Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's the Jobs Stupid!

The division in this country is not about politics that is the result. The real division is about jobs and in turn income from said jobs. This recent study makes that conclusion and documents that as income inequality rises so does the divisiveness in the electorate and in turn that carries forward into the legislative bodies that dictate both state and federal governmental policies.

Income inequity divides this country not being a Republican or a Democrat. Our poverty rate rivals emerging nations in some areas of our country.

I just finished Gary Rivlin's Book, Katrina, where the noblesse oblige openly used the disaster to remake New Orleans in their own image - white and/or prosperous - and exploited the opportunity to privatize schools, eliminate low income/public housing and did little to aid the return of the thousands of migrants who fled to survive.

I am just starting Paul Theroux, Going South, his travels and experiences through the Deep South. This Sunday he wrote an op ed piece in the New York Times berating the philanthropists for spending all their energy, money and time on issues and countries that are outside of our own borders. That charity begins at home and this home is in need of a great deal of attention if it is to survive and grow as we keep hearing from the same potential and actual candidates and those currently in the office. What one says and what one does however is an entirely different problem.

I have long stopped donating to charity. I can't and won't because what I have to spare I instead jokingly say "I am a job creator" I go to the local coffee shops and tip. I go to local bookstores and buy real books. And on that odd occasion splurge on an affordable luxury, bought at a locally owned shop. I prefer women owned businesses but I make it an effort to support and buy local. If I was donating to anyone I would buy a meal or shoes or blanket for the person on my corner. NIMBY? No I am a HIMBY - help those in my backyard - and yes I have a park behind me and people live there.

And we have done little to address the homeless here. They are in every doorway, every park, in tents on freeway on ramps and the problem gets worse as we want to have dense urban cities on either coast that will somehow accommodate, adjust, adapt and fit everyone in.   So what do we do about the rest of the glorious United States, abandon it?

An interesting article in the Wonkblog section of the Washington Post discusses the migratory patterns of America and how we move from city to city in search of a job, then the overcrowding argument begins and the rest of the usual problems occur that once was a way to resolve income inequality now exacerbates it and in turn affects the legislative morass we now find ourselves in.

Theroux is right, its the jobs and the work that once existed in those areas that have subsequently contributed to a myriad of problems. What was largely agricultural and of course slave trade worked the fields (not charming migrants imported and hired to work as they apparently did in Texas according to their texts) then when mechanics/automation kicked in as it had to regardless to replace physical labor, then the industry needed to produce what is was growing. Textiles and other related industries came in to hire and use labor. The migration patterns tied to wars led to changes in the workforce to allow for women and in turn new industries. The growth of labor and in turn unions that led to overall rise in wages, worker safety, the 40 hour work week and other positive changes that contributed to America's rise of the middle class. And in turn all that relates to this - home and auto buying, attending college, building shops and malls and all the rest of the accoutrement's that define "America."

Then the free market justified this and then NAFTA and now the TPP and all that means to be global. So as our industry goes international our focus on charity does as well.

America had an obligation and we had the spirit and ability to help those globally to rise out and above and then there is some point that they must in turn do the heavy lifting. As it was our people who marched for civil rights, gay rights, women's rights and fought in the courts and the streets the ability to have access and opportunity. We did and what was hard fought won is now slowly being taken away. I give with my left but I take with my right. Each step each gain is slowly being chopped away. But hey let's focus on the migrants in Europe. I can't. I watch with sadness and horror and go what is really going on? I feel there is a story there that we will never know but I suspect it is much like the noblesse oblige in New Orleans taking advantage of a catastrophe to rid themselves of the undesirable. It happened in Cuba it can happen anywhere.  And it happened here in the great migration north during WWI.   How do you think Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh came about - the great lake views and nearby mountain ranges?

The first union automotive workers strike in years may be occurring in Detroit with a foreign owned automaker, Fiat Chrysler. This has taken quite the populist tone, as automotive workers rejected the contract and are willing to strike that is always a risk but the company has been clear they will not hire replacement workers as used to be quite the threat as union busting technique.

This is not an American company and the history of Europeans and unions are not quite like are own and across the country, despite the manufacturers willingness to go union,  as in the case of VW,in their factory in the South, the workers still  rejected said union; decision I am sure they are regretting right now given the companies problems, the union would have some security via that solidarity if it comes to jobs and cuts.  

It is not surprising that the South and some of the blighted Midwest is becoming the new hub for both automotive and airplane manufacturing as they are all right to work states.  The deliberate decision to put said plants there is not lost on anyone but when you have no jobs even those minimum wage ones are better than no jobs.

