Trump, Finance, and Outsourcing

I listened to Trump talking about the Chinese and Mexicans ‘stealing our jobs’. In fact, it’s American companies who shed American jobs either by automating the production (so that 1 worker today can do about the same amount of work as 10 workers back when I had summer jobs in factories making automobile parts and clamps and such, 40 or 50 years ago) or else by closing the entire American branch of the firm down and selling off all its assets and machines and renegotiating for suppliers of its raw materials and for customers, and generally stiffing the workers who had oftentimes accumulated a promise to some sort of a pension and life long health care plan after working a set number of years. So after working in a factory or mine for their entire able-bodied adult life, they end up with almost nothing.
 
(Trump would have a bit more credibility on this topic if he hadn’t for years had almost all of his branded products made in China, Vietnam, Mexico and so on. ‘Makes him smart’ to do an end-run around American wages, worker protections, and taxes. While he complains to American supporters about other corporations like Ford and Caterpillar doing exactly the same thing.)
 
When I went to school and worked for about 6-7 years in NH, MA, NY and VT during my ‘teens and 20’s, I knew older workers (like at my college) who lost had lost multiple fingers in the textile mills — which had already closed because the corporate heads were chasing cheaper labor in the American South. The janitor in my college dorm was a really nice older fellow. I think he still had a majority of his fingers, but I vividly remember that he was unable to go up a flight of stairs without immediately sitting down for 10 minutes at an oxygen tank, because he had contracted ‘white lung’ from years working around whirring machinery and breathing hot, moist air filled with cotton dust. [The hot, moist air and high levels of cotton dust made for better production levels and thus, higher profits for the company, workers’ long-term health be damned.] Despite his advanced age, he clearly still needed to work at the College because his Social Security and whatever pension he may or may not have had wasn’t enough.] He had an oxygen tank on the second and third floors of our dorm, IIRC.
 
Extremely highly-skilled tool and die workers in Springfield, VT, which was once the very center of precision machine manufacturing of the United States, have seen the entire industry in that so-called ‘precision valley’ get shipped overseas. All of those factories are now empty shells, it’s true.
 
I talked to coal miners in West Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s who were similarly scarred for life by black lung disease; they were upset 35 years ago that their lifetime health care plans would be taken away or dramatically reduced.
But it’s not immigrant workers who sneak across our borders with secret plans to remoove all those machines in the dead of night, with the open or hush-hush agreements of state and local and federal governments, banks & other financial institutions, lawyers, and other companies that supply them with spare parts, raw materials, and markets. It’s not illegal aliens doing this. It’s sleaze bag financiers and businessmen like Donald Trump, Goldman Sachs, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers who do this. Not desperate workers looking for a life but who can’t afford the fees, bribes, lawyers and connections needed to get official, legitimate, visas and green cards.
In fact, one can make the argument that it’s the Walton family itself that has nearly single-handedly made China the manufacturing center of the entire world. David Stockman among many others has shown that Walmart’s relentless pressure to reduce prices forced American companies to lay off almost all of their American workers and to outsource production to countries where workers are killed by goons and their bodies bnurned or fed to crocodiles if they try to organize unions (as opposed to simply being fired, bankrupted and disgraced, which is the American way) to try to get better than starvation wages, some personal privacy and respect, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. So that’s why if you visit places like Rochester, Phoenixville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Springfield (VT), Detroit, or Indianapolis you won’t see the factories that gave employment to (and also maimed and wore out) millions of American workers. We also don’t have the smog or severe air and water pollution of yesteryear. The heavily-polluting coke mills of Gary or Weirton WV are (I think?) all closed too, thanks both to EPA rules and the impersonal dictates of the ‘invisible hand’ and the Walton family fortune.
But all is not so wonderful in China (or India, Thailand or Vietnam) for those peasants-turned-factory workers who are no longer spending their lives hoeing rice, millet, or sorghum but instead making toys, clothing, textiles, electronics, cars, and anything else for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, all $100/month (Vietnam) see this for US, Germany, China comparisons
For one thing, the air pollution in India and China reminds me of the similar and famous problems of London or Pittsburgh back in the 1950’s (see London 1953 and Beijing 60 years later, below)
London during the Great Smog  
In addition, China is itself in a completely unsustainable bubble, where the financiers and Party heads command enormous empty modern cities to be built in the middle of nowhere, in which nobody works or lives except for a few security guards and custodians, and there are no open businesses or shops – as a way of making jobs, but nobody appears to be able to afford to buy the apartments and condos there. I don’t pretend to understand how that makes any sense, nor do I comprehend, high finance, but some people say they do, and their predictions for the Chinese economy make for pretty alarming reading.
And of course, the fact that nearly all Trump products are made overseas is a pretty good indication that he’s just pandering to an easily-fooled section of the electorate. It’s divide-and-rule: make American workers (who have been screwed by the 1/10 of 1% who rule this country) hate and blame workers overseas, especially if them furriners come here looking to make a better life and don’t have the right papers or might have some funny ideas or aren’t Baptists or Methodists …
Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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How Walmart is trying to enter large cities

Excellent article at alternet and The American Prospect about how Walmart is trying to play a game of ‘divide and conquer’ against their many foes, in an effort to gain a foothold in America’s large cities.

The URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/150786/

An excerpt:

“…if residents of Washington, New York, or Chicago expect the company to build more than a bare handful of Supercenters in the poorer, neglected neighborhoods, they will be mistaken. In Memphis, Houston, Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other cities where Wal-Mart has faced little or no opposition, it has built just one or two stores in the inner-city neighborhoods. Those communities pretty much remain food deserts for the same reasons other supermarkets have not located there: too much poverty and crime and a dearth of the kind of customers who will spend a hundred or more dollars on their weekly shopping excursion. Instead, Wal-Mart, even more than its competitors, builds its stores largely in white, middle- and lower-middle-class neighborhoods, and in recent years, increasingly in the more affluent exurbs.

The Wal-Mart job promise is also likely to disappoint. Thousands will undoubtedly apply for the several hundred jobs that come with each store. Lines of desperate job seekers are now commonplace every time the word gets out that a new hotel, post office, or retail outlet is hiring. Wal-Mart will most likely overstaff its flagship urban stores for the first year or 18 months. After that, the distinctive Wal-Mart management practices will kick in: barebones staffing, high turnover, and a watchful eye on all those employees who manage to hang on and work their way up the salary scale.

Indeed, the willful failure of Wal-Mart to provide a decent and secure career is the main difference between the company’s labor policies and those of its rivals. Wal-Mart is right to boast that its hiring wage — about a dollar above the minimum wage — is roughly the same as that offered by unionized chains, but if you hire on at Safeway or Giant, it is entirely possible that after a decade of reliable work, you can just about double your wages, build up a modest pension benefit, and secure the kind of regular shift that facilitates a relatively secure lower-middle-class lifestyle. No such career is possible at Wal-Mart, unless you are one of the lucky few who make the leap to store management. (The company boasts that 73 percent of all managers started off as hourly workers. That is true, but the real question is what proportion of hourly workers can expect to rise into the ranks of management, and that figure is both guarded and minuscule.)

In fact, the incentive structure at Wal-Mart severely penalizes any overage in the store labor budget decreed by the computers at the main office in Bentonville. This makes it almost mandatory that store managers churn the local workforce to eliminate those workers who have climbed the salary scale and to keep the flow of near minimum — wage greenhorns plentiful. Without a union, seniority system, or grievance procedure to restrain them, managers are free to be just as flexible as they like, moving workers about and cutting hours or shifts, in the process making the work lives of their “associates” short and unpredictable. “

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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