David Unterman: Creative destruction cuts couple of ways | TheUnion.com

David Unterman: Creative destruction cuts couple of ways

Thanks to Marc Cuniberti for his thoughtful June 29 piece on the broken “Promise of Progress.” To paraphrase Marc, he asks why, after huge gains in efficiency, and with powerful cheap technology available, are most folks still working long hours and feeling like they don’t get ahead?

One of Marc’s explanations is that the USA doesn’t let capitalism’s efficiency go all the way with its “creative destruction.” He thinks that those who “fail to compete complain enough … subsidies come out that sustain the old methodologies … and higher costs and subsequent waste.” He also mentions taxes and regulations that thwart super-efficient companies like Walmart, Amazon and Costco.

Marc is brave to compliment companies like those. I personally prefer shopping, with competent human help, at places like Hills Flat, SPD, A to Z, and the Bookseller. More importantly, let’s look at the unanticipated consequences of success stories like Walmart and Amazon.

To sum up: Now that the economy is dominated by big vendors who outsource manufacturing all over the globe, while U.S. small businesses are in retreat, USA workers have no leverage, while the big corporations have total freedom to push workers harder while paying them less.

To be specific: Amazon and Walmart systematically oppose unions. Walmart carefully limits workers’ hours to exclude many of them from the group health plan. When I was growing up in a middle-middle class neighborhood, nearly all the neighbors owned their homes, with only one parent working. About 35% of workers were union members then. Now, it’s about 7%, and home ownership is less feasible at medium income levels.

Marc says we “thwart” the corporate giants, and hinder them with taxes. Not so. Amazon has paid zero federal tax for several recent years, and small amounts otherwise. President Trump and the mainstream media both called out Amazon over this.

Corporations now have huge influence on the laws and the government. They can spend unlimited amounts on lobbying and campaigning, thanks to the extremely pro-business Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

Many employees of the biggest corporations use public assistance like Cal-Fresh/food stamps and Medi-Cal, since wages are low and benefits hard to get. So Bezos and the Waltons make the big bucks, while my taxes help cover benefits for them.

If Mr. Cuniberti wants more of the progress he was promised, let’s not be sympathetic to big corporations and give them more power. Let’s tax the rich, and find ways to empower American workers and small businesses.

David Unterman lives in Grass Valley.

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