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.
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…