The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘employment’ Category

FINGER POINTING

Mother once gave me a lecture on politeness which included the phrase, “It’s very rude to point your finger at someone.”  Apparently, those who are the copy writers for political ads and those candidates who conclude them by saying, “I’m So and So and I approve this message,” never got the same talking to from their own parents.  More’s the pity.

When people brought Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 it was on a theme of “Hope and Change”.  Things were tough.  We knew they were tough.  The newly elected President campaigned on the theme that while things were tough, he was going to fix all that.

Simply put, he didn’t.  In fact, by many metrics, those things that were tough have gotten even tougher.  The current mantra of the President’s ads is that things are actually getting better; that he has a plan which needs time to work; and that we should stick with him for another term.  It is an ad featuring a far less confrontational Obama than we have seen during the last four years.

Much of the hyperbole about why things are tough and it’s going to take longer than he thought to get everything working again, is his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Apparently, virtually everything that has gone awry in the universe since the Big Bang is the fault of this misanthrope from Texas.  But let’s examine the facts for a moment – that is for those of you who think that facts matter.

Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the Unemployment Report for September.  It showed that from the previous month, the rate of unemployment went from 7.8% to 7.9%.  I have attached the link to this report for you to review.  No matter how we garner our information, I believe that it is essential for the intelligent individual to do her or his own research and make sure that the sources on which they are relying are honest and factual.  That is one of the reasons I seldom listen to the popular media for my news.

http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/lauhsthl.htm

There are two items on the report that leap off the page at me.  The first is then candidate Obama’s claim that he would bring unemployment down to a mere 5.2%.  There is only one state in which that is the case, Iowa which can boast the lowest unemployment rate in the country with only 5.2%.

I guess that there a lot of ways that you can spin this – and which all the President’s men will spin it – if they choose to acknowledge it at all.  But my take on this is that for those residents of 49 of the 50 states, Obama has failed to deliver on this specific promise.  Because I always like to hear alternative views, please feel free to leave a comment should you have a different interpretation.

The second item that appears obvious from this report is that under President Bush’s watch, 35 out of the 50 states enjoyed the lowest levels of unemployment since they started recording these statistics.  Check the list out for yourself to verify this statement.  And what was the average rate of unemployment in those states during those awful years while Bush was in charge?  The answer – 2.91%.  In other words, going from the years in which we enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates under President Bush to the current statistics under President Obama, we have seen a 271% rise in the rate of unemployment.

The President’s most recent kinder gentler ad suggests that his “plan” is working and we should just stick with him.  As does another ad that is narrated by Morgan Freeman that beings, “Every President inherits challenges..”.  Well, back to our old nemesis President Bush.

There is no question that President Bush’s policies gave rise to a substantial increase in the National Debt.  Part of that was financing wars which he deemed in our “national interest” and part of that was accompanying those with tax reductions, best known as the “Bush tax cuts”.  Every householder knows that if you reduce your income and spend more than you take in, eventually you’ll run out of money.  And we have.

Sadly, President Bush was a mere novice in delivering a message of under-earning and overspending which is why under President Obama we have seen an increase in the official National Debt of $6 Trillion, a 60% increase in a mere four years to a record $16 Trillion.  Part of that increase is certainly due to the tax cuts that were put in place in 2001/2003 and which are set to expire on December 31st of this year.

Did you notice the dates when those decreases were enacted?  They became effective eleven years ago.  Mitt Romney has argued in favor of continuing them as they currently stand on the books – at least until such the time that the economy really begins humming.  This is his plan to “benefit the rich by slashing their taxes $200,000 per year” of which he is accused in almost every Obama ad.  We have been living with this plan for over a decade – so I hardly think that Gov. Romney deserves either credit or opprobrium for thinking it up.

But there is a further point that I would like to make.  Those who have been employed during the past decade, as a result of the Bush tax cuts, received an average additional amount of take home income of about $50 per week.

