The Gospel According to the Job Creators

In the beginning–roughly 1990–there were the Job Creators. All good things were made by them; without them there was not any thing made. And then came Obama.

Before the coming of the age of the Job Creators, though, men knew only “job creators” as industries: the pharmaceutical industry, for example, was a job creator, and small businesses were job creators. The first Bush presidency appears to have been a watershed in the transformation of “job creators” from an institutional, collective noun to the personalized, quasi-messianic, and often mocked but still resilient character of the Job Creator we know today. One of the first such usages of Job Creators as individual capitalists to make it into the New York Times comes from the first President Bush, who linked “job creators and innovators” with that lovable underdog, the “small business.”

President s Address to Nation on Federal Deficit and the Budget Agreement; Oct 3, 1990; New York Times pg. D28
“President’s Address to Nation on Federal Deficit and the Budget Agreement,” New York Times, Oct 3, 1990

That same year, the apartheid South African parliament debated internal migration in the country and concluded that the Whites–already the master race–could also lay claim to the title of “job creators.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 12.21.40 PM
Debates of Parliament, Volume 9, Issues 18-20. South Africa: Government Printing Office, 1990

I’m not sure what came first–the racist mystique of the apartheid job creator or the elitist messianism of the American Job Creator–and I wouldn’t assume any causal link between them. But they do work together nicely. A search of the New York Times archive shows the term spiking dramatically around the re-election campaign of Barack Obama in 2011-12.

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 “War of Ideas on U.S. Budget Overshadows Job Struggle,” New York Times, June 3, 2011

“Job creator” is the well known rhetorical means of framing plutocratic dispossession as an economic stimulus–and as a favor bestowed from on high by a class that loves us. Tax cuts = job creation, goes the familiar formula; this is how a pro-Trump group calling itself the “Job Creators Network” understands the President’s proposed new tax plan, for example. (You can find the them on the web at taxcutsnow.org, of course). “Creation” is a way of talking about “jobs” without talking about “production,” class, or actual work. And while “Job Creators” may be a euphemism for “rich person,” its modern history makes pretty clear that really alludes to a particular kind of rich person: just ask the Boers. Or Donald Trump.

 

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