Jim Tankersley on The Inequality Speech That TED Won’t Show (h/t Brad DeLong)
Prepare to meet Nick Hanauer. He’s a venture capitalist from Seattle who was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com. Today he’s a very rich man. And, somewhat jarringly, he’s screaming to anyone who will listen that he, and other wealthy innovators like him, doesn’t create jobs. The middle class does – and its decline threatens everyone in America, from the innovators on down…
check out the full text of a speech Hanauer gave in March at the TED University conference. You can’t find the talk online, because TED officials have declared it too politically controversial to post on their web site. You be the judge:
I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.
That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me… .
Another reason this idea is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages. Here’s an incredible fact. If the typical American family still got today the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would earn about 25% more and have an astounding $13,000 more a year. Where would the economy be if that were the case?