Taking Note of City Heights Job Creators

by on August 15, 2012 · 16 comments

in City Heights: Up Close & Personal, Culture, Politics

We are reminded time and time again that the only human beings in a position to rescue us from our economic woes are the enormously wealthy “job creators.”   The bad news is that they are just too uncertain about the economy to tap their accumulated wealth parked far far away from City Heights to start investing again in the US, anywhere in the US.

We are also told that they simply can’t do their “job creating”  job without more tax cuts and less government regulation.  And they also want us to know that their feelings  are very very hurt that we don’t love them enough.  None of these wealthy aggrieved individuals live on my block, so I am of course getting this information second hand, but I extend the invitation for tea, even though it will not be accompanied with much in the way of sympathy.

A while back I talked to Jay Levine, who owns PIP Printing on El Cajon Boulevard.  I asked him what it would  take to keep his small business financially healthy.   “Customer demand!”   he responded without a pause.  ” You mean tax breaks won’t keep everything afloat for you?” I asked.   He quickly ticked off what a tax break wouldn’t do.  It would not encourage him to hire additional people.  It would not encourage him to buy more equipment.

Jay was clear and unequivocal when he emphasized that customer demand and only customer demand would result in additional staff and equipment.  This was a no-brainer for Jay, but Congress, despite falling all over itself in extolling the sanctity of small business and job creation doesn’t seem inclined to act on that that message.

If you take a minute to think about it, there is a tremendous amount of customer demand in City Heights.  Because City Heights is a poor community we tend to put every cent we have back into the economy.  We are uncertain whether our wages, too often minimum,  are going to cover the rent (or mortgage), utilities, bus passes or gas and car repairs, food, clothes for our kids, school supplies and monthly assistance we send to family members.  We live without much in the way of discretionary spending, and even less in the way of savings.  So  yes, we too are uncertain about the economy but we don’t have the luxury of sulking and waiting for better times.

I feel confident saying that none of my neighbors has parked any excess wealth in a Cayman Island tax shelter.  We suck up the sales tax and the property tax and the fees that are now levied in lieu of tax hikes.  And we pay our income tax.  In City Heights, many of us have paid a higher marginal tax rate on our salaries as teachers, librarians, postal workers, cashiers and admin aides than the  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Here’s the reality–you and I are the real job creators.  Think about where you spend your money and how much you spend.  Imagine if you somehow ended up with two hundred dollars more a month or even two thousand dollars more a month.  Would you be speculating on derivatives and investing in hedge funds?  I suspect you would be pumping that money back into the economy–seeing a dentist, buying prescription glasses, getting your car repaired, a haircut, enjoying a dinner or movie out, buying shoes for your growing teenager or paying for a much needed roof or plumbing repairs in your house.

Perhaps you could even make the payments on your underwater mortgage, monthly installments on your student or credit card debt or pay the fees and lawyer costs to finally achieve legal status in the country.  It could make a difference in whether you buy your monthly medications and can still  afford food.  Going without those things is the grim reality of “economic uncertainty” for too many of us.  But we don’t “invest” in those things simply because we don’t have the money to do so.

The lives for the majority of us are going to be in the tank unless there are not only  jobs but jobs that pay a livable wage and include health insurance and sick leave.  Our economy remains sluggish because we are continuing to lose jobs in the public sector.  Thump a public employee all you want, but behind the hypocrisy and hype is an expectation that there will be teachers, police, home health aides, firefighters and public health nurses and librarians when we need them.  We need them.

What should be said about the most profitable corporations  balking at paying living wages while paying obscenely low taxes and receiving taxpayer funded subsidies?   Why is there political foot dragging when it comes to investing in infrastructure which would also result in significant job creation?

The path to correcting those fiscal failings is not by giving more hand outs in the form of income and corporate tax cuts to the 1%.  But that is exactly what the Paul Ryan budget would do.  Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential pick of Ryan cements the Republican allegiance to those among us who never earn a pay check or exist on a Social Security or retirement check.   Imagine that– people so enormously wealthy that they don’t have to work because their money works for them while they are awake and while they are asleep.

We recently paid José Luis $3,500  to dig up and repair our sewer line which was on our neighbor’s property, under their cement walkway.  Who knew?!!   That was an unanticipated significant financial setback for us.  José Luis spent five days of back breaking work jack hammering the sidewalk and replacing the broken sewer line.  He earned every penny and it didn’t occur while he was sleeping.

Is there anyone among us who seriously believes that shoveling tax breaks to the same  wealthy individuals and institutions which ripped us off with subprime mortgage loans, crushing college debt and publicly subsidized high credit card interest will create jobs for us?   This is what the Republican party is telling us.

Here’s what job creation looks like in City Heights–people like you and I create jobs for people like José Luis.  People like  José Luis hire more people if there is a demand.   We are the real job creators.  It is a dangerous lie when anyone tells us otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

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Anna Daniels

I left a moribund Western Pennsylvania mill town the year that Richard M. Nixon was impeached for crimes against the American people, and set off in search of truth, beauty, justice and a beat I could dance to. Here I am.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Andy Cohen August 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

OMFG!!! What a concept! Demand driving the need to expand a business by hiring more people and investing in new equipment! Now why didn’t I think of that! Oh, wait…..I did.

