Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Manufacturing Jobs (it's the economy stupid)

Image source Library of Congress - 11 year old Nannie Coleson

When pundits and politicians talk about the economy they talk about growth. “Is the economy growing?”

I’ve often wondered how something can infinitely grow.

And with a consumer-based economy, how can we infinitely consume? Isn’t there a point where I have most of what I need? Even if we go with the model of continually replacing everything we have due to changes in fashion or “upgrading,” won’t this plateau? As an economic model/goal, how is this even practical? The only way it makes sense for the economy to continually grow is for the population to continually grow. Logically there has to be a limit to this.

Jobs. Manufacturing jobs.

I shop at Target. On very rare occasions I shop at Walmart. I buy a lot of cardigans and tees. I always check prices. If something is $24 or higher, I hesitate. Sometimes I wait for it to go on sale. The things I buy are made in places like China. Things that are made in the United States I largely can’t afford. Most Americans are in a similar or worse economic state. We spend a lot of time working on the appearance of how we are doing and struggling behind the scenes. The sweaters I buy at Target are thin and cheap and only have the appearance of their more expensive cousins.

We talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Somehow we’re going to out compete places like China. China is attractive to manufacturers because wages are low and the environmental regulations are less stringent. The conditions of workers in Apple’s Chinese manufacturing sites have been widely discussed. Similarly there has been media attention given to garment workers in countries like Bangladesh and India. Beijing struggles with air pollution.

China Air Pollution Woes

I own an Iphone and I buy the clothes.

Can we manufacture goods in the U.S. at costs that will make them competitive? Will we, SHOULD WE, produce the conditions that would make this possible? If we impose tariffs, will American workers be able to afford the goods they produce?

As automation becomes more prevalent, and it is inevitable that technology will continue to replace human workers, what then?

We the “99%”* are addicted to the cheap goods produced by suppressed and often slave wages. Corporations are addicted to the profits that this system feeds them.

Corporate executives make millions for the profits they are able to provide to their investors. Workers struggle. Their low wages are a very real part of this system. I’m not the first to say it, but for manufacturing to be viable in the U.S., we need to turn to the manufacture of high-end commodities with a consumer price point that can sustain a living wage. This however will require an educated and trained workforce and consequently an investment in this education. Yet education and training is increasingly out of reach.

At every level there is a call for “fiscal responsibility” as more and more of various cost burdens are shifted onto the “99%”. At every turn the profit gatherers seek to extract an extra dollar or dime.

We have seen what deregulation looks like. Study the history of the 19th and 20th centuries: child labor, pollution, killer smogs, the shirtwaist fire, Black Tuesday, etc.

I think we need paradigms, new indicators of economic health and public wellbeing.

We need, I think, to stop listening to what sounds good (and easy) and actually deal with the quality of the lives we are producing. Life is too short. We should not live only to work and struggle.

*I’m not fond of the term “99%” but I use it here to stand in for all working classes: middle, low and poverty.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I Oppose Donald Trump

My parents taught me to stand by my principles.

They taught me not to be ugly to people, not to call people names, to hold my temper and let reason win, to be kind.

Why I cannot support Donald Trump:

• Birther claims
• Steve Bannon/Alt. Right
- These first two I think are symptoms of the same motivation on Trump’s part.

• Trump University
• Twitter Rants
• Name calling

• Apologies are rare and thin

I find him reprehensible and an embarrassment to the nation. I think surely if there is a cause you would rally to you could find a better leader than this.

He was elected but sometimes, history has shown, the public is swayed away from its best interests.

Sunday, January 08, 2017


Too many of our citizens are shut out of our election process. It is dominated by money and gerrymandering. Too many are disenfranchised and too few of us are outraged by it.

If you’re a liberal in a “red” state or a conservative in a “blue” state – your vote doesn’t count. Often you don’t even bother voting. Only the “swing” states matter.

Frankly any “popular” vote is grossly skewed because of this.

The Electors in our Electoral College system don’t debate or confer.

We watch the Republican and Democratic conventions and we already know the outcome. It’s a coronation not a process.

We have undermined our processes for building consensus. We don’t believe in consensus – only winning.

We have become so very very cynical. – Our elections are like sporting events. On the spectator side it’s more about personality and the team you want to align yourself with. There seems to be a real desire to punish the other side. On the political side, it’s a craven approach to the game – saying what has to be said to line up support. The public understands that there’s a disconnect between what a politician says and what they really believe. We play the outrage game when it suits us.

I know I am naïve to imagine that the principles we espouse should actually mean something.

I think a lot about Venn Diagrams and how we find those points of overlap.

We need to end gerrymandering. Surely we can find a less political system for establishing our voting districts, one that protects the voices of all our citizens. We simply require the will to do it.