The first time your paycheck reflected this increase, do you recall either saying yourself or hearing a co-worker say, “You know, I’m kind of worried.  If we keep spending more than we’re taking in, we might run into trouble six or seven years down the road.”  Or did you happily accept the increase, take your wife out for a nice dinner, buy a couple of new electronic gizmos and trade up to a newer model car?

“Give the people what they want.”  It’s an old political saying.  And Americans want and believe we’re entitled to a lot – perhaps more than we truly deserve.  It’s really a pity that when it comes to electing people who are going either to run the country or run it into the ground, we have expectations that are far lower.

And I guess that if I have to point a finger at anyone, (sorry Mom) it would be at those of us who think this is an acceptable way to run a country – or anything else.

THE HYPOCRISY SURROUNDING OUTSOURCING

When I first moved to Las Vegas I learned some things.

The first was that without having to drive twenty minutes to get to the Strip should I want to risk a few dollars on a game of chance, I had several options which were far more convenient.  These were casinos that were more interested in attracting the regular business of “locals” rather than the mob of weekend visitors this city sees every Friday night and who go home on Sunday.

When I first started coming to town as one of those “weekend warriors” back in the ‘70’s I was bedazzled by what was then the Vegas scene.  As I drove down the Strip, billboard after billboard headlined the star who was appearing at that hotel.  The biggest people in show business were always in town, and if I planned the trip right I could see several of my favorites.  Even the real Elvis.

And as you walked in any of the casinos you could view the vast array of table games that were going to allow the gambler the opportunity to part with some of the hard-earned money he had brought with him.  All this excitement, and always in the background was the sound of coins spilling into the trays of the slot and video poker machines which held, at that time, a far smaller share of each casino’s space than did the craps and blackjack and baccarat tables.

Over several trips and a number of years I began to notice something different happening in Sin City.  The number of table games began shrinking and the number of slots began increasing.  And several years after I moved here I noticed yet another change.

The machines which vended the lucky winner his coins were slowly but surely being replaced by newer models which attempted to emulate the sound of coins clanking in the metal trays with synthetic replication, and which, rather than giving the winner his payout in quarters or dimes or nickels, handed him a printed ticket for the money he had won (or still had left).

From the slot player’s standpoint, this was a nice improvement.  No longer did the player have to scoop up his money and put it in one of the plastic containers that the casinos provided.  No longer did he have to look for a moist towelette to clean up after collecting his coins which inevitably left his hands filthy.  No longer did he have to stand in line at the Casino Cashier in order to have them run those coins through their counting machine and pay him off.  Now he merely had a ticket which he could insert in any of the ATM-like machines which would read its value and dispense the amount he was due quickly and conveniently.

This was progress – this was improvement – unless you were Mary or Bill.

Who are they?  Well Mary was a “change girl” at one of the local casinos and Bill had worked at the same casino for 14 years as a blackjack dealer.  They both lost their jobs – Mary because of the new technology and Bill because the casinos were downsizing the number of table games that they ran and eliminated some of their staff.

If you think about it from the casinos’ perspective, this transition makes a great deal of financial sense.  Although there is always a house edge built into any game of chance, baccarat, craps, blackjack or roulette, there is always the possibility that someone can get lucky (or as in the case of blackjack become an expert card counter – which is why it is NV state law that card counting is “illegal”) and seriously hurt the house with a good run of luck and skill.

No such chance exists with a slot machine where the ultimate house rake is pre-determined by an internal chip that exactly calculates the house’s percentage based on the money that is run through it.  And unlike a blackjack game which requires a dedicated person to staff it or a craps table which requires four employees, one hundred machines can be overseen by one technician in the event of a rare mechanical breakdown.

That’s why Bill lost his job.

And Mary, well she got replaced by more modern technology.  While there are still change people who help the slot players in the event of a jackpot win which requires the completion of a 1099 form, their number has diminished because the same machines which payout the winning tickets also break down larger bills into smaller ones.  Technology marches on and unfortunately for Mary and many like her, it marched her out of a job.