Nicely done, Anna! Too often we think of issues like economic growth and unemployment on a macro level, and understanding of the actual causes of our current malaise gets lost in the enormity of the problem. But by taking it down to the micro level you might just have provided the skeptics that “a-ha!” moment! One can hope, anyway….

This whole concept of “customer demand” is completely lost in the right wing fantasy land. In Ayn Rand terms, we should all be subservient to the whims and wishes of the super rich. But that’s not how it works in the real world. The economy grows–on the macro and micro levels–because of a robust and healthy middle class.

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avatar Susan Duerksen August 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm

This is exactly why low wages – paid by companies like Walmart and the contractor associations that tried to kill San Diego’s Living Wage Ordinance – hurt all of us. This is why we need unions wherever we can get them and why we must raise the minimum wage. Anna is right that making sure everyone has enough to live on plus some extra to spend is the real path out of the recession.

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avatar dorndiego August 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm

You know, it’s remarkable that Anna Daniels’ language is rarely heard from the mouths of our betters. The bloviations of politicians about deficit spending (job creators, cap and trade, zero sum, collateralized debt obligations, ad nauseum) are meant to bore and confuse and obscure a simple truth; we can’t cut the incomes of 60 to 99% of our citizens without watching the economy tank. If hundreds of millions of us stop “seeing a dentist, buying prescription glasses, getting (our) car repaired, a haircut, enjoying a dinner or movie out, buying shoes … or paying for much needed roof or plumbing repairs in (our) house” the Cayman Islands or wherever else our betters put their dry, dusty dollars will sink as well. The big money guys are pretty stupid these days.

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avatar Goatskull August 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I’ve had this very argument with former neighbors. These former neighbors (I’m quite glad they’re now gone) have actually had the audacity to say that the less fortunate need to be more considerate of the better off and that they’re very presence is seen as a nuisance and an eyesore. BTW, these are not 1%ers but people in the 40 or 50k bracket. Sometimes our worst enemies are our own kind. Think about it. They’re the people who vote for the top one percent.

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avatar Anna Daniels August 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Goatskull- you are quite right. If the Romney-Ryan ticket prevails in November, it is because a whole lot of people in the 40-50K bracket put them there. But I truly feel that we can change their perception- they are not stupid people. It is illuminating (and sobering) to take a hard look at one’s personal finances and determine how many months you are from the street or losing your only asset–your home, because of the loss of a job or illness or inability to handle personal debt.
I live in a community that includes the homeless, the working poor, and middle class people. Our financial security is not threatened by a neighbor who receives food stamps, social security, a mortgage interest write off or earned income credit.
Our financial security is threatened because there are no jobs. Our financial security is threatened because of a lack of adequate health insurance (or any health insurance) combined with an unexpected cancer diagnosis that wipes out our savings and home equity if we are lucky enough to have those things. Our neighbors did not write and pass the laws that prohibit the declaration of personal bankruptcy on student debt, or the high interest rates. And our neighbors did not push subprime mortgage rates on us.
Call me an optimist, but I believe that people can digest those facts and come to a far different conclusion than to let the poor and infirm die while tithing to the 1%.

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avatar Goatskull August 16, 2012 at 8:14 am

I wish I had your optimism. I agree with you that there are many who simply don’t understand what it’s like for people in different circumstances than their own and would change their tune if they did, but there are others who very much DO understand. Eyes wide open and yet don’t care or even have an actual disdain. Hell, there are poor people who don’t care about the struggles of other poor people. City Heights is an interesting place. I venture out that way from time to time to go see bands at The Tower Bar and/or the Til Two club (formerly the Beauty Bar). It seems to be at the very beginning stages of transformation that North Park was at 8 years ago. A lot of 20 and 30 something’s hang out at the clubs there and are moving in as well. The thing is they are either single and share apartments or are married but no kids and both spouses working. They’re not well off by any stretch but because they don’t have the circumstances and responsibilities of other residents in that area they have more spending power. As a result, a lot of businesses have opened up that are doing quite well but have economically and culturally shut out people who’ve been living there for a long time (tho the Tower Bar’s been there since the dawn of time).

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avatar Anna Daniels August 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

Goatskull- we have more than optimism going for us. We have facts and truth. We have solutions that include exercising our vote in a way that can make all the difference for our communities and country. We have an ability to find each each other and combine our voices in a powerful way. It’s not easy. But it is also not impossible. We are the majority; we just don’t act like it-yet.

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avatar Dave Rice August 15, 2012 at 10:32 pm

In my other life (away from the keyboard), I’m one of those small businesspeople. I used to have an employee, but my lack of ability to do business led to a lack of ability to pay her.

A tax break wouldn’t make me hire her back – if I got a few extra bucks it would go toward paying off debt, which isn’t what corporate America wants. After all, that’s just making up for past spending, it’s not creating any new spending. And besides, they’re making a killing on charging me interest for my inability to cover my family’s needs in the past.

