Monday, May 21, 2012

TED Shuns Truth, Facts, and Controvesy

The TED "Ideas worth spreading" speaker series can be insightful, but is often some really rich person pontificating about who it was their skills, their acumen, their vision that enabled them to succeed, and not the coincidences of When they were born, into What family they were born, or how lucky they got to be in the right place at the right time and make the right decision - 2/3rds luck, 1/3 ability at best, as opposed to the 99% ability vs 1% luck as the Lannisters who speak on TED often tend to state.  There's a wide variety of TED talks on many different subjects, but often, the richest speakers are quite full of themselves. 

But every now and then, a Ned Stark comes along, and proposes an idea truly worth spreading that the plutocrats REALLY Do Not want spread.  Does TED post the speech on their website?  Oh, poppycock! Of course not! (link here)   But there's ideas like Nick Hanauer's - that it is the MIDDLE CLASS who create jobs, not the rich, which threaten to turn the commonly believed but completely wrong paradigm of "job creation" on it's head.  After all, the Sun might actually NOT be orbiting around the Earth - or the Earth might be older than 6000 years too... ideas can be very dangerous things.
But regardless of TED's invertebrate timidity, the internet is a wonderful thing, and good ideas, the truth, tends to get out regardless of what "the powers that be" try to contain it (yeah, look out China, your filters are increasingly less effective).  In fact, the tighter the clamp-down, the more leakage appears.  You can join the other 1/2 million people who've already watched the Nick Hanauer speech here (link), on youtube.   Or you can read the transcript here (link) or below...  (for those who may have slow computers that don't like links or that don't like to play video). 

Kudos to Jim Tankersley at The Nation for reporting on this (link here).

At the time of this blog posting, there's been almost 1/2 a million hits to the video below. That's 1/2 a million in 4 days.  The top 20 videos on TED (link here) range from 2 million to 8 million.  I hope Hanauer's 5 minute talk, in the next 6 months,  moves those 'top 20' stats a little, proving that TED made the wrong move by not publishing it.

Complete Transcript here:

It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies. Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down. This idea is an article of faith for Republicans and seldom challenged by Democrats, and has indeed shaped much of the economic landscape. But sometimes the ideas that we are certain are true, are dead wrong.

Consider that, for thousands of years humans believed that the earth was the center of the universe. It's not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some pretty terrible astronomy.

Likewise, a policy maker who believes that the rich are "job creators", and therefore should not be taxed, would do equally terrible policy.

I have started, or helped start, dozens of companies and initially hired lots of people. But if there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.

That's why when business people take credit for creating jobs, it's a little bit like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. It's actually the other way around.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a course of last resort for capitalists. It's what we do if, and only if, rising customer demand requires it. And in this sense, calling yourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

That's why our existing policies are so upside down. When the biggest tax exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

Since 1980, the share of income for the top 1% of Americans has more than tripled, while our effective tax rates have gone down by 50%. If it was true that lower taxes for the rich and more wealth for the wealthy led to job creation, today we would be drowning in jobs. [applause] Thank you. And yet, unemployment and under-employment is at record highs.

Another reason that this idea is so wrong-headed is that, there can never be enough super-rich people to power a great economy. Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands as times much as the median American, but I don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and shirts a year like most American men. Occasionally we go out to eat with friends.

I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans can’t buy any new cars, any clothes, or enjoy any meals out. Nor can I make up for the falling consumption of the vast majority of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

Here’s an incredible fact… that if the typical American family still retained the same share of income that they did in 1970, they’d earn like $45,000 more a year. Imagine what our economy would be like if that were the case.

Significant privileges have come to people like me, capitalists, for being perceived as “job creators” at the center of the economic universe; and the language and metaphors we use to defend the current economic and social arrangements is telling. It’s a small jump from “job creator” to “The Creator”. This language obviously wasn’t chosen by accident. And it’s only honest to admit that when somebody like me calls themselves a “job creator”, we’re not just describing how the economy works, but more particularly, we’re making a claim on status and privileges that we deserve.

Speaking of special privileges, the extraordinary differential between the 15% tax rate that capitalists pay on carried interest, dividends and capital gains — and the 35% top marginal rate on work that ordinary Americans pay — it’s kind of hard to justify without a touch of deification

We’ve had it backwards for the last 30 years. Rich people like me don’t create jobs, jobs are a consequence of an eco-systemic feedback loop between customers and businesses. And when the middle-class thrives, businesses grow and hire — and owners profit.

That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all, is such a fantastic deal for the middle-class and the rich.

So ladies and gentleman, here’s an idea worth spreading…

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are middle-class consumers. And taxing the rich to make investments will make the middle-class grow and thrive. It’s the single shrewdest thing we can do for the middle-class, for the poor, and for the rich.

Thanks you. [applause]

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