It’s interesting to me that the many people I know who talk about the evils of “outsourcing” never seem to feel quite as passionate about those who worked in casinos whose jobs were not outsourced but eliminated.  The reason I happened to write this post is that I had just listened to one of them go on at length about how we are shipping jobs overseas and the tragedy of it all.  This same person spends a few hours almost every day entertaining herself in a casino.  So I mentioned Mary and Bill to her and how they had lost their positions.

Her response was, “Well that’s progress for you.”  She displayed no remorse for them and I am certain that is because she doesn’t play table games and because she finds this new arrangement, not having to deal with coins, as a big improvement, far outweighing the human toll of Mary and others who no longer have jobs.

I thought it was inconsistent for her to be so empathic to nameless, faceless people whom she has never met and were outsourced, when she was so cold-hearted about now unemployed Mary (whom she knew).  While I do not believe it is right to make judgments about others, unless their actions affect me, still this acquaintance’s attitude is not uncommon.  At least that is my empirical observation based on a lot of anecdotal evidence.

So many are willing to descry the unfairness of the loss of American jobs to foreign workers, yet they continue to buy the same products those foreign workers produce in greater and greater numbers, thus supporting those companies which outsource and validating their policy.  Is the company which outsources or the consumer who purchases the outsourced products really at fault?  I would lay this squarely at the feet of those who make those purchases – for without their patronage, these companies would have no sales.

I believe in the reality of a global economy and I realize that the financial capital needed to produce a manufactured product will always find a home where it is best treated.  And that home is not currently in the United States.  That is not China or Bangladesh’s fault.

That is the fault of the Congress and the President for imposing onerous rules which add to the cost of every product manufactured in America and for continuing the policy of assessing the highest tax rate of any nation in the civilized world on its corporations – again further adding to the cost of producing goods here.

But to get to the heart of the matter, even if you accept my scenario that without the consumer’s co-operation, outsourcing simply wouldn’t happen – there is someone who bears an even greater share of the responsibility.  That person is the voter who empowers these bureaucrats with another return to office so that they may continue the same policies which got us here in the first place.

It’s time for a new, fresh and realistic approach.  It’s time that we set aside all the rhetoric about “Saving General Motors”.  It’s time we really took stock of those whom we elect to serve us – and to rid ourselves of those who believe that their election proves we were meant to serve them.  It’s time – no it’s way past the time – that each of us cut through all the hype and got down to the bare bones and the truth.

It’s time for the American people to vote intelligently.

BILL CLINTON SPEAKS

As the second most elder statesman of the Democratic Party (Jimmy Carter holding the place of honor at the top), former President Bill Clinton has made an ad for President Obama.  I suspect that you might have seen it as it has been aired a great deal.

I will say that the ad is a substantial improvement over other ads of the Obama campaign.  There is no mention of Bain Capital (which Clinton told Obama to leave alone), no mention of Mitt Romney causing people’s death by denying them health insurance benefits, just a generally positive and, on the surface reasoned ad why the former President feels we should entrust our vote to giving the incumbent another four years in the White House.  At least that’s how it starts out.

The ad begins with Clinton saying, “To me this election about who is most likely to get us back to full employment.”  My ears perked up the first time I heard this opening line.  Had Clinton gone over to the Romney camp?

Well, that’s about as much as the former President has to say about why he supports an Obama second term until the end where he talks about “Obama’s plan – rebuilding America from the ground up and investing in education and innovation.”  For some reason, when I heard that line an image of Nuremberg, Germany after the British bombing came to mind.  In order to build it “from the ground up” you have first to destroy what is already there.

NurnbergBombDamage[1]

President Obama is well on his way to accomplishing the destructive part during his first term in office.  Perhaps President Clinton has more faith in his “plan”  to accomplish the second part if given another four years than the evidence would suggest.

