By Darragh Roche
The term ‘job creator’ has crept into the political lexicon on both sides of the Atlantic. It sounds harmless, but don’t be fooled – it is the quiet vanguard of a political and economic nightmare.
Calling Ayn Rand a novelist is generous, calling her a philosopher borders on the ludicrous. But her corpus of regressive ideas has ignited the hard right in the United States. The coming Republican presidential primaries will give deficit hawks and would-be economic philosophers ample time to wedge their favourite heroine into public discourse. The mainstreaming of her ideas has been going on for years, but in parliament houses from Washington to London, there is a now a groundswell of support for policy decisions that consciously and unashamedly favour the rich.
When the Conservative-led government cut taxes for the wealthy, it was simply implementing the logic of Rand’s ‘Objectivism’ philosophy. Allow the rich to spend their money the way they want, and they will hire more people, stimulate the economy and everyone will benefit. This is classic trickle down economics – notice the word ‘trickle’. Rand believed that the rich were heroes; chance played no part in elevating some people over others. Making the right choice at the right time was almost divinely inspired. Those who failed because they bought the wrong stocks or sold the wrong products weren’t simply unlucky, they were deservedly failures. Bet on the right horse and you should be praised for your success, bet on the wrong one and you’re to blame. It didn’t matter to Rand if both horses had the same odds.
Today, Rand’s policies are embodied by US politicians like Rand Paul (yes, he was named for her) and Ted Cruz, both potential Republican presidential candidates. Cruz wants to abolish the IRS and the minimum wage, Paul wants to get rid of laws that stop businesses from committing racial discrimination. The message is simple: let the rich do whatever they want and everyone will benefit. It’s important to understand what Rand’s devotees think those ‘benefits’ are. We’re used to hearing the hard right call welfare recipients ‘takers’ or even ‘parasites’ but to Ayn Rand, ordinary workers were parasites, too. Employees are a regrettable but necessary component in running a business and their cost should be kept as low as possible. The worker is a tedious commodity, like an ink cartridge for the photocopier. And the most pernicious idea is that workers should feel grateful to their super-rich bosses. No ‘job creators’ mean no jobs, right? Your subsistence wage wouldn’t get paid without the initiative of the millionaire CEO.
A philosophical system that sees workers’ rights as a barrier to business, that ignores macroeconomic reality and always blames the poor for being poor, that elevates the rich to the status of economic saviours – that is the new reality for America’s conservatives. It is slowly but consistently seeping into the mainstream conservative outlook on this side of the Atlantic. Any political party that promotes tax cuts for the rich while simultaneously cutting protections for workers and the poor is on the outer edge of the Ayn Rand economic death spiral.