes throughout our country. It could help students personally relate to and understand how micro and macro economics will affect their entire lives.

  10. As usual with “arch-progressive” rhetoric easy fixes there is little or no consideration of: tremendous variations in economic geography, unintended consequences and, of course, actually doing anything about the advantages of the 1%. After you folks read the book, be sure to put in this blog how much of the billionaire’s money goes into these dreams.

  11. The question I would like to have an answer to is: Are we seeing real changes in our current “labor movement boom,” or is this just a spasm that will last a few years, before petering out? I’m praying for the former, but I’ve been around long enough and I’ve always been a cynic, so I have my doubts.

    It was great to see Mr. Biden on the picket line saying the workers took cuts to save the auto industry and they deserve to get a share of the return on their investment.

  12. Since so many people left low wage jobs during the pandemic many of those jobs remain unfilled. Of course, before the pandemic was over those low wage employers began whining about no one wanting to work. They whined to their red state dominant legislatures until those legislatures ruled to stop unemployment insurance payments early with the intention of forcing people back to the low wage jobs, mostly in food establishments. It worked to some extent, but not as fully as those employers had hoped for.

    One of the best things that happened as a result of the pandemic is that wages had to be raised for almost every type of work, but especially at the formerly extremely low wage employers. Their wages are still much less than $15/hr, but most were raised to $11-12 in rural Indiana in order to fill jobs. Those businesses have raised their prices and that has affected the buying habits of many people who still don’t have much if any disposable income, but it hasn’t ‘killed’ any jobs at all.

    If there are still any businesses that truly can’t afford to pay more than the IN low $7.25/hour minimum wage to attract employees those businesses should not be subsidized by the taxpayers in the form of rent or food stamp assistance to their employees. Those businesses simply should not exist. Taxpayers have been forced to subsidize the profits of too many large corporations for far too long. I would like to see the state legislators and members of Congress be forced to live on $7.25/hr for 6 months and then ask them what they think a realistic minimum wage should be.

  13. The mystery surrounding this “issue” of fair wages is why Republican legislators would be opposed to a policy change a la Ford when not to do so adversely affects the income of their rich sponsors and shareholders. Keynesian empirical proof that both capital and labor prosper with a fairer share of the productive bounty paid in wages in a “what goes around comes around” exercise in demand is indisputable.

    Corporate apologists know this, so why? I can only guess that the reason capitalists stay with their discredited policy is that they are willing to withstand such a hit to their bottom lines in favor of keeping their power in place with their right to work and other such Republican atrocities designed to keep “uppity” labor in its place.

  14. The rich and powerful are not used to sharing, they would probably even tell you that they did not get to be rich and powerful by sharing, sir why should they start now?
    Maybe today’s R&P even buy into the BS of their R&P predecessor’s themselves.

  15. The issue from the corporate point of view is risk. Any change means a different set of market conditions, a different set of risks, and potentially necessary changes to business models, and that may or may not mean a better situation for a company. Businesses that are successful become risk averse, meaning their interest lies in keeping things the way they are as long as they can. It’s not really a conspiracy to keep people down, but it is employers trying to avoid disruption.|

    Business and labor are inherently adversarial. Regardless, some of us value the greater good over our own. Many obviously do not.

  16. Another book that I strongly recommend is “The Deficit Myth” by Stephanie Kelton which explains the real way that the economy works.

    The “deficit” is the difference between how much money the government “invests” in the economy and how much it “extracts” from the economy in the form of taxes. Note that when the budget shows a “deficit,” it means that the government has put more money into the economy than it has taken out by taxes and that this is a Keynesian plus for the economy; i.e. GOOD. It represents extra “demand” for products that keeps industry running and YOU EMPLOYED, which is also GOOD!

    Conversely, a surplus budget takes money out of the economy and reduces total demand that gets you laid off from your job which is BAD for You and the economy. When you don’t have any income, you don’t have any money to spend.

    FDR and the New Deal got the economy out of the depression and it grew fabulously until 1980 when the Republicans started trying to kill the last vestiges of FDR’s policies. They put the majority of Americans on a downward economic spiral that has lasted for 40 years. Only since 2021 and the advent of “Biden Economics” (which are a return to the New Deal) has the economy started to turn around and go back into growth mode.

    Trump and his Maggots are doing everything that they can to stop this in its tracks. If they can shut the government down they obviously succeed in stopping the flow of money into the economy. If they can reduce Social Security benefits and Medicare they will take more money out of the economy. Most of us on this blog thread are heavily dependent on these programs and will be seriously harmed if the Republicans are successful in their stated objectives, yet many of our age group are among the most rabid Trumpists.

    Too bad that so few of us are willing to recognize the truth.

  17. I saw report yesterday that UAW’s huge success in standoff with GM and Ford was using new more effective ways of striking. Not sit-down method but walk off method used at different plants on varying days. Union Leaders stayed in contact with all workers via internet and meetings to maintain unity. Now un-unionized Toyota has matched GM’s pay scale to try to ward off their workers from joining union.
    Jack Smith maybe teamsters could follow suit and get better conditions for truck drivers?

  18. CGH – Deficit spending may be good or bad, depending on the type of spending and for whom it benefits. For instance, Trump’s December 2017 tax cut of 7.9 TRILLION sans offsets was primarily given to the rich and corporate class, which did little to nothing for ordinary Americans or to enhance productivity or consumption as contemplated by Keynes (unless passed on to makers of yachts, CEOs’ costly divorce settlements, etc. ).

    To be sure, such giveaway trillions to those who didn’t need it did do something for ordinary Americans, i. e., it raised the deficit they and their grandchildren will have to pay at interest by 25%, and speaking of interest, Moody’s will be raising the rate we must pay by untold billions on such debt via a higher rate if Republicans allow a government shutdown a few weeks from now, as some of them have threatened. So much for governing debt management. . .

  19. I follow Nick Hanauer on whatever Twitter is called now. He’s like the opposite of Musk, always setting the record straight against rich people’s propaganda. George Takei is another one to follow. There are so many smart people on our side and it’s infuriating how the right wing controls the narrative. We must reverse that trend in the next 11 months!

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