Article image
David Sirota
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 19 February 2012
“Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?”

Will We Choose a Chinese Future?

Article image

For the last two decades, we've heard many myths purporting to explain the loss of American manufacturing jobs. CEOs, for instance, typically say they've sent jobs overseas because they can't find skilled American workers. Conservative economists say the giant sucking sound is that of technology replacing obsolete workers. And conservative politicians say job loss is the result of high corporate tax rates, even though ours are among the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the industrialized world.

All of these explanations are fables with a purpose: They are designed to deny the obvious by pretending that exploitation and policies that encourage exploitation aren't the root cause of offshoring. More specifically, they ask us to ignore the fact that tariff-free trade agreements and tax loopholes incentivize companies to shift production to countries where slave wages, environmental degradation and human rights abuses are tolerated.

But now at least a few manufacturing jobs are suddenly coming back to America, and the same CEOs, economists and politicians who have tried to squelch any honest discussion of exploitation are inadvertently admitting that exploitation has always been the manufacturing economy's invisible hand. They are admitting it when they concede that jobs are returning primarily because American wages are precipitously dropping at the same time Chinese minimum wages have slightly risen — from awful (in some places, $100 month) to a mere terrible (still just $240 a month).

This is not some fringe theory. It's a widely acknowledged fact.

President Barack Obama admitted it when in his State of the Union address he said jobs are returning because "it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China." Economists at the Boston Consulting Group underscored it when in August they said employment growth is happening because rising Chinese wages are "eroding China's cost advantages" while the United States "is becoming a lower-cost country" as American wages decline.

And GE Consumer & Industrial CEO James Campbell reiterated it when he recently told The New York Times that "making things in America is as viable as making things any place" because domestic labor costs are now "significantly less with the competitive wages" — read: far lower wages — now accepted by American workers.

Now that this consensus is finally out in the open, the real question for America is simple: Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?

If our answer is yes, then we should support current state legislative proposals to reduce child labor protections; back federal legislation to eliminate all environmental, wage and workplace safety laws; and applaud corporations that crush unions and further reduce wages in America. We should also probably encourage our fellow countrymen to follow Apple Inc.'s Chinese workforce by simply accepting $17-a-day paychecks, 12-hour workdays and six-day workweeks.

Indeed, if we accept this race-to-the-bottom style of competition, then we're basically saying Chicago should look more like Chengdu; our heartland should look more like the poverty-stricken interior of China; and 21st-century America should look more like late 19th-century America.

If, alternately, we reject this dystopian future, then it requires us to more seriously consider things like tariffs, industrial policy, tax incentives for domestic investment and Buy America laws for government procurement. In other words, it requires us to declare that access to the American marketplace is no longer free — that corporations that want to sell things to Americans must play by our wage, environmental and human rights rules no matter where they make their products.

Between these two paths, there is no "third way," and doing nothing will likely mean that the uptick in American manufacturing jobs will prove fleeting. A choice, therefore, must be made — and it should be a no-brainer.

Copyright Creators.com


Author pic
ABOUT David Sirota

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado.

the private banking system

the private banking system supported by private reserve runs the show. It is a game of musical chairs and someone must lose for others to gain. So why continue with those terms. We are now a more evolved being, with new tools, new information about how our brains, emotions, etc work. We can jettison the primitive brain mentality that inspired this race to the bottom construct. If we the people start organizing, sharing our own resources and rebuild the new diverse creative economic sector, participatory democracy will also grow. Co-ops and slow money, community funding, tool sharing, barter, things not yet imagined will enable new possibilities. Just start -fashionRIP Project is my experiment and so far results are good, still challenging but then is way better than succumbing to the sociopathic stuff we have been duped into accepting. Solar community grids, cisterns grey water recycling gardens tended by urban farmers, supportive business collaborative networks. We are smart enough just ...numbed.

the private banking system

the private banking system supported by private reserve runs the show. It is a game of musical chairs and someone must lose for others to gain. So why continue with those terms. We are now a more evolved being, with new tools, new information about how our brains, emotions, etc work. We can jettison the primitive brain mentality that inspired this race to the bottom construct. If we the people start organizing, sharing our own resources and rebuild the new diverse creative economic sector, participatory democracy will also grow. Co-ops and slow money, community funding, tool sharing, barter, things not yet imagined will enable new possibilities. Just start -fashionRIP Project is my experiment and so far results are good, still challenging but then is way better than succumbing to the sociopathic stuff we have been duped into accepting. Solar community grids, cisterns grey water recycling gardens tended by urban farmers, supportive business collaborative networks. We are smart enough just ...numbed.

My 19 year old, unskilled

My 19 year old, unskilled niece seems to be able to command about 2,500 RMB in factories around Guangzhou and Shenzhen. That's $385 per month. Closer to the number you are talking about. Yes, she also gets a free dorm-style room and basic meals if she wants them.Of course, that is for 12 hour shifts, 6 days per week. She is who the American worker is competing with.

Replying to Phil Ballas

Replying to Phil Ballas because I was redirected...
I do not believe that Americans have chosen. Our children are caught in the revolving door that we have made for them. The tuition loans can't be paid because the schools keep raising their rates, just as the corporations do. The "for profit" schools, prisons, and so on have not escaped the "privatization frenzy" WE have been sold in the past, and the youth lost themselves in escape mechanisms just as We did. I use the term We to refer to several past generations that have sold out our society in general. All the gains made through the 60's have been demonized by the corporate media, along with many of us that have chosen to look at the one dimensional portrayal of what happened during that period. It became fodder for a Cheech and Chong dialog that brought laughs. So much so that women's rights issues, minority's advancements and so on could be overlooked and in general, the 30 years of Republican lies has finally caught up with us on all fronts. Lastly, I think saying "It's a free country" is like telling an animal in a zoo that they are free to roam wherever they please in their cage.