The body of the ad contains an assertion that attacks, although more subtly than other Obama ads, Gov. Romney’s “plan” to ease the tax burden on the wealthy than is now the case and to do so at the expense of the middle class.  Of course, that statement is simply untruthful.

Governor Romney’s plan is merely to leave tax rates unchanged for ALL taxpayers.  Those rates, commonly known as the Bush tax cuts, have been extended several times by both Democrat and Republican majorities in Congress and signed into law.

The truth is that President Obama’s tax plan is merely to increase taxes on our wealthiest tax payers without any consequent reduction in taxes on the middle class or anyone else.  And as everyone knows, this is a great campaign point but it serves to accomplish nothing in terms of actually balancing the Federal budget.

If you were to confiscate 100% of the income of the wealthiest tax payers representing the top 10% of all personal income reported, it would be insufficient to balance the budget.  And even Obama hasn’t come up with that proposal – yet.

Additional tax revenues would help balance the budget.  A growing, rather than the stagnant Obomaconomy which we have had delivered to us by the man in the White House would naturally increase the amount of revenue the Federal government received – whatever the rate at which it would be taxed.

But at the same time, we have to make cuts to the money that we spend – deep cuts – in order to get back to a place of fiscal order and responsibility.  It amazes me that with every economist from the far left to the far right in agreement on this point, it seems to escape President Obama’s attention and the attention of Democrat legislators in general.

Sadly, government has a very bad habit.  No matter how much money it receives it finds a way to spend more.  That can work for awhile, but eventually you run out of people who are willing to lend you money.  Check out modern Greece for an example from current events.

I do appreciate the fact that this ad is, as I have said, more subtle in its attack approach than the previous efforts from team Obama.  The President has apparently come to the realization that as Dinesh D’Souza points out in his movie, “2016, Obama’s America,” that the greatest asset he has is that he is likeable and that people want to help him.

I’d like to help him too – by allowing him to find a new job for which he is better qualified.  The removal of his meandering and indecisive policies would be the biggest shot in the arm that America could receive.

THE CONSUMER

Have you ever played chess?  If you have then you realize the most important value of your eight “pawns” is that they serve as sacrificial lambs in your effort to checkmate your opponent.  American consumers are little more than pawns in the game of chess that our banking system including the Federal Reserve and  our politicians are perpetrating on the nation.

In 1988, John Carpenter made one of my favorite films, “They Live.”  It is a combination of science fiction and film-noire.  As it is probably a movie that most of my readers have not seen, here is a synopsis of the plot.

The film is set in Los Angeles.  Aliens have come to earth and they have allied themselves with the rich and powerful – titans of industry and those who are in political power – promising these people untold wealth and riches as they engage in their ultimate strategy which is to rape the planet of its resources before they move on to another planet to do the same.

The aliens have installed broadcast towers around the world which serve two purposes.  The first is to cloak the aliens from identification (Carpenter portrays their real form as Halloween ghouls) and the second is to allow them to put subliminal messages on advertising billboards which humans absorb but don’t actually see.  Those messages direct us to “Buy,” “Spend,” “Use,” “Replace”, “Throw Out.”  These are the ultimate consumerist messages.

The reason that the aliens want us to do this is that, even as they use us to help in their mission of despoiling Earth’s resources, they want us to work faster and harder and if we are perpetually nearly broke, we will have to continue on our unwitting assistance of their agenda.

A drifter, Roddy Piper gets work in construction and discovers a box of sunglasses which, when worn, reveal the aliens’ true form.  The sunglasses are later replaced with an updated version in the form of contact lenses.  Piper, who’s character is named “Nada” joins a movement of other humans who realize the truth of the plight of earth’s people.  Their goal is to tear down the broadcast tower which cloaks the aliens’ true appearance and emits the signal for their subliminal messages so that all people will see them for who and what they really are.

