This article appeared in the Yancey (County, NC) Common Times Journal, November 14, 2007, p. 4.
created good-paying jobs
By Chuck Kelly
Two articles in the recent Times Journal demonstrate what’s gone wrong in the public debate about globalization.
“Last pair of jeans made as Taylor Togs closes operation” described how Levi Strauss has gradually left this country to go where labor costs are much lower and work standards are almost non-existent.
The second article, “Will there be jobs for your children?” correctly urged people to take advantage of the library in developing reading skills in their children. “If they can read they can succeed!”
Although this is an excellent recommendation for individuals, it’s not going to help the entire class of individuals who have seen their jobs exported to other countries. Workers in Third World countries can’t read as well as our American workers already can. Indeed, many of them are children, working in the same conditions we had in this country until 1938.
That’s when we passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibited children under 16 from working full-time, non-farm jobs. It also required time-and-a-half for overtime, and set the minimum wage at 29 cents/hour. That’s the same year that the 40 –hour workweek became an American standard, and marked the beginning of our affluent middle-class.
So, the reason foreign workers are getting our jobs isn’t because they are educated, it’s because their countries have the same barbaric values our country had before the enlightenment of Roosevelt’s New Deal. And our multinational corporations are only too willing to take advantage of the deplorable working conditions in other countries.
Apologists for America’s investors and corporate executives have convinced the public to support globalization by claiming that “education” will be the American workers salvation. Nonsense. China and India are becoming world-class educators and they have a lot more people. Not only that, as many have observed, “innovation follows manufacturing,” so future innovations are more likely to come from those countries than from our own.
The welfare of workers, as a class, has always been dependent upon government values and its resulting policies. And our U.S. government has now adopted the values of the Third World regarding workers, instead of demanding that the Third World adopt ours.
Of course, we can’t force other countries to adopt our values, but that doesn’t mean that we should give them our industries and our markets—unless we can find a way to compensate those Americans who are making all the sacrifices for “globalization.” So far, we have been unable to do so. Our middle class is shrinking dramatically, our rich are getting fabulously richer, and the poor are dropping out of sight.
It’s time for a New Deal.
Chuck Kelly is a retired management consultant living in Burnsville, and is author of “The Destructive Achiever, Power and Ethics in the American Corporation,” and “Class War in America.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org