And that is the issue about the strike in Detroit, the two tier  wage structure. The workers get that there is no two tier person and while no one would disagree that a person who is trained over experience over time deserves a higher pay structure but when they enter the field and find out that they will never get that pay ever, which is the case as they are just waiting for those individuals to die/retire to phase that pay out, there is something wrong here when you work at an important job building cars to never go beyond a basic minimum wage established by the company and not the collective bargaining agent aka the "union".

And as we come of our Teachers strike here I knew that it was badly done and divisive and sure enough the count is in. On October 1 the enrollment counts are done and it appears that the one promised student bodies did not materialize and many cuts are being made to schools with full time staff, instructional assistants and other shifts to meet budget.  None of that was brought up as an issue in the contract nor what would happen in this, the wage gains were minor, the class/case loads will now be irrelevant as with cuts means more bodies in classrooms regardless and of course the needs of those kids with english language issues and developmental ones will fall down the ladder.  I knew that the strike was done without real engagement of the collective and that is the point, divide, conquer and resolve for the few not the many and declare victory. 

Much is made of unions but they have had a role in what established the ability of the worker to rise above. But also workers must be active participants in said union as they should be when they are electing those who represent them in Government. As I frequently say to students "the act of one can have an affect on many" and that can be both a positive and negative. So a kid who is a problem means that privileges and lessons can be changed on a dime and is a way of encouraging children to realize they are in a collective or community. That from each other they are responsible, they must self manage and work together. When they argue that is wrong, I point to Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and any number of individuals who stood up and through their one voice spoke for many. And in turn without that ability to stand up be counted and be heard, you may  realize whom you enable or allow to speak on your behalf  a Hitler, a Stalin, a Ho Chi Minh.

You really don't argue with me as I am a Libra and I see all sides of the coin.

So while you "Trump" (pun intended) the wonderful philanthropy of the Gates Foundation or some other bullshit new startup focusing on international charity, such as Mark Zuckerbergs insane logic about getting refugees internet access (that one is really a what the fuck) and wonder why they think reform here is a check, with strings, bizarre metrics that do little to actually improve quality, build morale or actually make relevant change, as that is not the intent. The reality all of this "venture" philanthropy is done simply to enable and enrich their friends and associates while doing little to pick up, lift up and build a economy that helps everyone equally?

As a I woman I not only carry a purse I control those strings. Here are American made handbags of all qualities and levels made here by American workers. One manufacturer, is in fact a woman, and she makes efforts to retain and accommodate older workers as their skill set is irreplaceable. If she can figure it this out as these companies have, why are you carrying anything made anywhere else?

Read Mr. Theroux's words and ask yourself that question.

The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor

By PAUL THEROUX
The New York Times
Opinion Page
OCT. 2, 2015


EVERY so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico.

Buried in a long story about corruption in China in The New York Times a couple of months ago was the astonishing fact that the era of “supercharged growth” over the past several decades had the effect of “lifting more than 600 million people out of poverty.” From handouts? From Habitat for Humanity? From the Clinton Global Initiative?

No, oddly enough, China has been enriched by American-supplied jobs, making most of the destined-for-the-dump merchandise you find on store shelves all over America, every piece of plastic you can name, as well as Apple products, Barbie dolls or Nike LeBron basketball shoes retailed in the United States for up to $320 a pair. “The uplifting of impoverished people” was one of the reasons Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, gave in 1998 for moving his factories out of the United States.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The Chinese success, helped by American investment, is perhaps not astonishing after all; it has coincided with a large number of Americans’ being put out of work and plunged into poverty.

In a wish to get to grips with local mystagogies and obfuscations I have spent the past three years traveling in the Deep South, usually on back roads, mainly in the smaller towns, in the same spirit of inquiry that vitalized me on journeys in China and Africa and elsewhere. Yes, I saw the magnolia blossoms, the battlefields of the Civil War, the antebellum mansions of superfluous amplitude; the catfish farms and the cotton fields and the blues bars; attended the gun shows and the church services and the football games.

But if there was one experience of the Deep South that stayed with me it was the sight of shutdown factories and towns with their hearts torn out of them, and few jobs. There are outsourcing stories all over America, but the effects are stark in the Deep South.

Take a Delta town such as Hollandale, Miss. Two years ago, the entire tax base of this community of around 3,500 was (so the now-deceased and much-mourned mayor Melvin Willis told me) less than $300,000. What the town had on hand to spend for police officers, firefighters, public works, outreach, welfare and town hall salaries was roughly the amount of a Bill or Hillary one-night-stand lecture fee; what Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, earns in a couple of days.

When Hollandale’s citizens lost their jobs in the cotton fields to mechanization they found work nearby, in Greenville and elsewhere, in factories that made clothes, bikes, tools and much else — for big brands like Fruit of the Loom and Schwinn.

