FloridaVoices.com posts JMI Resident Fellow Bill Mattox’s opinion editorial “Ryan Should Use Playlist to Help Romney Get Message Right” challenging the idea that most job creators are in the top tax bracket and drawing heavily from Arthur Brooks’ new book, The Road to Freedom.Text of Column:
Now that we know Paul Ryan’s playlist runs from AC~DC to Zeppelin, let’s hope the Republican vice presidential nominee can convince Mitt Romney to listen to some songs that fall under the letter “O” — for Offspring. Because there’s a very important – and often-overlooked – aspect to the jobs debate that the southern California punk band seems to appreciate.
In the 1990s, the Offspring got lots of air play with a string of hits, including Self-Esteem and Come Out and Play. One of these songs, Why Don’t You Get a Job?, would probably work well as the soundtrack to a John Stossel video about freeloaders.
Yet, to hear Paul Ryan at the 2012 Tampa convention, the problem facing many young people today isn’t that they’re a bunch of slackers. The problem instead is that the economy is failing to generate lots of good jobs. As Ryan memorably noted in his acceptance speech, “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of truth in Ryan’s observation. And there’s a great deal of wisdom in the Romney-Ryan team’s opposition to new taxes on job creators in the highest tax bracket. But there’s also something curiously missing in the current jobs debate: an acknowledgement that many job creators aren’t in the top tax bracket. Or anywhere close to it.
In his new book, The Road to Freedom, Arthur Brooks cites several studies that show most small business owners work longer hours, for less annual income — $44,576 on average — than other Americans. Yet, interestingly, entrepreneurs also report higher levels of personal happiness than others. Brooks says that much of this satisfaction stems from working in an economic system that rewards earned success (even if that success is often hard to achieve.)
“People flourish when they control their lives,” Brooks writes. “When that is taken away from them by the state or corporate cronies, everyone suffers.”
The entrepreneurial experiences of many immigrants support Brooks’ argument. And in today’s economy, we need to be helping young Americans develop the scrappy, can-do resourcefulness commonly associated with such immigrants. To put it in Offspring-speak, the mentality we need to be cultivating among America’s youth is not simply one that asks, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,” but one that increasingly encourages, “Why Don’t You Create Your Own Job?”
Dexter Holland, the lead singer of the Offspring, seems to understand this do-it-yourself mentality. When his punk band started showing its age (and losing its edge) in the 2000s, Holland launched a new business, creating his own hot sauce. “Gringo Bandito” is now carried in grocery stores and restaurants throughout California. And while some might argue that the Offspring front man had a number of advantages in launching his new enterprise, the truth is most entrepreneurs in America are fairly ordinary gringos and Regular Jose`s.
So, Ryan is right about all those college graduates still living in their childhood bedrooms: The Kids Aren’t Alright. And the Romney-Ryan team is also right to object to policy proposals that would penalize earned success.
But Americans need to recognize that protecting job creators from excessive taxation shouldn’t be considered a “trickle-down” economic strategy. Because most small business owners aren’t in the top tax bracket. And if Romney can convince Americans that his economic plan would make it easier for young entrepreneurs to succeed, many twentysomethings still living at home just might conclude that Mitt is Pretty Fly (for a White Guy).