I recently had breakfast at a "community seating" establishment.  That means they fill up all their tables by seating complete strangers at the same table -- if there's a seat open, somebody's ass meets the fabric.

I really enjoy this type of adventure.  One gets the chance to meet and interact with interesting people.   In my most recent experience of this type, I was seated with a kindly little old lady from Washington state and a bankster from Tennessee.  I actually feel a little sorry for the lady, because she seemed a bit oblivious to the tension that was well disguised by politeness and civility.  She kept steering the conversation to places that were probably better left unexplored, given her two breakfast companions.

At one point, she asked what we thought of the economy, and what it would take to make it better.  I replied that the banker and I were probably not going to agree.  He quickly agreed that we were not going to agree.  She asked how we knew we were not going to agree, when we had just met and barely exchanged a full paragraph's worth of sentences.  (I wanted to say, "Because we paid attention to those few sentences!")

Instead, I took the plunge and offered my opinion that the economy would not get better until more jobs were created.  I further opined that in my experience as an employer, jobs can only be created by increasing demand for products or services, and the only entity that has the resources to increase demand is the federal government.  The banker didn't blink (or turn into a toad, or run around with sparks flying out of his ass).  He merely smiled and nodded and said, "Well, we do disagree."  

His response was the blah, blah, blah about decreasing taxes and cutting regulations.  Maybe I would be smarter if I could pretend to listen to people like him and see if he really has something to say, but when they start spewing that nonsense it all sounds like the teacher in the Charlie Brown holiday specials.  I did have the discipline to at least ask a follow-up question in an effort to show that I cared.  I asked if banks hire more tellers when bank regulations are repealed, or if they hire more tellers when there are more people standing in line needing a teller?  I asked if his business hires more loan officers if bank taxes are cut, or if they hire more loan officers when more people are applying for loans.  He smiled condescendingly and said more people apply for loans when regulations are blah, blah, blah and blah, blah cut taxes.  Yeah. Bullshit.  

I said that in my blue-collar experience, restaraunts hire more wait staff, bussers, cooks and dishwashers when more people come to the restaraunt.  Retail stores hire more sales staff when more people can afford to shop at the store.  I have worked in a lot of jobs, from the time I started bussing tables when I was 14, driving a delivery truck, bartending and working on a road survey crew to put myself through college, managing a professional career and "puttering" at many jobs in my dotage (I mean retirement).  Never once did I meet an employer who analyzed taxes and regulations when creating a new job.  Every one of them did what I did:  we decided to hire more people when we needed more people to get the job done.

Putting people to work means they have more money  (duh!) and they spend more in their community.  Spend more at the grocery store, and the grocer has to hire more people to meet the demand.  Spend more at the local theater, and they have to hire more ticket sellers and ushers.  Spend more at the Dairy Queen, and they have to hire more pimply-faced kids to make those delicious Blizzards.  Spend more at Chik-Fil-A and you're just supporting Christianist thugs (wait, that's a digression).  

If nobody has a job, how do you get more people to spend more money in their communities and feed the cycle?  The only way to do that is for the federal government to institute a stimulus that is large enough to have an effect.  Every community has infrastructure that needs repair.  Interest rates are currently as low as they are going to be for government bonds to pay for infrastructure repair.  Even a banker should understand that it makes business sense to borrow at a low rate to fix things that need fixing now and are only going to need fixing even more later.

Put as many people as possible to work fixing roads, bridges, schools, airports, bus terminals, etc.  Buy new buses for metropolitan mass transit systems.  The construction workers and the people who build the buses will spend money in their communities and the stores and service-providers will need more employees to meet the demand.  Nobody is big enough to prime the pump except the federal government.

(Okay, I wasn't that long-winded or detailed, but that was the gist of my argument.)  The bankster responded that the government didn't have to spend money, they could just cut taxes and regulations and we would see the same effect.  I asked what kind of employer would say, "My taxes are lower so I can afford to hire a new employee" if there is no work for that employee because nobody can afford to buy the product or service?  It makes no sense to me.

But, I am sure you are wondering what exactly it was that left him speechless.  Because so far nothing I related is the slightest interesting, really.  It was when he started talking about Frank-Dodd that the conversation ended.

He gave me his avuncular look, like he was indulging his mentally challenged brother.  He actually said to me, "You could not possibly know how much Frank-Dodd is costing the American economy every day."  I merely replied, "I can look around me and see how much not regulating banks cost the American economy."  That was when he had no answer.  

The little old lady, by the way, did not ask a follow-up question.

Originally posted to Fiddler On A Hot Tin Roof on Thu Sep 08, 2011 at 12:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Three Star Kossacks.

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