At the conclusion of the movie, the tower and signal are destroyed – but Nada gives his life in the process.  Presumably, humans learn the truth and the aliens will be routed, but that is a conclusion left to the viewer to reach.

The American consumer is responsible for  two-thirds of our Gross Domestic Product.  It is our buying, replacing, using and throwing out things that keeps our economy fueled.  We make purchases based on the latest fad and fashion and for many of those, the products are nearly obsolete as soon as they have been released.  These spending habits are why we have amassed the incredible amount of consumer debt that is on the books.

While we are cautioned about being in all this debt, it is really the only way that we can finance our need to buy and spend and use and throw out.  And the banks love it.  Lending money to the consumer at 18% – 24% while they borrow from the Federal Reserve at  0.25% is very profitable business.

And our politicians hope that we will continue on our present path – and accelerate our journey on the way since they depend on us to fuel the economy and their own re-election efforts.  A happy consumer is more likely to be a voter who will once again return the establishment to their places of privilege at the top of the food chain.

The motto of The Science Fiction Book Club is, “Today’s fiction is tomorrow’s fact.”    Some of Carpenter’s views in 1988 might have been fiction.  But if you look around you will see that a lot of that has indeed evolved into fact.

Is that because of alien intervention or is it because of our own foolishness and consumerism?  Does it really matter?  The results are the same.

THE FIRE

You had a hard week at work.  Everything that could go wrong did and at the worst possible moment.  But that’s done with and you’re driving home, looking forward to spending a pleasant weekend with your family.

A few miles from your home the traffic turns into a jam.  You think to yourself, “Well, that’s kind of typical of the way this week went.”  And then you see the reason for the stall.  There is a dark cloud of smoke ahead – and it’s coming from the neighborhood where your home is located.

“Oh please, God –  please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire,” you exclaim out loud.

Your anxiety builds as the traffic crawls forward in the thirty minutes it takes to move one half way to the billowing smoke.  Even with the air conditioner running at full throttle you can feel the perspiration dripping down the side of your body from your underarms.  In the distance you can see the fire equipment which has been deployed to combat the blaze.

Another half hour passes.  The police and a fireman are directing traffic on the street that feeds into your street.  At that point you breathe a sigh of relief because you can see that the source of the fire is a house that is two blocks away from yours.  Perhaps the week didn’t turn out as badly as it might have.

Most of us who found ourselves in this situation would probably, almost involuntarily, react the same way.  “Oh please, God – please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire.”  But what are we really saying in making that plea?  Simply that we are perfectly content for this tragedy to have befallen one of our friends or neighbors – just as long as we remain unscathed by it.

We have asserted our moral superiority to prosper at the expense of someone else who is not as fortunate, gifted or entitled as we are.  We have passed judgment that our interests are more important than the interests of others.

After the  tragedy of this event we might find it in our hearts to make a small donation to the family who’s lives were affected or perhaps put together a bag of canned goods for them to eat.  And in these ways we assuage our consciences and tell ourselves that we really are “good people.”

I offer this lesson in “situation ethics” as a prelude to a discussion about which there has been much and will be more conversation.  That topic is outsourcing jobs.

As I see it, there are three categories of people who are involved in this conversation.

The first are those people who really don’t want to make the effort to get a job and find this a convenient excuse for their own idleness.  As far as I am concerned, they are a part of the problem and in no way contribute to a solution.

The second are those people who have a job and are breathing a sigh of relief that their employment does not appear to be in jeopardy.  They may have a view on outsourcing and indeed be empathetic to a co-worker who’s position was outsourced – but in their hearts they’re saying, “Oh thank you, God for letting me keep my position.”

The third are those people who are actively seeking work but cannot find it.  They are bitter that a potential job has been shipped overseas.  We hear a lot of this from OWS.  They also have made the moral judgment that they have a greater right to life and prosperity than some other worker who happens to live in another country.

