It’s too easy, now.

I’ve been bashing Bush for several reasons lately, which can be summarized as:

1) He’s an idiot.
2) Big business owns him, especially big oil.
3) He pursues policies that seem frighteningly disconnected from reality.
4) He’s an idiot.

But by now we know all that, don’t we? What of the other guy, John Kerry, the man that almost everyone assumes is the only alternative to Bush? Well, one thing we know is that he promises to keep jobs from going overseas. Uh, huh. He’s standing up in front of unions and laborers promising to keep their jobs safe. There are only two problems with that plan. He can’t, and even is he could he shouldn’t.

Starting with can’t, the president of the United States just doesn’t have the power to tell companies how to run their businesses. Businesses are going to find ways to cut costs or they’re going to go out of business. He may try to penalize companies for using offshore labor, but in the end the trend is too big unless he closes the border completely to imports. That would see him sitting out on Pennsylvania Avenue with his suitcases piled around him.

And well it should. Our economy depends on that cheap labor. Everyone is in favor of keeping the jobs here until they see the price of their shoes double. Technology at home and cheap labor abroad are the two things keeping our economy growing virtually inflation-free, and both are bad for unskilled and low-skilled domestic labor.

Another reason to avoid protectionism (and that is what Kerry is proposing, job protectionism) is that the only way to equalize labor markets worldwide is to let the work flow between countries. Creating jobs in those countries where labor is currently extremely cheap (which is synonymous with abusive to the workers) will eventually lead to better work conditions and higher wages, as workers gain power and have more choice. Only where jobs are plentiful can a person earn a decent wage.

As an aside, this does not mean I endorse US companies tolerating inhuman conditions in their supplier’s factories overseas. The amount of money that moves through some of those empires dwarfs the economies of some nations*. Our corporations could do a great deal more to end suffering than they do, and without much effect on the bottom line. However, it is consumer activism, not the government, that has the power to alter the behavior of multinational corporations.

How do we keep America employed? The same way we always have, by having the best-educated, most productive workers in the world. Not the cheapest, the best. That means taking all that money we’re flushing down the toilet in Iraq and defending Western Europe and putting it into schools and training programs here in the US. It was not long ago that technology companies simply could not find enough qualified workers. That has returned to a more rational keel lately, but the supply of skilled workers will continue to be an important factor to any company choosing where to open its next plant.

Finally, there is national security. Poverty in the third world, exploding populations, and dwindling resources are the biggest threats our nation faces. We’ll forget all about Iraq if Mexico begins to falter. Prosperity is the worst enemy of tyranny. It is no accident that despots keep their citizens poor and ill-educated. We need to spread prosperity, and that means spreading jobs. That fact that it makes us more prosperous as a whole also is just one of those miracles of free trade.

*If anyone wants to fact-check me on that, I’d like to hear from you. I’m just kind of assuming.

30 thoughts on “It’s too easy, now.

  1. It is no accident that despots keep their citizens poor and ill-educated.

    Do you include the US in this? I feel the US is as, if not more, guilty of this than anyone. A good way to keep control of “democracy,” non?

  2. Of cousre, it’s only the amount of money a coproation spends in exploiting the local working population that controlls their wage destiny. It all depends on how much it will cost to pick up and leave vs. pay the trained/organized worker his due that will determine the eventual benifits of exporting jobs.

  3. Training the working class is terrorism! An educated worker is a danger to “democracy” as it now exists in the USA. They might vote!

  4. Well, mon frere, while I agree with you in spirit I must disagree in substance. The whole thing comes down to that fact that as long as the corporation can profit from picking up and leaving, it will. And right now, worldwide, there are far, far more potential laborers than there are jobs.

    Worldwide is the key there. The only thing that is going to end this situation is worldwide prosperity.

    “Yes! I’m in favor of worldwide prosperity!” cries every politician and every activist. But every barrier to importing goods or exporting jobs undermines that very goal.

    So to be specific and sequential, while I do not consider the United States to be the ideal democracy, I am not so cynical to think that they are more guilty of keeping the populace in ignorance than 75% of the governments of the world. Probably closer to 90%. The fact that the US Educational system is no longer the best in the world is more due to shortsightedness than malice. The US is more stupid than evil.

