As I was watching John Boehner's brief statement about the deal to keep the government going by screwing the poor and elderly out of more of the things they need to survive, I was struck by one of his statements—that this budget will "help create a better environment for job creators in our country."
"Job creators" is, of course, Republican-speak for "the wealthy." They're not greedy people hoarding the nation's resources and wealth, they're job creators who we of course need to create our jobs!
In their rhetoric about education, Republicans like to harp on "accountability." Teachers need to be accountable for raising their students' standardized test scores (even if the students don't actually learn anything useful), or they should be fired. Schools need to be accountable for raising their students' standardized test scores (even if those tests don't actually measure learning), or they should be closed and replaced with for-profit charter schools. Accountability is presented as the most important thing for these crucial edifices of our society.
So, as I watched Boehner not talk about the families who would starve because their food stamps are being cut, or the children who wouldn't get the Head Start early childhood education that could help them thrive in school, but instead talk about the "job creators," I got to thinking:
Why aren't the "job creators" being held accountable?
If their true function in our society is to "create jobs," then shouldn't they face some kind of penalty when they fail to do what we're relying on them to do?
So here is my proposal: The Job Creation Accountability Act.
Economists consider "full employment" to be somewhere around 5-6%—where just about everyone who wants a job can find one. That would be how we would define the "job creators'" success. If the Department of Labor's U6 rate—which, unlike the U3 rate, also counts people who've given up looking for work and people who are underemployed—is 8% (we're being generous here, allowing for employment as a lagging economic indicator), then the "job creators" are doing well.
But here's the accountability: If the average U6 is above 8% for a given calendar year, the income tax rate for top earners (both wage earners and capital gains) is indexed to the unemployment rate. (We create a new tax bracket for those making more than $500,000, in order to not penalize high-earning working professionals like doctors and lawyers.) At 8% unemployment, let's put the tax rate for the highest bracket at 30%; let's give them a little tax cut from the current rate for keeping everyone employed.
For every 1% increase in U6 above 8%, the marginal tax rate on the top bracket increases by 4.5%. And the money from the unemployment-indexed taxes goes to a federal job creation program that employs people by building infrastructure projects we need, like maintaining our roads and bridges, building high-speed rail, and building smart electric grids.
Here's how it would break down:
This would hold "job creators" accountable: If you're performing your function in our economy and creating jobs, your taxes will be low. If you're not performing your function, your taxes will be high so your wealth "creates jobs" in other ways.
I don't think this would be a hard sell to the American people, particularly if our Democrats actually started talking about the massive wealth inequality in our nation and pointing out to regular Americans that our country isn't broke—we're just letting the very few hang on to most of our nation's wealth, instead of ensuring that it benefits everyone.
So it's time for some accountability: If the reason we keep giving the wealthy tax cuts is in the hopes that someday they'll "create jobs" for everyone, then it's about time we demand that they keep up their end of the bargain—and hold them accountable if they don't.