Recently, an op ed piece in the Washington Times lauded the commitment of the Koch brothers to the poor. It was authored by John and Carol Saeman, who are wealthy Catholic philanthropists. They proceeded to tell us that they also supported the Koch’s Freedom Chambers of Commerce because as far as they were concerned, the Koch brothers were doing more to help the poor than some social justice campaigners who attacked them.
On and on they go about the “free market.” But never once do they — or the Koch’s for that matter — mention the legal and regulatory barriers to micro enterprise that prevent poor people from starting small, part-time businesses that over time and with work can grow into a full time job that they own. Nobody in the conservative movement seems interested in addressing this issue. I have said that the reason for their silence is that our economic aristocracy benefits from maintaining a large class of under and unemployed low income workers who are desperate for work at any price. What’s the point of being an aristocrat if you don’t have serfs? Which is to say, conservatives don’t actually support free enterprise. The support a system of economics which is regulated to benefit the economic aristocracy at the expense of the common good.
If poor people were allowed to start microenterprises, then the price of what we call low wage work would rise. McDonalds and Wal Mart might find themselves forced to offer wages upwards of $15 to $20 an hour with benefits in order to attract workers.
This isn’t going to happen, because we can trust our politicians to look out for the interests of our economic aristocrats, lip service to solidarity notwithstanding. So they will never support policies that protect the rights of the poor to free enterprise. The only rights they are willing to concede to the poor is the right to work for a cheap wage. A man was just killed on the streets of New York City, for selling single cigarettes! That’s how far our system is willing to go to protect the economic aristocracy. Do you think that doesn’t send a message to poor people everywhere in this nation?
Whatever form of enterprise the Freedom Chambers of Commerce are promoting, if they aren’t publicly defending the rights of low income people to entrepreneurship by demanding the repeal of the petty federal, state, and local laws and ordinances that effectively criminalize low income microentrepreneurs, then it isn’t “freedom”. It’s just another defense of rent seeking economic aristocrats who profit from their ability to rig the economy to suppress initiative, eliminate competition and lower wages. What happens every time wages start to rise? The Federal Reserve can be counted upon to rig the economy so that people lose their jobs and the price of labor goes down. Somehow, rising wages is considered an inflationary problem, but a rising stock market (capital value) isn’t. Like I said, we can always count on our economic aristocrats to look out for their own interests.
This is why we shouldn’t trust conservative leaders when they claim that work is the way out of poverty. They don’t really believe that. They are just pandering to the crowds. If they really were in solidarity with the poor, they would be marching and organizing in support of the economic rights of low income people.
They are conspicuous by their absence.
For details (to the point of tediousness) about how this economic oppression plays out, see my Open Letter to Paul Ryan, which I wrote during the last presidential campaign. Yes, I understand that many of these laws and ordinances are local and state issues, over which Congress has no control. But Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, and John and Carol Saeman have bully pulpits and they could be pounding those and demanding economic freedom for the poor as a way out of poverty.
They are conspicuously silent on this issue.
And as we all know, silence is consent.