Reprinted from: 

Nov. 19-25, 1998 


Aesthetic Realism and the Economy
by Alice Bernstein

In the midst of what is being described by most economists and practically everyone in the media as a booming economy — see Nashville Business Journal’s Oct. 26th editorial, "Things have been so good for so long...[and] it should be a bright Christmas," and Oct. 31st New York Times front page story, "Economic Growth Surprisingly Solid" — nevertheless,  companies throughout Tennessee continue laying off people. 

In the past 9 months thousands of jobs have been lost in diverse industries as Black & Decker eliminates 3,000 Memphis jobs; Northwest Airlines, nearly 8,000 people in Memphis; Outboard Marine Corp. is closing its Nashville boat-building plant, eliminating 400 jobs; Tennessee Woolen Mills, 233 jobs; Coventry Corp. in Nashville, 40 jobs; Caster-Knott retail chain, 330 employees; American Airlines, 40 workers, and the list goes on. 

The reason these companies give — to bolster profits — is unjust and shameful. What they call "cost cutting" and "housecleaning" is blatant contempt as they carelessly discard human beings. My heart goes out to all the men and women and their families who are suffering because of it. Exactly who benefits from the so-called thriving economy? Many Tennessee families are experiencing no such thing — in fact, they are more worried than ever, as the alarming reports of children in poverty and infant mortality make clear. 

The truth is — and I learned it from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by America's great poet and economist, Eli Siegel — that our nation’s profit economy, based on using the work of many people for the financial gain of a few others, has failed because the contempt at its core no longer works. Contempt, Mr. Siegel defined as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." So we see companies all over America frantically trying to bolster profits by firing people or shutting down and going abroad where they find it easier to exploit people and pay them pitifully. 

Black & Decker, for instance, is a Fortune 500 company, whose gross profits have increased in recent years and whose sales are in billions of dollars. And Northwest, another of Fortune’s 500 and the nation's fourth largest airline, had $596 million in profits last year. 

Yet all this firing goes on so companies can make ever greater profits! The fact that CEO's and shareholders see firing people as "the right thing to do for the company," while thousands of families in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, agonize over how they’re going to pay their bills and buy food, let alone find other jobs, underscores the mean, sick basis of profit economics. 

As hardworking people feel worried and betrayed, who exactly is experiencing this recovery we keep hearing about? As early as 1970 Eli Siegel explained, and documented in Goodbye Profit System: Update:

    If there is a recovery, everyone will see it, not just a few economists more pleased than they should be, perhaps, with what the basis of economics has been....There will be no economic recovery in the world until economics itself, the making of money, the having of jobs becomes ethical, is based on good will rather than on the ill will which has been predominant for centuries.
And, Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism has been showing, with magnificent exactitude, in the weekly international periodical, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known that all the hype about recovery today is a lie being foisted on the American people. I am proud to give three instances of what she wrote: 
    • "The depiction of [the economy’s] glowingness is a phony arrangement designed to fool the American people, who are not as stupid as the press and others wish to believe....People have the nerve to keep worrying about whether they will have a decent job, and they just don’t spend the way they ought to!" [#1292] 

    • "If the American people had to vote on whether 1) a few people should make profit at the price of millions of children being poor; or 2) millions of children should not be poor — each should get the good things of this world into which he was born just as nakedly and hopingly as anyone else — at the price of big profits not going to certain individuals, the American people would vote for the second." [#1212]

And in issue #1314, Miss Reiss presents what an economy based on good will would include, through the thoughts of a representative American worker: 
    "I love America, and I think it deserves something much better and more American than this awful way people have to work and go without things we need, and hope to beat out somebody, and feel we’re being rooked ourselves. I want to work...not in order to increase someone’s profit, but because this is a product that could strengthen people’s lives. I want to be paid in a way that’s respectful of who I am. I can feel expressed making people’s lives stronger....I want a really American economic system — where the money people earn isn’t stolen from them by some stockholder or boss."
The Aesthetic Realism explanation of the economy is true and so practical. We will have the recovery America aches for — fair to people, to the American earth, resources and wealth — when every one of us answers these vital questions Eli Siegel asked: "What does a person deserve by being a person?" And, "To whom does the wealth of America belong?" 

People in Tennessee and all over America deserve a future we can look forward to — one in which our beloved country is owned by all of us. To learn more about Aesthetic Realism you can contact the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation at 141 Greene Street, NYC 10012 (212) 777-4490; on the Internet: www.AestheticRealism.org.


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