Class War in America: the Book
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Guess What: You* Are Now a “Worker”
*Engineer, Ph.D., computer programmer,
professional, scientist—and the usual others
Columnists and management professionals used to write about “management and workers,” “professionals and laborers,” and “salaried and hourly.” These terms distinguished between different categories of corporate personnel and they had implications for a person’s position in the organizational hierarchy, as well as for income level, job security, and position in society.
Professionals, managers, and salaried persons tended not to identify with the interests of workers and laborers. When bad things started happening to workers, the elite considered it a sad result of poor education or unfortunate circumstance.
Too bad. What has been happening to workers is the result of a planned strategy, and that strategy is now being applied to everyone who does the hands-on work of our country.
We’d better start thinking in terms of “wealthy investors” (people who don’t work, yet make huge amounts of money) and “everyone else” (people who work because they have to make a living). Worldwide, wealthy investors are increasing their power to control the incomes of virtually everyone who has to work to support his family, whether at the poverty level or the luxury level.
Regardless of his category—scientist, truck driver, assembly line worker, doctor, engineer, teacher, or what have you—every worker had better inherit money to invest, or have some strategy in mind to get large sums of money to invest. If he doesn’t, he’s going to find it increasingly difficult to have a decent future in the United States—a country whose leaders believe that actual work deserves no more than a marginal income.
For example, conservatives have found creative ways to force U.S. Ph.D.s to compete with scientists from Third World countries and their lower standards of living. Under the head “Give Me Your Huddled…High-Tech Ph.D.s,” Business Week reported a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, which wanted limits on immigration. It concluded that “11.7% of America’s scientists and engineers in 1990 were foreign-born professionals—naturalized U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.”1
The “National Science Foundation, a neutral source, concurred, reporting that foreigners made up 49% of Ph.D.s in computer science in 1993, up from 35.5% in 1983.”2 Business Week concluded that
In theory, this explosion of foreign high-tech talent shouldn’t be a threat to Americans. By law, employers can’t petition for either temporary or permanent immigration visas for foreign workers if they can find a qualified U.S. citizen for the job.
But it’s widely known that employers often get Labor Dept. approval by tailoring job descriptions to a particular foreign candidate to make sure that no U.S. candidate can fill the slot.
The most well documented abuses of the visa system occur in more routine software programming, where foreigners on so-called temporary H-1B visas clearly have undercut some U.S. engineers.3
For the past 20 years, Republicans and conservative Democrats have been telling us that getting an education and the new information age technology would save American citizens their standards of living. Therefore, we shouldn’t worry about losing manual labor jobs. Not true. Wealthy conservatives have proved that they can destroy or put a lid on anyone’s income.
Conservatives will correctly argue that scientists, engineers, Ph.D.s and those in the information industry are among our highest paid professionals. They are, but relative to the people who hire them, they are poorly paid. As with other industries, investors and top executives are the ones who benefit most from the competition they create for their own workers.
How do they do it? By “using loopholes in the law,” and classifying jobs in such a way as to make sure that no U.S. candidates can fill the slots. So, the boss manipulates the labor market, keeps a lid on salaries (high as they are), and gets incredibly, fabulously, richer.
And you can count on it: if the technology industry tanks—or our country goes into a serious recession—those who will lose their jobs, or suffer serious income reductions, will be the Americans who actually built the industry to begin with.
The picture gets worse when American corporations totally abandon operations in this country and contract high-skill projects out to Third World countries. The Wall Street Journal was brutally frank when it reported that “High-Tech Firms Shift Some Skilled Work to Asian Countries; Like Blue-Collar Employees, West’s Professionals Face Competition Abroad”:
American multinationals such as H-P come to Malaysia mainly for low wages. But in the process they have bred a fast-growing class of cosmopolitan professionals [in Malaysia]…who have the kind of high-skilled jobs Americans covet….
It means that some of America’s most skilled workers are likely to face the same punishing competition and wage pressures from abroad now felt by blue-collar workers.…
This shift is sending billions of dollars of capital to countries like Malaysia from the U.S. and Japan, fueling the growth of high-paying jobs overseas.4
Conservative economic policies always benefit wealthy investors first—with only the promise of “trickle-down” to workers sometime in the vague future. Problem is, conservative politicians always change the rules to keep the promised future from happening.
Unmanaged free trade was supposed to eventually benefit workers, especially those with high skills. Americans would do the skillful work of the future, and Third World countries would provide the manual labor. But then, as international trade increasingly became a reality,
§ Third World countries began to train masses of their own citizens in the same skills that Americans were famous for. American corporations then began to shift operations overseas, and used their low wages to intimidate the skilled American workers who invented and perfected the skills to begin with.