Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last Call

A very, very sobering story from the NY Times today on what globalization means to manufacturing jobs in the US:  despite assurances that Chinese labor is getting more expensive, there are plenty of other countries to choose from as far as locations for factories and subcontractors.  And the bottom line is that the jobs that powered the US middle class in the second half of the 20th century are now gone in the 21st...and the middle class is vanishing along with them.

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Mr. Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple — and many of its high-technology peers — are not nearly as avid in creating American jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House.

“If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

Apple's surely no longer alone.  Everything that the one percent tells us we need to do to create jobs is directly tied to reduction of wages and benefits of US workers at the expense of maximizing profit of companies:  lowering or eliminating corporate taxes, getting rid of unions and collective bargaining, the repeal of health care reform, lowering Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid benefits, the elimination of hundreds of thousands of state, local and federal government jobs, and the privatization of government services and infrastructure.

Everything about that suite of theories involves putting profit over job creation, the corporate masters over the workers, the elites over the masses.  Fixing the issue would require sacrifice from the multi-nationals that run the globe.

That will never happen.  It certainly won't happen while one political party is completely beholden to those corporate interests, and the other party is only somewhat less so.  The American dream is out of reach for the large majority of Americans, and it's only going to get worse unless we realize that we're being played against each other while the people pulling our strings make us dance and fight.

Those jobs aren't coming back unless *WE* do something about it.  Not our politicians.

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