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Monday, June 4, 2012

Do American workers have Stockholm Syndrome?

       Danville Advocate-Messenger

              There’s a real possibility that Mitt Romney will be elected President by the votes of slightly more than 50% of American workers. He will have won their votes despite promising to reduce funding for their social safety net (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps) while enacting tax cuts that would increase the incomes of very wealthy Americans such as himself.

Why ever would workers support him? They face high unemployment and job insecurity. So they might just need help from the programs Romney would shrink.
            Romney and the GOP would answer: the rich, are “job creators.” You ordinary people tend to use up your income on essentials such as food, shelter and education. Only the wealthy have enough money left over to invest in the businesses that give you jobs. The more income they get, the more jobs they create. Raising their taxes is like starving the goose that lays the golden eggs.

This answer flies in the face of well-known facts. It also makes no sense. That so many people believe it is a symptom of societal Stockholm Syndrome.
There is simply no correlation between the unemployment rate and higher or lower marginal tax rates for the wealthy. [Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay on the taxable income that falls into the highest bracket you reach: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35%.]
In fact, as Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress points out, “if you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast [top] marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher. The top 10 years would share marginal tax rates at 50 percent or higher. The two worst years, on the other hand, were 2008 and 2009, when the top marginal tax rate was 35 percent.”
Moreover, it just makes no sense to think that throwing more money at the investor class in the form of tax cuts will induce them to create jobs. Corporations today are awash in profits, as JPMorgan’s Tom Lee explains: "It's a record level of cash: $3.60 trillion, $670 billion dollars higher than 2007 when the market was at its prior peak.” But they’re not hiring.
Why? Because people don’t have the money to buy the products and services new employees would create. They’re still reeling from home value losses, unemployment, under-employment and job insecurity.
When investors won’t invest because consumers can’t buy, the government has to do the buying in order to revive the economy. It can restore consumer purchasing power by extending unemployment benefits, subsidizing education, health care and food purchases, and spending on our (rapidly decaying) infrastructure. As billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said recently:
 “In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class. And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.”
How do Mitt Romney and the GOP get away with making such foolish and dangerous proposals? Why aren’t they greeted with the scorn they deserve?
American workers are behaving like the employees held hostage in a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. During their six days of captivity, the employees emotionally identified with their captors and even defended them afterward. This kind of traumatic bonding is common enough to have been given a name: the Stockholm Syndrome.
People are afflicted with this syndrome under the following conditions:
1.  Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one's captor is willing to act on that threat
            2.  The captive's perception of small kindnesses from the captor
            3.  Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor
            4.  Perceived inability to escape

           The severe recession caused by the financial collapse of 2008 has left most workers feeling like their financial survival and their sense of identity is at risk. There is stubbornly high unemployment and under-employment. Those who lose their jobs and are “lucky” enough to find similar work often settle for much lower wages.
They are like captives: forced into a fearful situation by those with power over their workplaces—not just the owners, but also the financiers, those who control the capital and credit their workplaces need. Workers now live with the constant threat of termination. They must be grateful for the kindness of owners who keep them on in these bad times, and should give them what they want.
Workers’ perspective on what has happened and what must be done is shaped by politicians who depend on wealthy investors to finance their campaigns. It is also framed by media giants controlled by the same wealthy investors. Workers are taught there is no escape from the present system.
In a similar situation in the 1930s President Roosevelt told workers they “have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Unfortunately, Barack Obama is no FDR.