The "free" trade policies begun by Bill Clinton with Nafta, and continuing through the Bush regime, which allowed foreign countries to dump cheap products inside the U.S. and put Americans out of work, and allowed U.S. companies to take their manufacturing overseas, and throw more Americans out of work, have finally begun to work their magic on the American labor force. Just as planned, Americans have been forced down, crushed economically by almost two decades of the "free" trade policies, and now it's really beginning to hurt. Even the tiny increases in wages received by those who are still employed do not keep up with inflation, so Americans sink further into debt every day, with no realistic way out.
Of course manufacturing has been steadily moving overseas. U.S. companies have shut down their U.S. factories and opened new factories in China, or "invested" in new factories in China, where 8 year old girls are taken from their families, put to work in the factories for 12 or 14 hour days at 50 cents per day, live in company-owned dormatories, and maybe get a few days off every year. Slave labor, in other words. It should simply be illegal for any U.S. company to use foreign manufacturing facilities. If they want to take jobs to China, they should lose their U.S. corporate charter and lose their right to do business inside the U.S. You like China so much? Go live there. When their CEOs screw up like ours do every day, the government takes them out in public and shoots them.
The U.S. government also has encouraged U.S. businesses to fire American workers and replace them with foreign workers brought in under H1b visas and allowed to work here for 6-year stretches and then, when their usefulness has been exhausted, they are sent away. For Microsoft, for example, Bill Gates hired Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition guy, the Abramoff friend, and lobbied Congress to let Microsoft bring in more software engineers and technical workers from India and Pakistan so they could throw even more Americans out of work. The imported workers are paid, on average, $11,000/year less than an American worker. And the immigrant workforce also has limited freedom because if they are fired, they have a very short amount of time -- say 30 days -- to find another job or they are deported. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/12/gates-seeks-more-hightech_n_91188.html U.S. businesses should never be allowed to import workers. Period. No exceptions. Hire Americans or get out of the country. The H1b visa system must be eliminated. Next time you see Bill Gates looking all sincere about what a charitable guy he is, keep in mind that not only has his company grossly overcharged the American public for a crappy operating system, and created a near-monopoly which prevents competition, but he also has given a raw deal to a lot of American working people.
The Wachovia Economics Group has on-line a "Special Commentary," titled "Employment Chartbook: November 2008," dated November 24, 2008. Their projections may be more or less accurate than anyone else's, but provide ample cause for concern. They note that 1.2 million Americans have been thrown out of work in ten months in 2008 alone. But the big news is their opinion that by the end of 2009, the U.S. unemployment will reach 3.2 million. That means we're only 40% of the way into this mess. http://www.Wachovia.com/ws/econ/view/0,,4535,00.pdf What happens when all those people are out of work and their unemployment compensation runs out?
Speaking of which, among the many despicable tactics adopted by employers during the Bush years is the automatic practice of denying unemployment compensation to every single worker who is fired. Most people in management are now trained to invent stories to justify the employer denying unemployment. Here's how it works. The unemployment compensation system is designed to provide workers who lose their jobs with some income for their support until they can find a new job. The money is supposed to be available to most of the people who lose their jobs. The only exception is for an employee who did something truly horrible -- robbed the store, shot the boss, lit the place on fire on purpose. Short of extreme misconduct, unemployment compensation has always been routinely awarded.
Not anymore. Now most labor lawyers who represent employers counsel their clients to always deny unemployment. File a claim saying that the employee did some wrongful act. Use language that makes it sound really bad. One particularly large retailer regularly accuses employees of "theft." Sounds bad, right? Until you learn that an employee who comes back 1 minute late from a coffee break is written up for "theft" of company time. Same for an employee who stops to chat with another employee: "theft" of company time. Of course most employees do not know anything about the system. When the employer accuses the employee of theft, many employees simply say "gosh, I don't get unemployment, how horrible," and they do not have the confidence to go in to a special hearing in front of a hearing officer and try to defend themselves.
Among the many things to be corrected by the Obama administration, I hope they will pass a law to make it illegal for any company to routinely deny unemployment compensation unless supported by serious and significant wrongdoing -- not somebody coming back a minute late from a coffee break. Of course from the company's perspective, they can't wait to fire all the Americans and replace them 8 year old Chinese girls who will work a 14-hour day and sleep in the stock room, and do it all without complaint.
And for more discussion of the jobs problems: