Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Rent Workers vs Rent Capital

I’ve been on a documentary binge again. It’s so nice to have my brain working well enough to do that! So I’ve been sitting here slicing blueberries for the dryer- it’s as tedious as it sounds and requires a very sharp knife- and watching tv. I’ve ended up with several documentaries today with subtitles, which is challenging while you’re cutting things up, and this one was no different. However, this one also inspired me to set aside the blog post I started this morning so I could go in another direction.

As a wage worker, I am, in essence, renting myself to a company for a set amount of money. The pay might be per hour or per week, but it’s not tied directly to how the company is doing or, strictly speaking, how well I’m doing my job. If I do my ¬†job badly enough, or if the company does badly enough, I might lose my job, but it’s not a very tight correlation. The first thing I realized is that I’m renting myself out way too cheap, and I need to figure out how to fix that.

The second thing I remembered¬†is that it’s always a bad idea to buy a second-hand rental car. Why? Because people tend to be rougher on rental cars than on their own cars. Why not? They don’t have to deal with any long-term consequences. As a rental body, my employer has every reason to feel the same way about me. Sure they doll up the situation by talking about perks and benefits, but when it really comes down to it, I am there to get as much out of as possible and if it leaves me with structural damage? Eh, easy enough to rent a fresh one.

The reason we put up with it, as they point out, is because the consequences of walking away are even worse. As the richest country in the world, why do we have a massive amount of our population- they quote 20%- living in poverty? Because that is the whip the companies wield to make us put up with pointless jobs that don’t pay what our time is worth. Take what they deign to give us or risk living on the streets. No wonder the lobbyists- I mean government- fought so hard against Obama Care. Anything that strengthens the social safety net even a little will weaken their ability to abuse us.

So what’s the solution? Instead of renting ourselves to investors (business owners/management), we rent the investors. They give us x amount of capital with, I assume, y amount of return either in fixed percent or in percent of profits- but they don’t get any votes. The people that are doing the work make the decisions. All of a sudden, shifting crates around a warehouse on a forklift isn’t a pointless job because your income and employment is tied quite directly to what’s in those crates and how quickly and safely they get to their destination. And if the warehouse is being used inefficiently, you are the person who will see it- and who will be expected to speak up about it. A couple of the side effects they’ve seen are also more efficiency and fewer managers. Imagine- fewer managers.

There are even larger impacts that turning our workplaces from dictatorial institutions to democratic ones could have. From a political perspective, if we gain some sort of control over where we spend 40 or more hours of our week, we might believe we can have control over things like our government on small and large scales. From an environmental perspective, we can ditch the idea of perpetual growth because we need to produce enough for all of the workers to live well in their community, not enough for the owner to buy a second yacht for the Bahamas. From a happiness perspective, as the company becomes more efficient, we don’t need to invent busy work to justify our incomes- we can shorten work days and lengthen vacations. We might even end up with enough time and money to start a small business of our own.

Goodness. No wonder the worker rental prices are so low. When people have the time and energy to do more than drag themselves from one work day to the next, who knows what else they might come up with! They might start demanding unrigged elections and clean water! No, best to keep things the way they are. After all, we wouldn’t want to go changing the things that work so very well for only the very rich.

Giving Jobs to China

I just finished watching Death By China. I’ve been saying for a little while now that China was grooming us to take us over. I thought I was kidding.

China joining the World Trade Organization and opening their borders to trade was sold to us in the ’90s as a good thing. We would make goods in America and ship them to China. That didn’t exactly happen. Since they joined the WTO in 2001, we have lost 57,000 manufacturing plants and something along the lines of 5.5 million jobs. Good jobs.


I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that losing 5.5 million manufacturing jobs also kills all of the jobs that supported them- maybe as many as half a dozen per job. We’ve seen pictures of Detroit. When the factory goes, that’s it. Bear in mind that it seems like the big businesses knew this was going to happen. They knew that when China was opened for trade, they’d just skedaddle over to the country that doesn’t have minimum levels of pay, or safety, or environmental concern.

There are several problems with this situation. Number one is that there are lots of Americans that are willing and able to work that simply don’t have the option. If there aren’t any jobs to be had, then there aren’t any jobs to pay the bills. People complain about a nanny state and a welfare state, but a welfare state is the logical conclusion to shipping the available jobs elsewhere.

The second problem is a total lack of quality control. This covers everything from worker’s health and wellbeing to the quality of the products themselves. Most of the products aren’t worth repairing when they break which supports the current throwaway culture. Worse than that? All of the products, including food, that have been recalled because they’re dangerous. If an American company had the reputation that Chinese products do, they’d be drummed out of business. But, hey, who cares if it’s killing you or killing the people that made it if it’s cheap enough?

The last one, the one I hadn’t realized, is that all of the money we funnel into China is supporting their large and growing military. If you remember your history, one of the major reasons that the North won the Civil War was because they were the manufacturers. The South had all the cotton they could want, but they didn’t have the infrastructure to turn that cotton into uniforms. Or guns. So the North cut them off from imports and trounced them with freshly-manufactured weapons. In a war, the “service jobs” that they’re pushing Americans toward are about as useful as a plantation full of cotton without a weaving mill. At the moment, we cannot build a military plane without Chinese parts. If they choose to cut us off, or worse- sabotage the parts, we’re in the same position that the South was in. The losing position.

So what does this mean? Don’t buy from China. I don’t care how much cheaper it is. If you can’t buy local, then buy American. If you can’t buy American (we don’t make microwaves anymore) then buy an import from anywhere but China. Don’t give them your money, and don’t support “American” companies that have given away our jobs.

We also need to get our government to stop allowing the Chinese to bamboozle us. If they are going to manipulate the currency, then we slap them with an import tariff to make up the difference. If they are going to soot up their country, then we charge them for the excess carbon they’re dumping into the sky they share with the rest of us.

I think this is a situation where we trust in Allah, but also tie up our camels. The government needs to get their heads out of their butts and help us out, but they owe so much money to China and their corporate overlords are so happy with the current state of things that I’m not sure how much they can do. So we push them to help us but also take steps to help ourselves. We start small businesses to make products worth having. We shop at our neighbor’s business instead of WalMart. Either our government will be able to do their job and protect us, or we’re going to rebuild our economy anyway.

The documentary started and ended with a plea to remember that the Chinese people are not the same as the Chinese government. I think this is a very important distinction to make. The people are suffering from low wages, dangerous working conditions, and the most degraded environment in the world. This isn’t their fault, and I doubt they’d keep things as they are if they had any say in the matter. If we can stop our insatiable demand for cheap products, then that will remove a lot of the drive for their government to treat them so badly. Buy American to improve the lives of the Chinese.