Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When Manufacturing Died in New England

I remember it well. In the mid-nineties I was teaching computer skills at a mid-sized training center with three schools and a strong alliance with the Vocational Rehabilitation bureau. At one school I had 30 seats mostly filled with Voc Rehab clients whose jobs had been off shored, most of them laid off from the local shoe factory where they had made upwards of $15 to $20 an hour doing piecework with a minimal base wage. Most of these folks had worked in the mill all their lives - like their parents before them, made a decent living wage and lived the middle class life promised by the American Dream. Then came NAFTA and Ross Perot's giant sucking sound of medium skill, high paying manufacturing jobs being off shored en-mass by people like Fucking Mitt Romney. After my class they would be competing for minimum wage, entry level jobs with some paying a little more for those lucky enough to have some technical skills. Broke My Heart.

Plants like this one in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts that employed thousands of workers and support staff are now empty.


 Plants like this one in Hongqingting Shoe Factory, Wenzhou China are now packed and very busy.

What happened here? The Oligarchs made a decision that the middle class was not as important as accumulating more wealth than they or their heirs would ever be able to spend. So they spent millions of dollars lobbying for NAFTA and the ability of owners to establish factories overseas for a fraction of the cost, none of the environmental penalties, tax breaks, and near-slave wages. Once that had been achieved and they had exponentially increased their revenue, power became the cocaine of choice for the ultra-rich and the accumulation of power to buy the American political process was the next "I have more than you" cocktail party line and to prove it they bought the American political process, lobbied to pass even more destructive legislation (for the middle class) and moved all manufacturing jobs overseas that they possibly could. The least money paid and the most profit earned became the bragging rights of the ultras. The American people were turned into chattel - expendable like just another piece of machinery, thrown into the wall of financial fire like Pickett's Charge without consciousness or morality. Only money and power are important to the Oligarchs. Even the known fascist Henry Ford wanted his employees to make enough money to be able to buy the products they made. No More.They no longer care about the American worker. They have moved their sights to overseas, expanding markets whose workers take raw materials usually exported from "developed" countries like the U.S. then they actually "build things" that add value then sell them back to people who have the money to buy their products - i.e. the local people who are making money working in manufacturing or the rich Oligarchs in the US. American buying power has stagnated since the 70's, the ordinary American no longer has a chance to earn a living wage without a college degree, (and even that is no guarantee) and our economy shows no signs of recovering. We no longer have the economic muscle to exert any power over foreign markets and curtail currency manipulation so the emerging markets are having their way with us. But you already know all this.

For the one millionth time - we need to make things here at home with our own raw materials, add value, pay workers, tariff the shit out of anything imported and bring back manufacturing so the many, many people in this country without a college degree can make a living wage.

OK Doc - I'm done... BP still within acceptable range.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Atlanta - September 11th, 2001

That's where I was when the shit hit the fan. Thousands of miles from home, working a booth at a trade show. I was with a customer demonstrating how my software would help him manage his network when a couple of the folks who were working the booth with me starting gasping and staring at their computer screens. That's how it started. As the events of the day progressed, the convention center was shut down around 2:00 and we were told to go back to the hotel to await further instructions. My fellow engineer, Rich, and I had had no lunch and were ready to find something to eat. As we left the hotel the first thing we noticed was that the city looked like a ghost town, no cars, no people and most of the stores and restaurants closed down. We finally found a mid-sized pizza house that was still open and were seated in a booth. It was about half full of patrons. Our waiter, visibly shaken and high on something more than booze and weed, came to the table to take our order. The busboy brought some water and we waited patiently for our lunch, understanding that this was a difficult time for everyone and top level service was not expected. About 45 minutes later, we had still not seen our lunches and I snagged the waiter as he floated by. I asked him how much longer it would be before our lunch would be ready. He paused for a minute, checked his backlog of orders and apologetically told us he had forgotten to place our order. Without malice, I stood and asked him where his order entry station was and had him walk me to it. Then I had him show me how to put our orders into the system. After that I had him walk me to the kitchen where I checked with the chef to make sure our order had arrived. It had. Ten minutes later, the owner of the restaurant came to our table with our pizzas, (delicious brick oven) and beverages. He apologized profusely and told us it was on the house. We told him that we understood that this was a difficult time for everybody but he would have none of it and we ate for free that day.

After lunch, as we exited the restaurant which was located on Peach Street - the main street in Atlanta - I was struck by the surrealistic silence in what should have been a noisy, busy city. Still no cars and few pedestrians. We walked back to our hotel without speaking, each lost in our own thoughts about what had just happened in New York and speculating on what was going to happen next.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Depression Sucks

Hello friends and others. The greendayman has been mired in a deep, dark hole for many, many months now. Denying it serves no purpose. I have finally connected with a doc who has helped me immensely. I am almost back but probably at about 85%. I  can't afford the emotional expenditures of railing at the fucking assholes on the right who piss me off so much I could eat a tree.... oops... well, see what I mean. Can't do it. But will try to stay in touch. It is good for me to hear from you as well. I will still be "spitballing" as 'grain sez. Hope to see you all out here on the interwebs. Love always - GDM