Now the facts are that many of these outsourced positions are low-level and low-paying.  A large contingent of OWS protestors are frustrated people who are college educated and are unable to find work using their degrees.  I suspect that none of them spent four years in college so that they could get a minimum wage job working in a fast food restaurant or in a customer service call center.

In fact, I doubt that if offered that kind of position so that they could support themselves until things got better they would even consider accepting it.  I say this based on several conversations I have had with OWS members.  The people with whom I spoke considered that type of work as being “beneath them.”  Personally, if I were in their position, I would humbly accept the work and be grateful for it while I continued to look for something better.

So is outsourcing immoral?  Let me introduce a fourth group that carries the most weight in this discussion.  That group consists of our President and the Congress.  You see, if they had the sense to understand the nature of the recession and to work proactively at fixing it – rather than spending two years going off on tangents and bickering, we might not be having this discussion at all.

As bad as the June Jobs Report was with an overall unemployment rate continuing at 8.2%, things got worse for the very people whom President Obama counts as his core constituency – blacks and Latinos.  The rate of unemployment for blacks increased to 13.6% from 13.0% and for Latinos to 11.0% from 10.3%.

It is truly difficult for me to understand how these unemployed minorities can support a man who has done so very little to assist them – and, in fact, who has by omission,  done so much to prevent them from entering the work force.

This fourth group, our politicians needs to tend to their knitting – rather than trying to blind each other with their knitting needles.  They need to be honest with themselves and with us – and if they are incapable of that, they need to be replaced with thoughtful people who will work toward finding solutions.  The blame game is not only not productive – it is counter-productive.

We have seen what happens when a people learn to distrust their politicians’ ability or willingness to address problems in a serious manner.  That life study comes to us from a country called Greece.  We saw the fires that raged in the streets of Athens – and those streets are only a few thousand miles and a couple of years away.

If we don’t take the responsibility to elect people of quality and vision this November I predict that it won’t be long before we’re all saying, “Oh my God, our country’s on fire.”

IS IT REAL OR IS IT MEMOREX?

Today we had another poor Employment Report for the month of June.  While the 80,000 jobs which were created was a small improvement over May’s 69,000, these numbers are obviously far short of the 200,000 we need to create monthly just to keep even with the number of net new workers entering the job market.

The Administration, which is the architect of our stagnant employment situation and an unemployment rate of 8.2%, had it’s usual response that we should not be too concerned with any one month’s data.  I agree with that statement.  There are variations which can be due to any number of external factors in any given month (although I would exclude President Bush from the list).

At the bottom of this post I have listed the White House’s official response to 30 months of Employment Reports as can be found on its website.   I particularly enjoyed the post of July, 2010 which was as devoid of substance as one might expect from this Administration.

Perhaps, my readers will ask themselves the same question I did:

“Is it real or is it Memorex?”

BmprStck25591

June 2012: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/07/06/employment-situation-june)

May 2012: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/06/01/employment-situation-may)

April 2012: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/05/04/employment-situation-april)

March 2012: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/04/06/employment-situation-march)

February 2012: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report; nevertheless, the trend in job market indicators over recent months is an encouraging sign.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/09/employment-situation-february)

January 2012: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report; nevertheless, the trend in job market indicators over recent months is an encouraging sign.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/02/03/employment-situation-january)

December 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/06/employment-situation-december)

November 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/12/02/employment-situation-november)

October 2011: “The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. There is no better example than August’s jobs figure, which was initially reported at zero and in the latest revision increased to 104,000. This illustrates why the Administration always stresses it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/04/employment-situation-october)

September 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/07/employment-situation-september)

August 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/02/employment-situation-august)

July 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/08/05/employment-situation-july)

June 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/07/08/employment-situation-june)

May 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/06/03/employment-situation-may)

April 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/05/06/employment-situation-april)

March 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/01/employment-situation-march)

February 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/03/04/employment-situation-february)

January 2011: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/02/04/employment-situation-january)

December 2010: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/01/07/employment-situation-december)

