Monday, July 2, 2012

Merchandising discontent

By Bill Kraus

There is widespread unhappiness about jobs, or the lack thereof. This will be exploited to the extent possible mostly by those in the minority and those challenging incumbents. Perhaps someday someone will ask those doing the exploiting what jobs they would create for who doing what? When they do, they will learn that beyond the skilled trades, taking in each other’s laundry, amusing ourselves to death, and shuffling money, nobody really knows what the IT revolution economy will offer in the way of jobs.

On that day, underlying concerns will rise to the top of the short campaign agendas: debt and resentment.

Debt is probably there already. The widespread recognition that we have never had a pay-as-you-go war, police action, or military intrusion, and that perhaps war is not good for the economy, is taking hold of the public consciousness.

It’s like nobody had noticed that the country has been putting a lot of things, including military things, on the tab for a very long time.

This is propelling a loud WHOA! on public spending, including public spending on things that create jobs or initiatives that are designed to induce the private sector into investing in things that might create jobs which would have the desirable side effect of increasing revenues enough to perhaps pay off some of that newly oppressive debt that so many are worried about.

The debt worry has reignited resentment to the way the government spends money. This is not new. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard someone who plays by the rules, works hard, pays taxes complain about the fact that 50 percent of the people pay 100 percent of the income taxes and that income taxes are a major part of the dole the government ladles out to that 50 percent who don’t pay those taxes?

This is a flawed cause-and-effect indictment, of course. The 50 percent are not freeloaders. They pay sales taxes, they pay real estate taxes either directly or in rent, and nobody escapes the proliferating fees that have been invented to make us all feel better about our tax burden.

This does not ameliorate the complaint that this has become a beneficiary/entitlement society which supports the needy, the unfortunate, and not a few deadbeats as well. As an aside, I find it interesting that the health care bill, which brings the much despised deadbeats into paying that bill, is being criticized by the same people who are complaining about freeloading everywhere, but I digress.

If this is a legitimate complaint, it seems that those registering it or basing their election campaigns on exploiting it should be recommending alternatives.

What the merchandisers of discontent say is, “I am not the incumbent.” What needs to be said is, “I have ideas and proposals to deal with things like the emerging underclass, the new cognitive economic revolution, the unmotivated who pass up opportunities or court disaster in other behavioral ways.”

I, for one, have had a bellyful of the bellicose bitchers.

It’s time for voters to reward problem solvers instead of finger pointers and viewers with alarm.

Follow Bill Kraus on:

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Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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