Too right, PATRM2. All we

Too right, PATRM2. All we have is the illusion of choice -- in reality it's been made for us.

Does this mean I'll soon be

Does this mean I'll soon be able to salute an American flag that doesn't say "Made in China" on it?

maybe we really don't need

maybe we really don't need 75% of the junk we are coerced into buying

I wonder where David get the

I wonder where David get the number $100 or $240 per month. In China now you cnanot hire any worker less than 3000RMB ($475) plus food and lodge.

You must be from affluent

You must be from affluent suburbs. There's obviously a China you have yet to see. Go hang out with the peasants and get a taste of the real world.

I don't see the reason for

I don't see the reason for your sarcastic answer to Shan-Tung Hsu. I have traveled to China a number of times, and have seen 'the real world' over there.

Last time I was there, about a year ago, I was in a small village. What I saw is what I'm told you typically find now. The working age people are in the big cities. Their parents and their children remain in the villages.

My 19 year-old niece is from a small town in central China. She went to Guangzhou, where she was able to start out at about 2,500 RMB per month as a laborer in a factory, not that far off from the number cited.

Maybe the monoply

Maybe the monoply corporations will have exist on 8 or 10 % profit instead of 15% and big bonuses to those in charge. Let those in charge move to China and leave industries here for the communties to run. Just a suggestion.

This is all because the

This is all because the corporations wrote their own "laws" deciding that ONLY the bottom line was sacrosanct - "or else!"

Right now, corporate leaders can be jailed if they don't ALWAYS look to make the most money, and that ALWAYS means by cutting labour.

They, in turn, have bribed successive governments to allow them to down-size and out-source all their labour requirements to their third-world slave-pens, (like to China).

SO: Even if they paid NO taxes here, they'd still "have to" increase their bottom lines by ANY/all measures at their disposal - and that would, again, mean firing people here because they are ALLOWED to employ foreign slaves for far less.

This shows that Globalization IS TREASON (!)

No jobs here, and no taxes here, means no government (especially no services) here, and so, no country here, either!

Simple new laws, like those directly basing corporate tax structure rates on domestic employment requirements, would solve these problems.

i.e: the more jobs they create here, the lower their tax rates; the less jobs here, the highter the taxes they pay (best rates? a perfect match, so it would be absolutely insane for them to add their goods' shipping costs to their prices at all, ever)!

Only when every dollar they imagine they can save in foreign labour gets added directly onto their tax bills, will they stop doing it.

Only if and when such laws get passed, will we know that "our" government is working for us, and not still only for the corporate gangs, directly at our expense.

But then of course their response would be to further increase immigration of their willing-to-work-for-less slaves to HERE, in stead of simply helping to encourage US citizens to reproduce more babies, because we'd actually have faith in our government and hope for a stable economic future for our kids! It's obvious that the reason we don't have massive families like the moslems do (or as our ancestors did) isn't because we are self-indulgently satisfied being selfishly single party animals, but that the fear and greed salesmen's relentless buy-you-low-to-sell-me-high victimology attack campaigns have depressed us all into waiting to reproduce, out of simple, worried concern for our kids' futures!

;-)

"No brainer"? "Dystopian

"No brainer"? "Dystopian future"? "Choices . . . [to] be made"?

But Americans have already chosen! Millions of youth choose to hobble themselves with now a trillion dollars of student loan debt in order to inoculate and further reduce themselves to all the narrow "departments" of corporate academe. Hail to biz ed as most popular across all America for indebting and reducing oneself.

Hundreds of thousands of teachers chose to hobble themselves and their students, too, to cowering before and teaching to standardized tests. Hail the command-down hierarchies and the depersonalized, overpaid coporate admin for which this is all win, win, win!

As comp for their debt, their reduced imaginations, Americans have flat-screen entertainment diversions, vast neon stretches of fast food & junk food, and mega miles of sprawl and big box parking lagoons to tool their SUVs and other instruments of submission to Big Oil & Industrial Ag.

It's a free country. And Americans say Yes to the freedoms of Corporate America.

I hope that the American

I hope that the American workers will stand up and say "NO". Our grandparents and parents fought a long hard battle to get a livable wage, safe working conditions and a 40 hr. work week. It would be a sad day in American if we let all their rewards slip away.......
And it would only add to the wealth of the greedy and suffering for the average citizen.....

It won't really turn around

It won't really turn around till the most desperate workers in Timbuktu start to Unionize. We can only hope that by then the workers in the previously rich West won't have become so desperate that they will accept what is now Chinese standards.

Capital is united and flows freely around the world. When one suggests workers of the world do likewise, one is called a communist.

Amen!

Amen!

I think you're 100% correct,

I think you're 100% correct, Ieneke!

We just have to be grown up enough to admit we were wrong about NAFTA and "free trade".

One thing people sometimes don't realize is that when manufacturing goes abroad, design and engineering follow it. So one scary consequence of our deindustrialization is that we literally become technologically illiterate. In a few more years, we won't even be able to make what they come up with in China.

So let's just say "we were wrong", and as Sirota says, put up some tariffs, and require governments (for crying out loud) to buy what their citizens produce.

300 million people can manufacture anything if only their government will cooperate a little.

Comment with your Facebook account



Comment with your Disqus account

Top Stories