Of Makers and Takers – and Fakers

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Anyone remember just a few years ago we had an aspiring presidential candidate who divided Americans into two categories – makers and takers?

The “makers” it was presumed, “made” things, while the “takers” were lazy parasites who did not contribute to the economy, their neighborhoods or their communities.

“Makers” were, almost by definition, successful and prosperous.

“Takers” were irresponsible and a drag on any economy.

It’s an interesting way to look at the world.

Who needs social media or ranting cable news when you have a world view like that?

Just a few years later, certain workers from medical staff to grocery store clerks, and delivery drivers were suddenly elevated to the status of “essential” workers.

Magazine articles and media segments profiled these “heroes” as they slogged through adverse conditions from weather to hostility and illness as they literally put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

We gushed about them and (most of us) tipped them generously.

Were they “makers” or were they “takers” just a few years before?

I think we all know that they were invisible and largely underpaid – even as they did work we would eventually recognize as “essential”.

But they too eventually recognized the bifurcated economy where, as that presidential candidate put it, there were “makers” and there were “takers”.

Those delivery drivers and medical staff, and school teachers (among many others) realized that they, in fact were the “makers” the ones who actually worked and contributed to our economy.

Those workers were (and continue to be) the literal moving parts of our – and every economy.

The “takers” were not those who sponged off the government and lived on a never ending buffet of social services and big government largess, the “takers” were those who literally “took” credit and profit from those who did the real work.

And then an unexpected thing happened – those workers who did labor and got things done began to quit – by the hundreds, then thousands, then millions.

Costs of everything, from child care to housing to cars and groceries went up dramatically – and pay didn’t.

The “great resignation” hit our economy right when it was recovering.

But like every other social trend, every one of us should have seen this coming.

With rising basic prices on everything from gas to childcare, many, if not most of these workers could literally not afford to work.

It was one of the many “corrections” our economy would be forced to make.

As we’ve seen, “Help Wanted” signs seemed to emerge like mushrooms over night.

Fast food places and restaurants closed because of staffing shortages.

As did ferry runs.

And almost everything else, from police departments to delivery services.

But then yet another unexpected trend emerged; those companies that offered better pay and benefits had no problem finding reliable and qualified workers.

Funny how that works.

Adam Smith called that “the invisible hand” of the marketplace.

Imagine an economy where we paid our workers based on how “essential” their work is.

Or where workers get pay – and recognition – for what they create.

There’s a bitter joke circulating around the internet; when a billionaire says that he became wealthy because of hard work, ask him whose work it was that created his wealth.

Yes, we have an economy of “makers” and “takers”, but I would submit that we have a third category, and this has probably been true throughout all of human history, but all the more obvious today.

We have “makers” and “takers” and, besides those two, we have “fakers” – those hustlers and grifters, often with tailored suits, smooth hands and private jets, who scam and cajole the rest of us with promises and fantasies – wonderful and dreadful – sometimes flavored with threats of foreigners who will take our jobs.

You ever notice that the “sweeps” of illegal immigrants often happen at agricultural facilities or meat processing plants?

Are these the jobs that the immigrants are taking from us and our children?

And somehow the employers who hired them are rarely prosecuted. They, by the way, are the “takers” – literally taking the labor of their workers and often refusing to pay them and calling immigration services if they complain.

But it’s one of the oldest stories of human history.

Nameless slaves, laborers and soldiers build empires and sacrifice their lives while the kings and emperors claim the titles and the riches.

America, the land of opportunity, the land of liberty and justice for all, the nation literally defined by its defiance of kings and cronyism, the land of “We the people”, not allegiance to the crown, was supposed to be a different story.

That was what made us “exceptional”.

That set of beliefs was aspirational, and it turns out that it still is.

Like every other time in human history perhaps, the “makers” of a naive and bygone era were those who took credit – and most of the pay, while those who did the actual work, or even risked their lives, received little pay or recognition.

Until we realized that we needed them.

And maybe, just maybe, we will start paying them accordingly.

And we can reclaim our destiny as the land of opportunity.