By Fred Branfman
I attended a meeting in the 1990s addressed by conservative Charles Murray, who had by then achieved some fame attacking welfare. Unfamiliar with his work, I earnestly asked during the Q&A: “I understand your critique of welfare, but what would you replace it with? Clearly you wouldn’t just throw these people out on the street, so what would you do instead?” I will never forget his answer. He looked at me, smiled lamely at my naivete, held both hands palms up and shrugged.
There has been surprising little discussion of the real issue underlying the debt ceiling “crisis”: Republicans’ contempt for a growing number of their fellow Americans. These include liberals, members of the mass media, union members, government employees, the unemployed, the uninsured and the ill, seniors, the working poor, feminists, minorities, immigrants, welfare mothers, gays and even veterans. The truth is that America has today entered a new civil war, as this satire suggests, between a minority of ideological extremists empowered by corporate money and a majority of Americans whose numbers will grow as the economy declines. Some of the following is, for the moment, exaggerated. The mentality described is not.
* * *
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today introduced “The Household Job Creators Act of 2011,” which will provide employers with a 50 to 75 percent tax credit for wages paid to American-born household servants. “I am excited to introduce this bill, which will create a giant new employment sector in America by offering tax credits to employers who hire native-born Americans to serve as household servants, including butlers, valets, footmen, governesses, nursemaids, gamekeepers, chauffeurs, pool boys, ball boys, golf caddies, gardeners, cooks, yacht crew members, and scullery and upstairs maids,” he said.
Cantor stressed that his bill would establish once and for all that tax breaks for the wealthy create jobs in America. “This bill disproves the absurd Democratic claim, echoed by the lamestream liberal media, that tax breaks for the successful will not create jobs in the U.S. since businesses are already sitting on a $2 trillion surplus, or that they will invest in cheap labor abroad,” he said. Cantor then added with the boyish grin, puckish humor and deep respect for the rich that have so endeared him to the contributors to whom he owes his career, “America’s most productive and successful people can hardly ask a Chinese worker to fly over and wipe off their baby’s tush, can they? This is a job for American workers!”
Cantor went on to say that his bill will provide a “win-win” solution to two major problems facing America: “The first problem, as America’s job creators can tell you, is that good help is harder to find than at any time since the late 19th century,” he said. “There is a crying need for properly trained servants to serve the needs of successful people, who should no longer be unfairly irritated by their servants’ inability to speak proper English or respond instantly to commands. They deserve well-educated, native-born Americans who know the language and can thus do a far more efficient job of raising their employers’ children, cooking their food, washing their clothing and cleaning up after them.”
“The second need our bill will meet,” Cantor said, “is providing millions of jobs for the many young Americans who can no longer find employment in today’s economy, and will face the added burden of caring for parents who cannot support themselves due to cuts in Medicare and Social Security made necessary by free-spending liberals. This bill will offer millions of young high school and even college graduates presently living at home with their parents a marvelous opportunity to find employment in America’s fastest-growing jobs sector. Think about it: If you’re not a top-notch financial analyst, computer engineer, IT specialist, lawyer or other professional, where else are you going to find employment in today’s job market?”
House Speaker John Boehner, a co-sponsor of the bill, also appeared at the news conference to announce that House Republicans would soon introduce a companion measure that would create even more household jobs and other similar employment for native-born Americans. “Dave Petraeus’ valiant fight to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a wonderful new ‘biometric scanning’ program whereby, according to The New York Times, ‘soldiers and police officers take digital scans of eyes, photographs of the face and fingerprints [so that] the government can scan through millions of digital files in a matter of seconds,’ ” Boehner said. “So far 1.4 million Afghans and 2.2 million Iraqis have been entered into the database. Gen. Petraeus has stated that ‘This data is virtually irrefutable and … based on our experience in Iraq, I pushed this hard here in Afghanistan too.’ ”
Boehner described the legislation further. “Our new bill will make biometric scanning mandatory for all Latinos and Muslims in the United States,” he said. “In the case of Latinos it will provide the ‘irrefutable data’ needed to identify and deport millions of illegal immigrants, opening up countless new jobs for American-born youth, not only as household servants, but in washing and parking cars, picking vegetables and cleaning toilets.”
