I have seen an image being passed around several friends’ walls on Facebook, and I’m sure you’ve seen it, too: an evil, grinning man in a suit holding a cookie, next to a joke in which he (a corporate Chief Executive Officer) takes 11 out of 12 cookies on a plate, and then warns the Tea Partier to beware of a Union member trying to steal his cookie.
It may be that you have even considered this cartoon to be funny. Allow me to disillusion you by explaining how this works in real life. As it turns out, the cookie is a better metaphor for wealth than the creator of the cartoon probably understood, because it is something which is both produced and consumed. This is actually at odds with the intention of the image, in which there is just a single plate of cookies, which the CEO is hoarding. This image comes from a confusion between WEALTH, which is created in the value of work produced, and simple CURRENCY, or printed money. If nothing else, the existence of credit cards should make clear that it is possible to access wealth without having any printed currency involved.
That being said, here is what should actually happen in this scenario:
The Tea Partier should also be a cookie maker. On his own, he can produce 100 cookies per day, all of which are his–but he must use those cookies for food, and to purchase the equipment and ingredients he needs to make more cookies. This leaves him with an average of 10 cookies for himself per day. Eventually, he decides to work for the CEO; he only gets to keep 1 out of 10 cookies he makes, but thanks to better equipment and assembly lines, he makes 1200 cookies per day–getting 12 cookies for himself per day with no overhead.
Enter the Union Rep: for a mere 4 cookies per day, he will guarantee the Tea Partier’s employment. Sounds like a good deal–except that the Tea Partier is already protected by Federal law, and, being a good employee, is more likely to be rewarded than fired. So, the Tea Partier (having had his family threatened by SEIU), finds himself taking home only eight cookies per day with benefit to himself. The Union rep DOES protect someone, however; namely, the employee who should be fired. Unproductive and disruptive, this employee causes the Tea Partier’s production to drop, so now he is only taking home six cookies per day–and the CEO can’t fire the disruptive employee because of the union.
In fact, production drops so low that the corporation cannot pay its expenses, and so turns to the government for help. In response, the government raises the funds to bail out the corporation by taxing the cookie-makers, including the Tea Partier, who is now only taking home four cookies per day.