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The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor - The New York Times
"EVERY so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico.

Buried in a long story about corruption in China in The New York Times a couple of months ago was the astonishing fact that the era of “supercharged growth” over the past several decades had the effect of “lifting more than 600 million people out of poverty.” From handouts? From Habitat for Humanity? From the Clinton Global Initiative?

No, oddly enough, China has been enriched by American-supplied jobs, making most of the destined-for-the-dump merchandise you find on store shelves all over America, every piece of plastic you can name, as well as Apple products, Barbie dolls or Nike LeBron basketball shoes retailed in the United States for up to $320 a pair. “The uplifting of impoverished people” was one of the reasons Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, gave in 1998 for moving his factories out of the United States.

The Chinese success, helped by American investment, is perhaps not astonishing after all; it has coincided with a large number of Americans’ being put out of work and plunged into poverty.

In a wish to get to grips with local mystagogies and obfuscations I have spent the past three years traveling in the Deep South, usually on back roads, mainly in the smaller towns, in the same spirit of inquiry that vitalized me on journeys in China and Africa and elsewhere. Yes, I saw the magnolia blossoms, the battlefields of the Civil War, the antebellum mansions of superfluous amplitude; the catfish farms and the cotton fields and the blues bars; attended the gun shows and the church services and the football games.

But if there was one experience of the Deep South that stayed with me it was the sight of shutdown factories and towns with their hearts torn out of them, and few jobs. There are outsourcing stories all over America, but the effects are stark in the Deep South.

Take a Delta town such as Hollandale, Miss. Two years ago, the entire tax base of this community of around 3,500 was (so the now-deceased and much-mourned mayor Melvin Willis told me) less than $300,000. What the town had on hand to spend for police officers, firefighters, public works, outreach, welfare and town hall salaries was roughly the amount of a Bill or Hillary one-night-stand lecture fee; what Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, earns in a couple of days.

When Hollandale’s citizens lost their jobs in the cotton fields to mechanization they found work nearby, in Greenville and elsewhere, in factories that made clothes, bikes, tools and much else — for big brands like Fruit of the Loom and Schwinn.

They are gone now. Across the Mississippi River, Monticello, Ark., and other towns made carpets and furniture while Forrest City produced high-quality TV sets. The people I spoke to in the town of Wynne, known for its footwear, said they’d be happy to make Nikes if they were paid a living wage.

I found towns in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas that looked like towns in Zimbabwe, just as overlooked and beleaguered. It’s globalization, people say. Everyone knows that, everyone moans about it. Big companies have always sought cheaper labor, moving from North to South in the United States, looking for the hungriest, the most desperate, the least organized, the most exploitable. It has been an American story. What had begun as domestic relocations went global, with such success that many C.E.O.s became self-conscious about their profits and their stupendous salaries.

To me, globalization is the search for a new plantation, and cheaper labor; globalization means that, by outsourcing, it is possible to impoverish an American community to the point where it is indistinguishable from a hard-up town in the dusty heartland of a third world country.

“I took an assistant Treasury secretary, Cyrus Amir-Mokri, down from Memphis,” William Bynum, the chief executive of the Hope Credit Union, told me in his office in Jackson, Miss. “We passed through Tunica, Mound Bayou and Clarksdale, and ended up in Utica. All through the Delta. He just sat and looked sad. He said he could not believe such conditions existed in the United States.”

Now the Delta is worse off, the bulk of its factories shut, the work sent overseas. Again, this is the same old story, but need it be so?

When Mr. Cook of Apple said he was going to hand over his entire fortune to charity, he was greatly praised by most people, but not by me. It so happened that at that time I was traveling up and down Tim Cook’s home state of Alabama, and all I saw were desolate towns and hollowed-out economies, where jobs had been lost to outsourcing, and education had been defunded by shortsighted politicians."



"The strategy of getting rich on cheap labor in foreign countries while offering a sop to America’s poor with charity seems to me a wicked form of indirection. If these wealthy chief executives are such visionaries, why don’t they understand the simple fact that what people want is not a handout along with the uplift ditty but a decent job?

Some companies have brought manufacturing jobs back to the United States, a move called “reshoring,” but so far this is little more than a gesture. It seems obvious that executives of American companies should invest in the Deep South as they did in China. If this modest proposal seems an outrageous suggestion, to make products for Nike, Apple, Microsoft and others in the South, it is only because the American workers would have to be paid fairly. Perhaps some chief executives won’t end up multibillionaires as a result, but neither will they have to provide charity to lift Americans out of poverty."
philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  exploitation  2015  paultheroux  inequality  indulgences  capitalism  hypocrisy  policy  economics  systemsthinking  globalization  outsourcing  charity  timcook  offshoring  labor  work  us  poverty  reshoring  south  nike  apple  southcarolina  mississippi  alabama  arkansas  charitableindustrialcomplex  power  control 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Degrees and Dollars - NYTimes.com
"Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line…aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen."
education  economics  technology  work  paulkrugman  us  policy  2011  college  highered  schools  middleclass  inequality  offshoring  jobs  disparity  incomegap  society 
march 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism
"In this RSA Animate, radical sociologist David Harvey asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane?"
davidharvey  capitalism  economics  politics  rsaanimate  homeownership  us  culture  germany  greece  policy  banks  finance  banking  canon  housing  worldbank  imf  neoliberalism  liberalism  alangreenspan  marxism  instability  systemicrisk  capitalaccumulation  crisis  labor  capital  1970s  1980s  unions  offshoring  power  wagerepression  wages  credit  creditcards  debt  personaldebt  2010  limits  greed  profits  industry  london  uk  latinamerica  wealth  india  china  inequality  incomeinequality  wealthinequality  hedgefunds 
june 2010 by robertogreco

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