Rep. Cantor stressed that his bill would clearly demonstrate the superiority of private-sector job creation over the “big-government” variety favored by Democrats. “Unlike the Democrats, we will offer young people not only a job but a career path,” the congressman said. “An ambitious, hardworking and obedient young man, for example, can work himself up from pool boy to houseboy, to footman, to valet and even, if he has the drive, to a head butler in charge of both upstairs and below-stairs servants. Young women will be able to dream of one day moving upstairs from the kitchen to the higher-status and better-paid job of scrubbing the back and combing the hair of the mistress of the house. Young Americans will no longer need to fear living in their cars or searching for food in trash bins.”
When challenged by a reporter as to whether his tax credits would expand the deficit, Cantor chuckled indulgently. “I don’t know anyone who believes that hoary liberal chestnut anymore,” he said. “Everyone knows that incentives for the most productive members of our society only reduce the deficit. As Paul Ryan and I clearly explained in our book, ‘Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,’ the only thing that expands the federal deficit is spending on the unproductive—welfare mothers, the unemployed, seniors, the poor, veterans, the handicapped. Are you from The New York Times by any chance?” he asked playfully.
A David Brooks column in The New York Times today praised Cantor for his “farsighted” and “ingenious” bill. “America’s elites have vastly increased their wealth due to a combination of the Bush tax cuts, financial deregulation, corporate subsidies and enormous pay increases voted by those they appoint to their corporate boards,” the columnist wrote. “As they now buy more mansions, yachts and travel more widely, their need for servants is exploding, and this legislation brilliantly addresses that need.” Brooks also noted that this bill “tracks” with recent breakthrough studies in cognitive science. “Unlike Third World servants attending inferior schools, servants educated in U.S. elementary schools—still the best in the world—display far more cerebral cortex development. Brighter nursemaids and nannies, more jobs for our youth, satisfied employers—it’s a real home run!”
Cantor was also challenged by a reporter as to why he wishes to give tax breaks to wealthy people, who can presumably afford to hire their own servants. “Anyone who understands the free market knows that increased demand creates increased supply,” he patiently explained. “The tax credits in our bill will encourage employers to hire young native-born Americans, who will cost 50 to 75 percent less than illegal or even legal immigrants, and even to pay them something above the minimum wage.”
Cantor continued to make his point. “As Newt Gingrich has explained so brilliantly, all of America’s problems are caused by ’60s ‘secular socialism,’ including many fat and narcissistic young Americans who believe it’s beneath their dignity to serve as servants,” he said. “By providing them an opportunity to earn better money than handouts from their parents, working at Walmart or bagging groceries at Safeway, our bill offers the free market incentives needed to encourage them to enter the respectable profession of household servitude.”
The Cantor bill would also allow for a historic innovation: a 75 percent tax credit to employers who lease servants from a third party. “This business model has proved phenomenally successful in the auto industry,” the Virginia representative said. “Just as you are supplied with a car when your leased auto needs repairs, this bill will allow employers to immediately receive a trained replacement if a leased servant quits, is fired or, particularly, becomes ill.” He explained that absence due to sickness poses a real problem for employers, because their servants will be unable to afford health insurance and will face long waits at Medicaid facilities that have had to reduce services because of the deficit crisis caused by big government.
Cantor added that “this bill is based upon the extensive system of household service in 18th and 19th century Great Britain. Just as joining the servant class once provided a respectable way for countless peasants to join the lower middle class in Great Britain, our bill offers the only real hope for the majority of today’s young people to find meaningful lower- and even middle-class work. But although the British system worked well overall, our research has indicated a number of inefficiencies in a system where each servant contracted directly with his or her employer.