  5. To continue, the issue of the power of the wage payer vs. the worker is the crux of my thesis. If you artificially constrain the allocation of jobs worldwide, you make some people poor at the expense of others. What we are experiencing now is the true globalization of the workforce. In the long run this will lead to much better conditions where now workers are little more than slaves. We will arrive at a global value for unskilled labor that falls far short of the current US level, but somewhat above the rate paid in developing nations now.

    As far as your last comment, nah. Beyond the fact that you are merely shouting a slogan, people have stopped voting because there is no clear difference between the two candidates. Each one reads the polls and pukes the results back out to the voters. There are the traditional “Republicans are for business, Democrats are for labor” mantras, but by now most people have been sold out by both parties so often that they’re just sick of the whole thing.

  6. I will agree with you that the American press is doing nothing to help people make good decisions at the polls. [I erased ‘good’ more than once before going with it. I use good here to mean well-informed and sympathetic to the issues important to the voter.] We could get into a whole discussion about the fact that the people who own the media also own the government, but as I said before, I’m not that cynical. Much.

    OK, there are those in the US with a vested interest in controlling information – especially information disguised as entertainment – but in the end it is not some vast conspiracy that keeps us from rising up, it’s simply the success we have had in the past. We are fat and happy, and can’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t want to be like us.

  7. I said some pretty inflamatory and controversial stuff! My brother the whack-job chimed right in, but surely there are more of you out there with strong opinions about this stuff.

    How the hell am I supposed to find a VP if no one will get in my face? I’ll have to run with my brother, and he’s a whack-job. (Nothing personal, Philee, I’m a whack-job, too. I was just hoping for a different sort of whack-job for my running mate. The profile of my ideal running mate I will leave to a later blog entry.)

  8. The other visitors seem to fail to pick up the political truncheon! IS this a sign of their acceptance of your upcoming roll as commander-and-chief? Or have they forgotten that democracy only works when people make educated votes? Are they comfortable enough in their lives that they are willing to let the majority of Americans suffer under the grip of our two party system? A bit of rambling here, but a long winded political family debate is meaningless, where are the others? What do they fear? Is your blog part of the PATROIT Act? Truth, man, we seek the truth!

  9. Those two words, “patriot act”, make my skin crawl. The disgustingly cynical use of the word “patriot” to make it possible to take our freedoms away really pisses me off.

  10. Um, I’m not sure whether I ought to respond for fear of making this thread look like a sibling squabble …

    Amen to your comments about the Patriot Act. What a scary concept. Yes, I’ve heard the arguments that it’s only a minor inconvenience like airport security, but I don’t buy that. It violates about a dozen Constitutional amendments. Having been trained in journalism, and having worked in journalism (albeit mainly on the sports desk), I’m a First Amendment purist — and I don’t like violations of the Second, Fourteenth, or any others either.

    I also agree that protectionism is NOT the way to go. Fundamentals of economics (at least the variety of economics taught at Rice) show that government interference in the free market almost always backfires. While I’m not a member of any political party, if I were forced to choose a party, it would be the Libertarians.

  11. The one area in which I disagree with you is the war in Iraq. Even if the weapons of mass destruction never existed, Saddam needed to be taken out. I’ve met people who fled Iraq, and some of the tales they tell are horrifying. The big problem now is how to help Iraq to develop its own system of self-government — a sticky issue, since a lot of the people over there believe we’re there to take over the country. That means we have to let them develop their own form of democracy without us forcing anything. It also means that we must show good faith by keeping to the schedule to get out. Talk about a tough job.

  12. I guess there is a Seeger gene for political crankiness – or perhaps just a gene for liking to debate. (Much nicer word than ‘argue’, yes?)

    Or perhaps others are intimidated by the sheer luminosity of our sage words. *cough*

    I will certainly not argue that the world is not a better place for not having Saddam, his sons, and their cronies brutalizing a nation, but if that is our criterion for invasion, there are several other countries we need to visit – including some of our allies. And I still do hold out hope (albeit a dime one) that we can leave Iraq better off than we found it, but you are absolutely right when you say we have to stick to the schedule or we’ll lose what little goodwill we have.

  13. Darn that 1000-char limit.

    While passing civil authority to the Iraqis is an important step, holding on to Military authority undermines the gesture. Remember that in that region Army and Government are synonymous, even where Church and government are also synonymous. As long as we are running their military and our soldiers are still there, the civil government will not be considered legitimate.

