'I Am a Job Creator': This Is the Country I Want

By James Kwak

Last week, the Washington Post published a take down of entitled "job creators." Well, I really am a job creator. And here's what I think the country and I are entitled to.

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Reuters

I am a "job creator."

I co-founded a software company eleven years ago and worked there for seven years. It now employs over eight hundred people, most of them in the United States and most in high-paying jobs. Hundreds of other people have jobs installing and configuring our software for our customers.

I realize that my company probably caused other people to lose their jobs--most obviously at our competitors. I believe that, in the long run, products that increase productivity and that provide benefits exceeding their costs do improve overall welfare.

I pay tax at historically low rates. Most of my income from my former company technically counts as investment income, and taxes on investment income were lowered by both President Clinton and President Bush.

I had no idea, when we started the company, what the capital gains tax rate was.

I would be a major beneficiary of the proposal by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to maintain low capital gains tax rates (or eliminate them altogether).

I have been very fortunate. I was born into a family that valued education highly. I attended excellent public schools. I attended an elite private university that receives large amounts of federal research money. I paid for my education in part with federally subsidized student loans. I attended graduate school at a public university and received a fellowship from the Department of Education.

My former company hired highly skilled people who were educated by American schools and universities. Our work was made possible by our nation's physical and electronic infrastructure, including the air traffic system that ferried us to customer sites and the Internet communications we used to collaborate on projects. Our relationships with our customers and partners depended on the stability and predictability of U.S. contract and corporate law. (That said, patent litigation is getting out of hand.)

My former company was very fortunate. Venture capital firms were willing to bet on us during the depths of the technology crash. Our first customers were willing to bet on us when our products were still unproven. We could have failed at any time and in any number of ways.

I know that business success depends as much on luck as on innovative ideas and hard work. I know that the amount of money you make is not an indication of your value as a person or even of the value of your work.

I know that life is unfair. I know that there are people who live by the rules, pay their bills, and work hard, yet cannot afford to retire comfortably. I know that there are people who become disabled in the prime of their careers; who pay for long-term care for their parents; who struggle to pay the medical bills for their sick children; who are laid off in the depths of a recession and are unable to find new jobs.

I believe that to remain a great nation, we must do two things.

First, we must preserve the equality of opportunity that makes it possible for any American to dream of success or, at least, to look forward to a better future. We must invest in our educational system, from pre-school programs that help bridge the gap between rich and poor to public universities that train the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. We must fight discrimination in all its forms so that our society can benefit from the talents of all its members. We must ensure equal access to justice for all people, not just those who can afford good lawyers.

Second, we must recognize that not everyone will be financially successful and we must maintain a real safety net for people who need help. A society where the lucky few reap prodigious financial rewards is one where many will fall short of their dreams through no fault of their own. We must insure all people against disability, against sickness, against hunger, and against homelessness.

I realize that these things cost money. I believe that the costs of building and maintaining a great country should be shared by all of us, beginning with the people who benefit the most from our society. I believe that people like me (and people who are far wealthier) should pay more in taxes.

I have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to congressional candidates who, if elected, will vote to raise my taxes.

I believe that the phrase "job creator" should always be placed in quotation marks and should be banished from the English language once this election season is over.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/10/i-am-a-job-creator-this-is-the-country-i-want/263162/