“We discovered, for example, that it was common for English lords, their sons, other relatives or friends to impregnate young female house servants, who were then fired by the men’s wives when their state became noticeable,” Cantor continued. “These young women were then often forced to become prostitutes or engage in other degrading professions to feed their infants.”
This was obviously inexcusable since it meant that employers were deprived of the many young girls who, after undergoing costly training and building up valuable job experience, were lost to the household servant labor market forever.
“But this bill, by providing added incentives for small businesses to establish household servant leasing companies, will solve this problem,” Cantor said. “The contract signed by leased female servants will stipulate that, if impregnated by their employer, his sons or other relatives or friends, they will continue in service with another family up to the day they give birth, immediately give up the infant for adoption and return to service almost right away.”
Cantor also predicted that this approach would open up other “exciting possibilities” for small-business entrepreneurs. “We have already had discussions with a number of adoption agencies and orphanages about establishing a `cradle-to-grave career path’ for the many illegitimate children who will be given up for adoption, and other orphans,” he said. “They say that children trained from birth to obey, present a pleasant and upbeat appearance, and not only instantly respond to but anticipate their employers’ requests, will obviously be able to fetch top dollar in this growing market.”
Cantor also waxed enthusiastic about the potential for reaching global markets, and thus improving America’s balance of trade. “Businessmen with whom we have discussed this are extremely optimistic about the opportunities for penetrating upscale markets abroad, such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Our market research indicates that wealthy foreign elites see employing an American as a servant—or even better, adopting an American child for a lifetime of household service—as one of the ultimate status symbols. Maybe a GM car is no longer a status brand for members of princely Saudi families, but who says America can’t come back? The profit potential from these made-in-the-USA exports is truly awe inspiring.”
In response to questions from other journalists, Cantor emphasized that household servitude would offer millions of young Americans opportunities to earn “decent money.” “Our discussions with potential employers indicate that they may well pay slightly above the minimum wage since they will be able to write off most of their employees’ salaries if they hire American,” the congressman said. “And thrifty and hardworking employees will have many other opportunities to supplement their income. They will enjoy free lodging in the servants’ quarters, free food left over from their employers’ meals and access to their employers’ surplus clothing.”
He added that those servants able to sing, dance, play music or otherwise entertain their employers and their guests would in many cases also be able to earn significant tips. He also noted that they would probably save most of their earnings because they would be on call to meet their employers’ needs at least six and a half days a week, and thus would have little opportunity to waste their money on frivolous pursuits. “An enterprising and frugal young person entering household service after high school or college should be easily able to save up enough money to marry another equally frugal member of the servant class by their mid to late 30s,” Cantor told reporters.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, under fire for helping cause the crash of 2008, took the unusual step of appearing at the news conference. “I am here today to represent employers, who strongly support this legislation,” he began. “After years of being unfairly attacked for exporting U.S. capital abroad, our support for this bill clearly demonstrates that both the executives in my company and the entire financial sector are committed to creating stable jobs for American citizens right here at home.”
Like Cantor and Boehner, Blankfein stressed that household employment would be a growing sector for years to come. “It is not only senior executives like myself who have a growing need for servants as our bonuses grow and we purchase new and larger residences and yachts,” Blankfein said. “I, for example, have two married children who recently graduated college and are starting life on their own. They too will soon be looking for nannies, chauffeurs and gardeners. Why, I estimate that as a result of this bill within five years my family alone will provide decent jobs for more than 200 Americans. And I want to emphasize that I and other successful people welcome this opportunity to ‘give back’ to America for all it has done for us!”
Blankfein added that “I also hope this will stop once and for all the scurrilous attack on Wall Street for paying its executives ever-greater bonuses regardless of company performance. By using our bonuses to employ Americans, we will be clearly creating far more jobs than those who would increase our taxes to pay for government programs that create a culture of dependence.”
Flickr / DonkeyHotey (CC-BY)
House Republicans: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (left), Speaker John Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.