November 2010: “Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/12/03/employment-situation-november)

October 2010: “Given the volatility in monthly employment and unemployment data, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/11/05/employment-situation-october)

September 2010: “Given the volatility in the monthly employment and unemployment data, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/10/08/employment-situation-september)

July 2010: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and replace job losses with robust job gains.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/08/06/employment-situation-july)

August 2010: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/03/employment-situation-august)

June 2010: “As always, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/02/employment-situation-june)

May 2010: “As always, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/06/04/employment-situation-may)

April 2010: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/07/employment-situation-april)

March 2010: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/04/02/employment-situation-march)

January 2010: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/02/05/employment-situation-january)

November 2009: “Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.” (LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/12/04/employment-situation-november)

THE POISON APPLE

In our technologically oriented world, if you were to ask most users if they owned at least one product manufactured by Apple, Inc. the answer would come back a resounding, “yes.”  It is accurate to say that the company is the most highly valued (as measured by total share value) of any company in its industry and at one point recently of any company in any industry anywhere in the world.

As you probably know, Apple’s products are not manufactured in the United States but are outsourced to companies primarily in Asia, China being one of its largest suppliers.  Perhaps it is only my impression but I have noticed that people who are really proficient in their reliance on technology tend to be younger, more socially liberal and express their concerns more enthusiastically about equity and equality.

They must be disturbed by the conditions that exist for workers in several of the Chinese plants that manufacture components and products for this technological mega giant.

According to China Labor Watch in a 133 page report released today, the conditions under which Chinese workers are forced to work would have made the textile industry in the U. S. and its demands on its female workers 100 years ago look like a day at a picnic.  In large measure, the conditions in the textile factories gave impetus to the labor union movement in the United States.

The two companies most highly featured in the report are both Taiwanese-owned,  operating manufacturing facilities on the mainland.  They are Foxconn Technology Group and Riteng, a division of Pegatron Corp.  The average wage at Foxconn is $1.60 per hour – at Riteng $1.30.  And you wonder why everything you see on the shelves of our stores in the United States are stamped “Made in China.”

One of the things that the report made clear was that both companies regularly violate the laws regarding overtime.  According to the survey of their findings gathered over a four month period, the average worker at Foxconn works a 10 hour day – and 12 hours at Riteng.  Furthermore, the report cited cases where workers put in as many as 180 hours of overtime per month, far exceeding the 36 hour legal limit established by the People’s Republic of China.

In addition, although the law requires that workers be covered by health insurance, many plants ignore that regulation.

Apple says that it “audits” its suppliers’ compliance closely.  If you want to see the company’s official policy you may click the link below, but don’t be surprised if Apple’s official statement of standards appear to be quite different from the report that China Labor Watch published.

http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/

Giving Apple the benefit of the doubt that they do have standards and audit their suppliers to make sure they comply with them, apparently they need to do a better job evaluating these companies.  That is not unlike J. P. Morgan Chase’s needing to do a better job managing risk internally.

But to play devil’s advocate for a moment – what if Apple’s real motivation is simply making as much profit as possible – and if thousands of workers suffer in that effort, well that’s business?  I’m not advancing that position – but it does represent one possible scenario.  So if that’s the case, what then does the conscientious person concerned about the social welfare of all working people do?

The most effective thing would probably be that when Apple launches a new product, don’t get in the line of eager beavers waiting to purchase it.  And let the company know why you’re not going to buy that product.

But in the meantime, the dedicated Apple user can use the time to contact Apple and express her discomfort with the conditions in their suppliers’ factories; write posts; email friends; and put notices on the social media publicizing the difference between what Apple says it stands for and what it accepts from its suppliers.

Who knows, if the message goes viral, it will no doubt prove an embarrassment to the largest tech company in the world and cause them to demand better working conditions for those who manufacture their products.

Let’s not forget, the plants we are talking about are in China.  And in China, “Saving Face” still means a lot.

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