They are gone now. Across the Mississippi River, Monticello, Ark., and other towns made carpets and furniture while Forrest City produced high-quality TV sets. The people I spoke to in the town of Wynne, known for its footwear, said they’d be happy to make Nikes if they were paid a living wage.

I found towns in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas that looked like towns in Zimbabwe, just as overlooked and beleaguered. It’s globalization, people say. Everyone knows that, everyone moans about it. Big companies have always sought cheaper labor, moving from North to South in the United States, looking for the hungriest, the most desperate, the least organized, the most exploitable. It has been an American story. What had begun as domestic relocations went global, with such success that many C.E.O.s became self-conscious about their profits and their stupendous salaries.

To me, globalization is the search for a new plantation, and cheaper labor; globalization means that, by outsourcing, it is possible to impoverish an American community to the point where it is indistinguishable from a hard-up town in the dusty heartland of a third world country.

“I took an assistant Treasury secretary, Cyrus Amir-Mokri, down from Memphis,” William Bynum, the chief executive of the Hope Credit Union, told me in his office in Jackson, Miss. “We passed through Tunica, Mound Bayou and Clarksdale, and ended up in Utica. All through the Delta. He just sat and looked sad. He said he could not believe such conditions existed in the United States.”

Now the Delta is worse off, the bulk of its factories shut, the work sent overseas. Again, this is the same old story, but need it be so?

When Mr. Cook of Apple said he was going to hand over his entire fortune to charity, he was greatly praised by most people, but not by me. It so happened that at that time I was traveling up and down Tim Cook’s home state of Alabama, and all I saw were desolate towns and hollowed-out economies, where jobs had been lost to outsourcing, and education had been defunded by shortsighted politicians.

Selma may have been a political success and a great symbol, but it is an economic failure; Greensboro has some effective well-wishers, but it does not look very different from the town that James Agee wrote about and Walker Evans photographed in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” which was published in 1941; Monroeville earns some revenue from the “Mockingbird” literary pilgrims, but it lost more than 2,000 jobs when Vanity Fair Brands downsized its operations there. The catfish industry is faltering all over the state, thanks in part to fish imported from special-relationship Asia.

Mr. Cook, investor in and benefactor of China, is not only the guiding hand at Apple, but he is also on the board of Nike, which makes virtually all its products outside the United States. Mr. Knight told Michael Moore in his documentary “The Big One” that Americans don’t want to make shoes. But that’s untrue.

The other day, in an attempt at mortification, I looked at the Clinton Foundation website and saw as the leading headline, “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants.” Since I had recently been in rural Arkansas, I thought: If you want to help closer to home, how about the black family farmers in the Delta, who — rebuffed by banks, trifled with by the United States Department of Agriculture, squeezed by vast corporate farms — are struggling to survive?

In Brinkley, Ark., in reporting for my book, I had met Calvin King, who in 1980 founded the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, trying to reverse black land loss, improve housing and build safe communities. Had the Clinton family charity been in touch with him? “No,” Mr. King said solemnly. “We have not received any funding support from the Clinton Foundation or the Global Initiative.”

After driving across the state, I asked the same question of Patricia Atkinson in Russellville. The director of the Universal Housing Development Corporation, she oversees the building and improvement of houses that are mainly lived in by the rural poor in this part of the state. “It really bothers me that Clinton does so little here,” she told me. “I wish he’d help us. He’s in Africa and India, and other people are helping in the third world and those countries. We don’t see that money. Don’t they realize our people need help?”

A bit of work has trickled in. At the edge of some Deep South cities a number of foreign car manufacturers have set up assembly plants — Mercedes-Benz outside Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Kia in West Point, Ga.; Hyundai in Montgomery, Ala.; , BMW outside Spartanburg, S.C.; and so forth. Most of the workers are nonunion, and, owing to robotics, the work force is relatively small. Still, such efforts have re-energized parts of the Deep South. None of those automakers have said that it is their intention to lift people out of poverty, or taken Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s “giving pledge.”

The strategy of getting rich on cheap labor in foreign countries while offering a sop to America’s poor with charity seems to me a wicked form of indirection. If these wealthy chief executives are such visionaries, why don’t they understand the simple fact that what people want is not a handout along with the uplift ditty but a decent job?

Some companies have brought manufacturing jobs back to the United States, a move called “reshoring,” but so far this is little more than a gesture. It seems obvious that executives of American companies should invest in the Deep South as they did in China. If this modest proposal seems an outrageous suggestion, to make products for Nike, Apple, Microsoft and others in the South, it is only because the American workers would have to be paid fairly. Perhaps some chief executives won’t end up multibillionaires as a result, but neither will they have to provide charity to lift Americans out of poverty.







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