Raise Nick Hanauer’s taxes

Nick Hanauer’s op-ed this week on taxing the wealthy caused a stir, and with good reason. As Jared Bernstein put it, “This guy totally gets it.”

If Hanauer’s name doesn’t sound familiar, he’s a very successful venture capitalist, playing a role in the creation of companies like Amazon.com. This week, he took on a standard Republican talking point: the notion that job creation suffers if taxes go up on the rich. Hanauer explained very well why the GOP’s approach is backwards.

I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

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 the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.

It appears that Hanauer, unlike GOP policymakers, understands supply and demand, and that three decades of concentrating wealth at the top doesn’t create an economic base that ensures broad prosperity. Republicans can keep lavishing more and more money on the rich, but they’ll only spend so much.

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 enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.

Hanauer’s advice? Raise his taxes, make public investments, and get some money in the pockets of middle-class consumers.

Digby’s take on this rings true: “This is a person who really doesn’t want to kill the golden goose of capitalism but would like to save it. It doesn’t speak well for the future of capitalism that there are so few entrepreneurs like him.”

Damn straight.