Saturday, May 5, 2012

Are the Rich Worth a Damn?

Edward Conard, the former director of Bain Capital and a contributor to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, believes that the rich should be idolized like gods, because they mass produced things such as paper clips and iPhones, making our lives easier. He actually advocates that "the wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large." (See part one of this post)

Actually, Edward Conard is wrong in that, it was only after the history of banking did man learn how to profit from invention. Long before "capitalism" was invented to exploit man's innovation, through natural human evolution we learned many things to make our lives easier. Can you imagine if "fire" were patented and someone could earn a royalty every time a pack of matches were produced?

Since American companies first started outsourcing jobs for cheaper labor overseas, they created a whole new generation of consumers in foreign countries. The CEOs said they had to send jobs abroad because of global competition -- that being, European companies were also outsourcing jobs to Asia for cheaper labor (China wasn't outsourcing jobs).

CEOs and Republicans have been saying that over regulation, high taxes, and labor unions have been to blame for the outsourcing of domestic jobs, jobs that once paid a "living wage". Boeing recently built a factory in South Carolina to escape the machinist union in Boeing's home state of Washington.

Tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple have been taking full advantage of cheap labor for years at the expense of American workers.

So has the banking and telecommunications industry, sending jobs to places like India.

The auto industry moved from Michigan to southern states, which are generally anti-union and pay much lower wages. And "the Big 3", besides just cars, have been exporting factories all over the world. Since then, cities such as Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint have gone broke and turned into slum cities. Just ask Mitt Romney: Let Detroit Go Broke -- and Mister Romney is from the Detroit area, his father having worked in the auto industry.

But even with all this cost cutting in labor, the auto industry still needed a taxpayer bailout as the auto executives flew to Washington D.C. in their private jets with their hands out.

In return, autoworkers saw their wages and benefits slashed. New employee's wages were reduced by half, from $28 a hour (a living middle-class wage) to $14 a hour --- which is $29,120 a year before taxes --- just above the poverty wage for a family of four. (50% of all Americans now earn less than $26,364 a year.)

Dan Akerson, the newest CEO of GM, complained that the company has lost a half-dozen candidates for management jobs because of salary restrictions for executives on companies getting TARP financing. But Mr. Akerson's compensation tripled in 2011 to $7.7 million.

By contrast, Ford's CEO Alan Mulally ranked #1 in auto CEO pay, with $29.5 million. Mulally's compensation was up 11% from 2010 and brings his cumulative take to $148.3 million since joining Ford six years ago. Chrysler's CEO Sergio Marchionne received no base salary, but he did receive shares worth $600,000 as a Chrysler director.

In 1972 Republic Textile moved to South Carolina to follow the movement of the textile industry from New England. Mike Diamond has been making a living in an industry that's been going-broke for about 50 years as he supplied used textile machinery to more than 40 countries, and helped play a central part in the gradual movement of textile production from rich countries to poorer ones. Even within a single country, textile production gradually shifts to poorer regions — just as it has in the United States — usually in search of lower labor costs.

But the CEOs are always trying to convince the politicians and the general public that Americans "lack the necessary skills" -- and that over regulation, high taxes, and labor unions are the cause of outsourcing.

But the truth is, it's always been mostly about cheaper labor elsewhere, and you'll notice that "living wages" are never mentioned by them. American workers can't compete with poorer countries where corporations can pay $1 an hour for common unskilled labor. Our domestic engineers can't be expected to work for $8 hour like they do in China. So the CEOs are lobbying to have VISA restrictions eased to allow the importation of cheaper labor (engineers, etc.) from other countries.

Since the 1930s, the American government has offered preferential treatment to American producers in the awarding of federal contracts. If a domestic producer offers the government a more expensive bid than a foreign producer, it can still be awarded the contract under certain circumstances.

But more recent free trade agreements have granted other nations the same negotiating status as domestic firms. The Obama administration is currently pushing to grant the several nations involved in the Trans-Pacific deal the same privileged status.

A group of 68 House Democrats and one Republican sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to reconsider an element of the controversial "free trade agreement" currently being negotiated by the administration. If approved in its current form, the pact would effectively ban "Buy American" policies in government contracting.

Americans don't lack jobs skills and they aren't demanding too much. They just want a job. A job that can cover the cost of food, electricity, and rent. But American CEOs would rather pay foreigners $1 an hour and lobby congress to have their personal and corporate taxes lowered, while cutting TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid for those who can no longer find a job earning enough to pay for food, electricity, and rent.

And then after the massive layoffs off 2008-09, the CEOs and Republicans (and Fox News) disparaged the unemployed and poor, and blamed them for being irresponsible when they lost their homes, and blamed them for living above their means, or accused them of being lazy (or lacking job skills), and deliberately got the media and the general public (those with jobs) to turn the blame against the victims of their corporate strategy of manipulating their bottom line -- and at any cost to the people of this country.

