Here is a simple thought experiment . . . conservatives love to use analogies and fables, you can use them too.
Imagine your favorite restaurant. Perhaps it is locally owned . . . or maybe you like one of those chains like Chili’s or TGI Friday’s. You go in, and take a seat, and pretty soon somebody comes out and gets your drink order.
Who makes that drink for you? And who brings it to you?
Who cooks that steak, bakes that potato, and tosses that salad?
Who fed the cow? Who cut the steak?
Who grew that potato? Who picked the lettuce and the tomatoes in the salad?
Who operated the distillery that made the tequila for your margarita?
Who brought your steak out to you? Who cleaned up after you, when you were done?
Now go find the restaurant owner. Better yet, go find one of the stockholders in a restaurant chain.
Tell him that somebody slaughtered the cow, and picked the lettuce, and tossed the saled, and baked the potato, and broiled the steak, and brought it all out to you. Then someone cleaned up the dishes after you . . .
. . . and you paid for all of that.
What did you pay the owner to do? Supervise? Stockholders don’t even do that.
Here is what conservatives say about this wonderful system they call capitalism.
The business owner . . . and even more so, the stockholders . . . get a living. They eat food somebody else grew. They live in houses somebody else built. They drive expensive cars, somebody else assembled. They attend Ivy League colleges, and receive the best medical care in the world. Yes sir, capitalism makes plenty of money to pay the owners . . . the people who do nothing for you . . . and give them the most fabulously wealthy lifestyle in human history.
But what about the people who slaughter the cow, pick the lettuce, cook the steak, toss the salad, bring it out to you, and cleam up after you? What about the people who build the houses, and assemble the cars, and drive the trucks, and operate the machines? What about the people who cut your grass, and pick up your trash? According to the conservatives themselves, capitalism just can’t afford to give a decent living to those people who actually produce the goods and services.
The stockholders get healthcare, but if you ask about healthcare for the guy who cleans up your dishes for you, the conservatives say we just can’t afford it.
Here is the question for you? When you finish paying for dinner, who deserves to get a living for providing you with dinner? Some stockholder who lives on the upper west side of Manhattan? Or the people who actually make it for you, bring it to you, and clean up after you?
Which brings us to the failure of liberals when talking about things like healthcare.
You talk in terms of “compassion” and “sympathy.” You talk about the pain of people who do without . . . and you miss the point.
I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m asking for justice. Here is a simple principle of economics . . . one you can find in the very first sentence of Adam Smith. Adam Smith said “The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it annually consumes . . .”
The source of all wealth is labor. The source of everything you consume . . . everything . . . is labor. “Ownership” produces nothing. Labor produces everything. Ownership is a legal construct . . . .it is a social fiction. Labor is real. That “owners” should have everything they need, while labor does without, is nothing short of a moral outrage . . .
That is the basis of liberalism. That is the moral argument behind such New Deal and Great Society reforms as the minimum wage, the 8 hour work day, the right to collectively bargain, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, and every other institution of New Deal liberalism. The progressive taxation necessary to pay for it, isn’t “stealing.” It is returning to labor what was taken from it. [Progressive taxation is also painless, since the wealthy pay taxes AFTER they have acquired everything else they want . . .but that's another story.]
That is the moral argument nobody is making. It is ideological justification for New Deal liberalism . . . the justificiation nobody is making. Working people aren’t asking for a living wage, and collective bargaining, and a basic retirment, and decent healthcare just because they “want” them. They’re asking for those things, because they damn well earn them . . . and they deserve them . . . more than some investor who has never lifted a finger to produce any of the “necessaries and conveniencies of life which [we] annually consume . . . .”
Start making that argument at the watercooler . . . and you will start winning.
Oh, and here is a short, quick and dirty, question to ask every dittohead you know. “If capitalism is such a wonderful system, why can’t it afford to furnish a decent living to everybody who works in it?”
Stay tuned for my upcoming film “Megadittoes: A Journey Into Rush Limbaugh’s America.” It’s coming this summer.