But you’re right Anna, more business would make me hire again. And hire more – I’d love to employ 5-6 people, like my parents did when they ran the company back in the ’90s when business was booming. But because so many other people don’t have jobs and thus don’t qualify for loans, and because the banks won’t even work with the people who should be qualified, I can’t help anyone get a new loan, even though they’ve proven themselves worthy by paying hundreds of dollars a month too much on their existing loans.

My situation is unique in some ways, but it all boils down to one thing: more people with jobs, real jobs, create more demand for other goods and services, which in turn create more jobs. More of the current philosophy of redistributing wealth upward means fewer jobs, and worse jobs for the people that have them at all, which down the road just means more decay everywhere but at the top – and eventually it will hit them too when there’s no one left to feed their greed. But by then it will be too late.

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman August 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm

“Our financial security is threatened because there are no jobs.”

Thank you, Anna, for deconstructing the gobbledegook and bringing home the political argument for re-electing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden this November.

I personally know five well-educated young professionals who are presently out of work. It seems unbelievable to me: one lawyer, one medical researcher, one architect, two teachers — grads of Yale, Cornell, Harvard and Penn. As a child, I remember my mother saying how grateful she was that my dad never lost his newspaper job through the Depression, yet here we are in 2012 with the adult grandchildren of that generation, struggling, victims of sequelae from the economic meltdown of 2008.

Just to look at Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan standing together with their blond wives is to see the personification of what’s happened to this country in the last
50 years: a shift from a dominant large aspiring middle class to entitled inheritors of untold offshore fortunes who dare espouse tax breaks for their own kind and trickle-down economics for the rest of us, with deep cuts to social programs like student loans, Medicare and Social Security. I agree with Anna: voting for these people goes against the American grain.

I live in a community that includes Mitt Romney and some of his friends. I intend to work on voter registration and to post my Obama/Biden lawn signs on Labor Day so they can be seen by Mitt’s passing motorcade, standing prominently next to the ones that say Bob Filner for Mayor and Scott Peters for Congress. We will get the representation we need.

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avatar Goatskull August 16, 2012 at 7:50 am

I’ve mentioned this before in the Rag. A couple teacher friends of me and my wife were teachers for LA unified. After getting tired of constant pink slip threats each year (and seeing fellow teachers actually get those slips) they decided to walk away from the profession and get into other lines of work. Many others are doing the same. They’ve even opted not to have kids of their own due to a complete lack of confidence in the future. In other word they feel very strongly that even those kids who get an education won’t have any opportunities to put it into use.

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avatar Marian August 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

Anna, this post should be sent to every newspaper and media outlet in the country. You have spelled everything out so clearly and in terms that everyone can understand. Thank you for bringing clarity to the rhetoric being spewn by the conservatives.

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avatar Sandy August 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Anna, you’re the heartbeat of the nation. Why doesn’t each commentator forward this to 3 newspapers: U/T, L.A. Times, and NY Times to start. Saturday, August 18th, is the anniversary of women’s right to vote; the 19th amendment was launched in 1920. Susan B. Anthony would be proud of Anna Grace Daniels starting a necessary conversation.

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman August 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Apparently Mitt Romney has required Paul Ryan to cough up numerous years of Ryan tax returns. (Last weekend the New York Times said Ryan, not counting his wife’s fortune, was worth from $5 to 7 million.) But on CBS Mitt remained adamant about not revealing any more than two years of his own tax records.

Countering a rumor that his reluctance is based on having paid no taxes for some of the disputed past, Mitt said he has always paid taxes at a rate of about 13%, and that he’d recently checked personally and found it accurate. The reporter noted that 13% is a much lower rate than that paid by most Americans, though permissible, and that
Romney’s entire income is based on capital gains from investments.

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avatar Anna Daniels August 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I loved it! Romney has never paid less than 13% in taxes (he pulled down $20.9Million in 2011)! My husband and I haven’t paid less than 13% either! ( Our combined income was 5 digits, as in thousands) Does Romney really think he’s getting cheers from us for his latest revelation? Does he really think that the American people don’t want a discussion about what is legal and fair?

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avatar RB August 17, 2012 at 7:03 am

Any capital gains or dividend tax paid on profits by Mr Romney or any other investor is taxed first at the corporate rate before being taxed again when the money is returned to them. With the 35% marginal corporate rate and a 15% rate on the owner/ investor, Mr Romney and every other investor is paying closer to 50% tax on their invested money’s profits.

If we had a flat tax, the government would have more money, the tax system would be simple, and corruption of Congress would be reduced.

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avatar Anna Daniels August 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

Gobbledegook Alert! RB ‘ s argument* at it’s core is that the wealthy are taxed too much. And that isn’t fair! So RB- what “fair” flat tax do you propose for the elderly Vietnamese woman who poked through my recycling bin last night? This will of course be the same “fair” flat tax applied to Mr. Romney’s 20.9 million dollars….

*His argument is also bogus. http://tinyurl.com/9mw3opm

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