Obama’s fundamental misapprehension of employment economics reminds me of an intriguing paradox I observed first-hand just a few months ago when I visited a relative who lived in a suburban tract:
Twice a week, my relative hired a “gardener” to clean up the front yard. I put “gardener” in quotes because this young hardworking immigrant didn’t actually know anything about plants or gardens; basically his only task was to get rid of the leaves that fell from the trees in front of the house. He achieved this very quickly and efficiently by using a gas-powered leaf-blower. Perhaps when he was first hired his technique was to blow all the leaves into a big pile which he would then load into his truck for removal. A few may have gone into the neighbors’ yards, but hey, they were out of my relative’s yard, so problem solved. I imagine that over time, as he got hired by more and more people in the tract due to his low rates, he worked quicker and quicker and sloppier and sloppier, until the day I observed him, when he no longer even made a pretense of gathering the leaves into a pile; instead, he just blew them all into the neighbors’ yards, and then hopped into his truck and drove off to his next client. At three or four yards per hour, he was (metaphorically at least) raking it in.
But here’s where the paradox begins. The neighbors would come back from their jobs at the end of the day, and see all the leaves on their lawns, and they’d call up their own gardeners who would proceed to do the exact same thing in reverse — blow all the same leaves back into my relative’s and adjacent neighbors’ yards. This cycle would go on across the entire tract, because the same leaf-shedding trees had been planted along every street: everyone would hire gardeners to blow the leaves back and forth from yard to yard. At the end of each week, exactly nothing had been achieved: all the leaves were back where they started. And then the cycle would begin again.
A normal person would look at this situation and say, “What a monumental waste of effort. So much human labor for no purpose whatsoever; after all those man-hours, nothing has changed. All the leaves are back in their original positions.”
Obama would look at this same situation and say, “How can you claim that nothing was achieved? Forty-seven gardeners are now fully employed!”
But I look at it and see what the radical theorists see: It’s not true at all that nothing has changed. Maybe the leaves are all in their original positions, but a great deal of money has been transferred from the middle-class homeowners to the immigrant gardeners.