I am not an economist.
However, I’m hearing a lot of talk about stagnancy or a lack of decent growth in America’s economy (and as an oft-frustrated job seeker, I can attest to that) and I notice that many people say similar things about the economy of Japan since the 1980s. It seems that Japan had a bubble burst a generation ago and, ever since, it’s had tepid growth and trouble really getting its economy up and humming again. There’s even a term for it when talking about Japan: people will often refer to the Lost Decade, referring to much of the 1990s.
Is this what the future holds for America? Some people are starting to ask that question, but I’ve yet to see anyone posit one link between Japan’s economy and the American economy that has emerged post-Reagan: the existence of Zaibatsu.
What is a Zaibatsu? In Japan, Zaibatsu are massive corporations that can influence a substantial chunk of the overall economy. When Japan first started to join the industrialized world during the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s, they basically allowed four or five companies to run the majority of the economy to make up for lost time. Companies like Mitsubishi are the ancestors of the original zaibatsu, which were family companies unlike the current model of keiretsu, which is a term reserved for corporate conglomerates on a massive scale. Think about it: haven’t you ever marveled how you can buy a Mitsubishi car, media projector, forklift or commercial air conditioner? These massive “informal business groups” could possibly be one of the reasons Japan’s economy has grown so stagnant.
When the majority of your business is controlled by a few large companies or, like the American cable industry, by several large companies working together in agreement, they do not see a need to use their companies for the greater good. At that point, a company exists to make a profit and to be as efficient as possible. However, efficiency does not lead to a growing economy. If everything is working perfectly and efficiently and you’re making a massive profit for your shareholders, why would you suddenly start throwing money away by hiring more workers you don’t need? Why would you choose to stimulate an economy when the effects of a stagnant or crashing economy will be absorbed inside your massive, amorphous corporate structure? We’ve already seen it happen in America, where some of the banks who caused the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis are not only back in business, but thriving, some of them bigger than they were when they were judged “too big to fail.” But when business gets bigger, when merger after merger, concentration on profit and stressed efficiency become the norm, when the American Zaibatsu have been established (and, in many cases, shored up by government bailout or massive subsidies)… is it really any wonder why our economy is growing so poorly, while the Dow just crashed through the 17,000 mark?
The economy won’t grow faster because it doesn’t have to. And eventually, when you can’t lay off any more people, and when the profit margins start to take a hit, those sitting in the Zaibatsu will start to demand something to keep their cashflow going. And that’s when interest rates might jump, and that’s when the country could dip from stagnant growth into another recession. The super rich are already beating the drum for higher interest rates to pad their wallets, so what should be done to avoid a Japanesque “Lost Decade” in America, economically speaking?
Primarily, dissolve the Zaibatsu and regulate the Keiretsu of America. We need to make sure these businesses don’t get too big, and if we come down on them hard enough with increased tax and regulation, we will suddenly have surpluses to spend on encouraging Mom-and-Pop style Main Street businesses. For example, McDonald’s says it has to pay its employees starvation wages to keep up its profit margins. If the United States were to mandate a raising of the minimum wage, say, in keeping with the rise of inflation, McDonalds would no doubt have to close many of its locations to still keep its precious dividends for its shareholders. Now, with all of this extra tax revenue (because, let’s face it, McDonalds is not going to die out completely) states and municipalities will be able to funnel money to prospective business owners, and with higher wages, more middle class Americans will be eager to finally start up their dream businesses and make their dreams come true.
The left will like this, because it encourages stimulus and a bolstering of the beleaguered middle class. The right should like this, because it breaks up the corporate bureaucracy and stops the system of by-proxy subsidies to billion-dollar companies through government payouts in entitlement programs for underpaid employees who don’t make enough to survive. This is not a free market, this is a market held hostage by massive companies and an unregulated banking system run amok, and both sides should be able to agree that these American Zaibatsu should be broken up, and their ill-gotten spoils either returned to the government to help the employees they exploit, or given directly to the middle class themselves to create a new, more fair, and more free market with greater potential for growth.
This system cannot be sustained. It cannot go on forever. We cannot hope to continue to automate and lay off human beings and hope the economy will absorb the shock. We will have a Lost Decade in America, if we have not already. The remedy is clear: you can either work with those like me who are of the first wave of malcontents, a more compromising wave, or you will have to deal with the mobs. It is up to those in power to either let a new generation make this country theirs and make it work for them as it worked for their parents, or to continue trying to crush us only to have the compacted masses explode back in your face. You cannot keep treating people like this, and it will not last forever. I will leave you with the words of a great President, and a great Republican, Theodore Roosevelt:
”These fools on Wall Street think they can go on forever… They can’t. I would like to be the buffer between their foolishness and the wrath that is surely to come. Sooner or later, there will be a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement.”
The Choice Seems Clear: Leitzen 2016, and beyond.