May 20, 2024

Obama’s New Ad is Half Right


The Politico has a transcript of Barak Obama’s new Iowa ad here:

Ordinary people all across the country are struggling from paycheck to paycheck.

If the plant moves to China, and you’ve been working there for 20, 30 years and suddenly you have the rug pulled out from under ya…

And you don’t have healthcare, and you don’t have a pension, you’re on your own.

We gotta stop giving tax breaks to companies that are moving overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in IA.

In the United States of America.

Enough is enough.

I have no doubt that this message will resonate in Iowa and in many other states along the campaign trail.  And yes, tax breaks should be given to companies that contribute to the long-term economic well-being of the U.S. and reduced or eliminated for those that do less or nothing.  The purpose of a tax break, after all is, to create an incentive for a company to behave in a beneficial manner.  So I agree with Obama on this narrow issue.

But about this business of the rug being pulled out from under employees when corporations restructure operations to create higher profits…Not so much.

I’m 41 years old and as long as I can remember American companies have been shifting the content of or downsizing their labor pool, moving or closing sub-optimal facilities, using technology to improve quality and reduce costs, and fighting to eliminate unneeded or, in the case of many union shops, overpriced workers. 

That is what companies do.  They do not come into existence for the purpose of providing jobs to American workers, although this is a necessary and useful side effect.  No, a company’s purpose is to satisfy the founders’ desires for achievement, profit, self-gratification, etc.  There is no other, Mr. Obama.

The entire American work force is surely aware of the dynamic nature of business and its potential effects on their individual economic prosperity.  This volatility is certainly a form of economic risk to workers and as an individual employee the appropriate reaction to this increased risk is two-fold:

  1. Increase your capabilities.  Learn to do your job better.  Learn to do your neighbor’s job better than he can.  Learn to do your boss’ job.  Learn, adapt, provide value. 
  2. Take out insurance in the form of additional education and training.  Prepare for possibility of negative circumstances.

The fact is that individuals who perform the same job in the same factory for 20 years are probably not doing either of these things to actively mitigate their risk of unemployment or underemployment.

These responses to a turbulent employment situation are more than a good idea, they are very nearly mandatory and all the more so at the lower end of the job market where positions can be eliminated or shifted to another location, state, or country with relative ease.

This leads to one of the major problems that I have with American liberalism:  The programs that liberal politicians put in place to provide “safety nets” for workers and their families have the effect of discouraging Americans from taking responsibility for their own careers and economic circumstances. 

Whose fault is it that an assembly-line worker’s only skill is knowing how to install a clutch unit into a Caterpillar D9, the company’s or the employee’s?

If the company takes the position that cross-training employees is better for business, that’s a good thing.  But if they don’t it is up to each individual worker to create within themselves the ability to perform other useful work.  The rug, Mr. Obama, only gets pulled out from under people who allow it to happen through the neglect of their own skills, knowledge, and abilities.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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