    Hey, did you catch that triple-negative up there?

  14. Well, after that lambasting I’ll chime in with some non-seeger-family thoughts. But I doubt you’ll see them because its 8 days later. This worker was enjoying a week long vacation (and wishing he had mr. Big-Oil’s month long crawford TX hiatusus). And just what is the plural of hiatus?

    Didn’t Tom Jefferson say something about an educated voting class? I think Lee’s comment on education/terrorism is misguided. Right now, the “newsy” jobs going over seas are white collar high tech jobs. Those americans are well educated and they vote. They used to think a factory worker should just shake it off, get a diploma, and then acquire a better job.Now the hi-techers are in the hot seat, and gettin religion.


  15. CONT…

    So I won’t be surprised to see pro-protectionism votes of both the educated and uneducated variety. Hi tech workers come in all varieties, including liberal. But an awful lot of them are libertarian or conservative. So I just can’t predict how somebody will vote after their job has left for India.


  16. CONT>

    As for Jer’s comments on protectionism…you’re right, but I feel that most things in the world are complicated. And they are complicated because no side is right and the other side is wrong. They are complicated because both sides are right. Business pursuing sound profit policies by moving jobs overseas do promote a healthy gobal environment. It does make it harder to be a despot. But at the same time it leaves a large hole behind. People think the hole is just a lost job, but it is more. Whole towns, that worked at the same factory for decades are suddenly obsolete. Suicide rates go up, domestic violence. Youth move away from generations old houses. Whole cultures are lost. And this stuff doesn’t seem to make it onto economic balance sheets.


  17. CONT’d..

    CarolAnne’s comment on Sadam: She says she may be libertarianish. I count myself a liberal (damn university commie). But I feel you lose credibility when you say 1+1=3. I feel we had no business in Iraq. I feel Bush is out of his gourd pursuing this quagmire. But libs lose cred when we don’t at least admit Sadam was a bastard and he toyed with the U.N. for years. It is the right war at the wrong time (if you insist, the wrong war ever). We should concentrate on Osama. But libs lose cred saying in one breath “or poor iraqi people.” and in the next breath, “we should invade Tibet and reclaim it from China.”


  18. CONT

    Lately my fellow libs have been pushing for the end to racism (good), voting out bush (good), begging for more money for social programs (good), but coupling it with counterproductive venom like “patriotic people are racist morons” (bad), christians need to die and make room for homosexuals (bad and amazingly intolerant hypocrisy), and “I hope more soldiers die so Bush will look bad,” (really really bad).


  19. Jesse, you make some good points. Yes, we really have a much better motive for going after Osama than we ever had for Saddam. Especially now that no one can find convincing evidence of the WMDs, it does look like we didn’t have a really strong reason to go into Iraq. But at the time, nearly everyone, including people who now deny it, believed the WMDs were there and needed to be eliminated.

    Thank you also, Jesse, for distancing yourself from some of the more ridiculous postures of the liberals. Sometimes I wonder if those people ever learned to do any thinking on their own.

  20. Hey Jess!

    Your point is well-taken that if one thinks only in terms of global economic policy and thinks only of the greater good for the greatest number of people, it is easy to overlook what is lost in our race to globalization. Now it is not just species going extinct but languages and ways of life.

    That cultures have been going extinct throughout history is undeniable, but never before has a single culture threatened to dominate the world.

    It’s easy to shrug and label a ghost town in the Southern US as “the price of progress” (I sometimes do), but if the town is going to die we as a society have an opportunity to shape what takes it’s place, and we have a responsibility to those who are displaced. Taking care of them by finding a new place for them in the economy will in the end only make us all stronger.

  21. I still don’t see how the export of jobs to poor countries will help global happiness. In Tecate, Mexico (amazing the home of the famed beer could bee a community that sprung up in a dump!) only the women worked. The men had become organized and were starting, as they became trained, to demand their worth. They were all fired, and in the hope they could someday afford to buy shoes for the kids so they could go to school, the women all went to Hitachi’s factory. What happens when the women organize? The worth of the wage increase will be heavily weighed vs. the cost of a factory somewhere else. Who will win? Not the kids without the shoes. What to do is strangely similar for the corporations as well as the humanitarians. Pay them more. That way they will be able to live better, have things like clean water, and actually buy what it is they are making, dramatically increasing the size of the market!

