Over at El Gringoqueño, James O'Malley posted an interesting thumbnail sketch of what We--as an economy--will face unless We wise up. Here it is:
Recent changes in the tax code of Puerto Rico have caused me to rethink a long held opinion about the nature of our politicians. The Genius, [sic] over at his blog, rightly predicts that the underground economy in Puerto Rico will perfect itself as taxation wriggles into all legitimate economic transactions. Small micro companies will just take what little business they have further underground away from the grabbing hands of government, and more of them will do it better.
Medium-sized brick and mortar shops will either shoulder the burden or pass the cost on to the customer. Either way with rising prices, already pinched consumers will be forced to buy from the lowest supplier, those 800 pound gorillas with their cheap global supply chains and volume discounts. If small business owners try to compete on price their already compromised position further erodes to the point of survival mode. They are then either pushed into gray areas of the underground economy or out of business entirely.
The big global players are already earning money hand over fist, and if their position is eroded only slightly by rising consumption taxes, they have a number of options. They can negotiate tax breaks for their local hiring, get government handouts to build new facilities, low interest loans, you name it. They have the clout and the cash to get what they want, whether it be cheap goods, cheaper labor, or cheap government.
So where does that leave us?
I always thought that bad government policies through incompetence or malice had an effect to drive out entrepreneurial spirit, to foment low level corruption, and give unfair advantage to large imported global players (pharmaceutical manufactures, retailers, fast food, national chains etc). But now I’m not so sure it’s incompetence or even malice.
What if their aim is to kill off the last of the local companies for us, as a favor to pacify us and give us jobs, to give us what we want, to work for the man, and play on the weekends, to be kept, taken care of, and have no responsibilities? Maybe these politicians know something we don’t want to admit or care to face:
We want to be kept and taken care of.
We would rather work for Wal-mart than try to start our own business, and the best to which we can hope to rise, the pinnacle, the ultimate, is to be a general manager in someone else’s plant, to be validated by the higher power the foreign national, the colonial overlord.
I hope it’s just incompetence… although at this point I’d even take malice.
Please tell me I’m wrong, please Puerto Rico? Tell me it’s not what we want.
First of all, I wish I could tell Jim--one of Us by heart's choice--that We are humongously incompetent and filled with malice. But the fact is, not even Our Fools fit that description. For sadly, what best explains Our current predicament is that We are craven.
Craven in the sense of "too afraid of fallout to maintain a principled stand." Craven in the sense of being timid, of avoiding duty and thus eschewing responsibility. Craven in the sense of preferring to remain weak rather than striving to be strong. Craven because by cowering in fear, We irrationally feel safe.
If you believe craven is too strong a word for Us, look for its antonyms and see if they apply better: bold, brave, courageous, heroic, strong... Somehow, even as I yearn for a different answer, the reality hits Me like a dagger in the heart.
James, it isn't incompetence and it isn't malice. It's worse. It's irrationality governed by fear or abject fear leading to irrationality. In either case, We are locked into a miniature dungeon of despair, defeat and depression. We are easy prey, thus We are victims because We choose to be.
I need to be by Myself for a while. I'll requote Jim: Please tell Me I’m wrong, please Puerto Rico?
The Jenius Has Spoken