A high-income worker is one who by definition is in high demand. The same factors that make him a high-income worker also enable him to demand higher wages in response to tax increases or other factors that diminish his real income…Likewise, companies with very in-demand products (Apple, Mercedes-Benz) have the most ability to pass costs along to consumers, while equally powerful but price-constricted firms (Walmart) have the most power to pass expenses on to suppliers and other business partners. A tax hike on Walmart is not necessarily a tax hike on Walmart — it’s likely to be a tax hike on, for example, Cal Maine Foods, which relies on Walmart for a third of its business.
So, let’s say you’re Walmart, and your top hundred inventory-management, systems, and finance guys all come to you looking for a 10 percent bump because of the fiscal-cliff tax hike and the Obamacare tax hike. Walmart does not live and die by greeters or Cal Maine eggs — it lives and dies by logistics and finance, and it really needs people who are good at that. It will work as hard to keep its top talent as Apple will to keep its top engineering and design talent. So where does Walmart go to get that money to keep its top talent? If you have 100 high-wage specialists you really need to keep happy and tens of thousands of low-skilled greeters, cashiers, warehousemen, etc., all of whom you are pretty confident you can easily replace, you are going to be tempted to shift some money from the big, low-skilled pot to the small, high-skilled pot. Likewise, if Walmart has a supplier that represents 0.01 percent of its sales but relies on Walmart for 33 percent of its own sales, who do you think is going to prevail if Walmart decides it needs to knock prices down by a nickel?
The prevailing political realities of the United States do not allow for any meaningful course correction. And, without meaningful course correction, America is doomed.
A space alien on Planet Zongo whose cable package includes Meet the Press could watch ten minutes of these pseudo-cliffhangers and figure out how they always end, every time: Spending goes up, and the revenue gap widens. This latest painstakingly negotiated bipartisan deal to restore fiscal responsibility actually includes a third of a trillion dollars in new spending. A third of a trillion! $330,000,000,000! Fancy that! In most countries, a third of a trillion would be a lot of money. But in the U.S. it’s chump change so footling it’s barely mentioned in the news reports. Then there’s the usual sweetheart deals for those with Washington’s ear: $59 million for algae producers, a $20 million tax break if a Hollywood producer shoots part of a movie in a “depressed area” as opposed to a non-depressed area, like Canada. I’m pitching a script to Paramount called “The Algae That Ate Detroit.”