  22. Nice to have a non-seeger voice in the loop. Seeger, regional spellings aside, is German for ‘winner’ and Czech for ‘troublemaker or hooligan.’ It could, as it has before, get ugly without some outside influence. The high-tech jobs will suffer the same as the factory worker jobs. I am facing the same here now in Prague. As the film crews become more experiences, they start to see how much money there is involved, and want a bit more for them(our)selves. It, once again, becomes a question of ‘how long until it is cheaper to train new employees than pay the experienced ones?’ I know there are a lot more factors than just the physical cost, but they will soon (are) move(ing) on to cheap, untrained lands. I suppose it’s the same we are seeing in the US with the jobs leaving in the first place. Perhaps there are just too many people for the limited resources, or perhaps a certain percent of the populating is using more than their (our) fair share.

  23. As for our Iraq incursion…how do you give somebody a democracy? Did the Iraqis ever vote on whether or not they even wanted a democracy? Not that I don’t think they do, as far as I’ve experienced, it works well. If your voters know who and what it is they are voting for, and they actually vote. As far as how to make that happen, put the money in the schools, and make it a crime not to vote. As far as finding the boogey man Been Labim, see my comment in: Terrorism Preparedness: Is not! Was too! Nuh-uh! Yuh-huh!

  24. Yes, bro, there are both too many people overall and the fact that one small slice of that seething mass of humanity gets most of the resources doesn’t help global happiness. Jobs will always move towards cheaper labor.

    This is a little off the topic, but where are the film jobs heading? Romania? That would be an excellent place for me to set up a wing of Jer’s Software Hut – they have the most CS graduates per capita in Europe and currently those grads are faced with leaving the country or making a living committing fraud on the Internet. I’ve read the Romanian government is working hard to be more attractive to tech businesses.

  25. Lee raises an interesting point about how do you ‘give’ someone democracy. If you go by a diff name, my apologies. To expand upon his thesis… if I may be so heretical to say, “is democracy the only way?” In the 1800s the british were positive they were doing the right thing by exporting Christianity to benighted nations. Are we similarily ignorant now? Don’t get me wrong, I think we are correct to be proud of our ‘american’ experiment, founding fathers,etc. But should we be paternalistically exporting it? Perhaps the world community should look at each country and say, “as long as women, races, and religions are all equal. As long as the average Joe has opportunity, clean water, and management over his own life. We don’t care how you get there, be it dictatorship or pure democracy.”

  26. I read some of shrub’s statements from the Rose Garden today (April 30, 2004) and have had to fight to keep from throwing up. Two different viewpoints:

    Bush added, “We’re making progress, you bet … Whether it be in Fallujah or elsewhere, we will deal with them, those few who are stopping the hopes of many.”

    Shouldn’t that mean you, and your father’s cronies? Have you been to the US?

    Jo Wilding: ( “Well George, I know too now. I know what it looks like when you brutalize people so much that they have nothing left to lose. I know what it looks like when an operation is being done without anesthetic because the hospitals are destroyed or under sniper fire and the city is under siege and aid isn’t getting in properly.”

    Seems his domestic and local policies are the same.

  27. I hope the brutalized americas can make the changes necessary before we have our own Fallujas, I mean in the home on the range version, not the one we have now.

  28. I’m surprised you didn’t equate Waco and Ruby Ridge to Falluja. We’ve argued about that enough before.

    saw in the paper this morning that we have given up on going in to Fallujah ourselves, and instead some of Saddam’s old generals will lead a force of Sunnis into the city.

    This will be in a new entry later today or tomorrow, but how is that different from surrendering to them? “No, you bad sunnis with tight links to that bad old regime, we will not let you have this city! Instead we will turn it over to your close friends here, the GOOD Sunnis with close links to the Hussein regime. Let that be a lesson to you!

  29. So, we have begun to arm one side of the upcoming civil war. If you ask me, and even if you don’t, General Shalz (sp) is likely to end up in a position of power shortly after we “give” power to the “sovereign” Iraq. Note I said after.

    I didn’t bring up the ‘unfortunate actions’ America was forced to take against those ‘bad examples’ since I am a good American, and wouldn’t dream of questioning the over the head violent solutions deemed necessary (like shooting ambulance drivers in Falluja). The sniper fire in Jo’s article was not coming from the Iraqis.

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