The New York Times reports: "With few places to turn, construction workers have colonized Craigslist as the cyberspace equivalent of the street corner or the Home Depot parking lot. That is because carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, painters, electricians, plumbers and carpet installers have largely been left out of the economic recovery. Builders are not hiring, homeowners are deferring renovations, and Republicans won't finance highway and bridge projects. Republican state-run governments are also laying off teachers in en masse, complaining that union "bosses" have demanded too much, just because teachers have been earning a middle-class wage.

Some say the economy is getting better because the top 1% has recouped its losses in the stock market since 2008-09; but for most working people, the economy has been stuck in the mud. The job gains doesn't take into account 8 million workers who were laid off during the recession, exhausted all their unemployment benefits, and are no longer being counted by the labor department. The ones that do find work are usually working for much less than before. And that doesn't count the 6 million college and high school grads, who have no work history at all, and also aren't being counted in the unemployment rate, and now have to look to McDonalds and Wal-Mart for jobs paying $8 an hour.

I think the American people would have been better served with domestic jobs, and to hell with iPhones made in China. The rich and all the Edward Conards in this country may think they're worth a damn, but they just don't give a damn about this country...they're all "global" now, and we're the orphaned children, begging in the streets.

As the Obama administration indicated its readiness to enter into substantive discussion with Congress with the goal of approving pending "free trade agreements" with Colombia, Korea and Panama, a very wealthy and powerful coalition of business groups sent a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders in support of an "expanded trade adjustment" which includes assistance for workers dislocated by international trade as part of the package.

While reading this letter (below), please notice all the nuances and vague references (using words like "displaced" instead of laid-off or fired). Then think about the last 30 years: emerging markets, outsourced jobs, closed factories, high unemployment, urban decay, depressed wages, fewer benefits, reduced worker's rights, union busting, corporate bailouts, collective bargaining eliminated, corporate tax evasion, taxpayer-paid subsidies, record profits, record CEO salaries & bonuses, the Bush tax cuts, the past "free trade agreements" (jobs moved to Mexico, India, China, etc.), the shrinking middle-class, and then finally the Republican/corporate push to kill Medicare & Social Security for American workers when they can no longer work. Then look at the list of signers (lobbyists) to this letter.

May 2, 2011

Dear Mr. President and Congressional Leadership:

We are writing to urge you to support Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

The Trade and American Competitiveness Coalition brings together U.S. business and agriculture enterprises who support domestic and international policies that will enhance U.S. competitiveness to promote economic growth and new jobs and prosperity for America's workers, farmers, consumers, communities and businesses. The Coalition reaffirms American business long standing support for TAA as a central part of America's overall trade agenda.

TAA is as vitally important today as it has been over the years. It helps American businesses get into exporting and is designed to give displaced workers the new skills and resources they need to re-enter the 21st century job market. Accordingly, in addition to moving on the pending trade agreements and trade preferences, we urge Congress and the Administration to find a way forward to ensure that the United States has in place an effective TAA program to support U.S. global economic engagement.

For almost fifty years, TAA has enjoyed bipartisan support as an essential part of American trade policy. In 1962, President Kennedy recognized the link between increased trade and economic growth: Increased economic activity resulting from increased trade can bring a dynamic new era of growth. He also recognized that a national policy to increase trade has costs as well as benefits, and that the country as a whole has a responsibility to share those costs:

[American] workers who suffer damage from increased foreign import competition [should] be assisted in their efforts to adjust to that competition. When consideration of national policy makes it desirable to avoid higher tariffs, those injured by that competition should not be required to bear the full brunt of the impact. Rather, the burden of economic adjustment should be borne in part by the Federal Government.

President Bush echoed this same position almost fifty years later when, in his last State of the Union Address in January 2008, he said: "Trade brings better jobs and better choices and better prices. Yet for some Americans, trade can mean losing a job, and the federal government has a responsibility to help. I ask Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance, so we can help these displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs."

The Trade and American Competitiveness Coalition supports the work of the Administration and Congress to re-energize America's trade policy. In that effort, we urge the Administration and Congress to find a way forward to ensure that the United States has in place an effective TAA program, as part of America's overall trade agenda, which should also include passage of the three pending trade agreements and renewal of the key trade preference programs for eligible countries.

Signed and supported by:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
American Farm Bureau Federation
Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)
Business Roundtable (BRT)
Coalition of Service Industries (CSI)
Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT)
Fashion Accessories Shippers Association (FASA)
National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC)
National Retail Federation
Tech America
Travel Goods Association (TGA)
U.S. Council for International Business
American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)

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