Friday, March 21, 2008

You can't make this stuff up.

I thought I felt a great disturbance in The Force yesterday, like thousands of economists silent, then suddenly laughing in derision. And I did. It turns out Hillary was in the state:
All Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had to do to bring several thousand people in Anderson to their feet was mention the word "jobs."

In this one-time manufacturing powerhouse, the second of three Indiana cities to which Clinton brought her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, no issue seemed more important than helping the middle class get back on its feet.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that part of the problem is that at some time in our past, manufacturing jobs became considered "middle class". It's one thing for a job to provide a "living wage", the term so beloved by the collectivists on the other side of the aisle. It's another thing to think that putting bolts in holes all day should pay enough for a bass boat, two cars, a used Harley, and a time-share in Destin. The mission of WidgetCo is not to finance its employee's children's college educations, folks; its mission is to produce widgets. If you price yourself out of the widget assembly market, then WidgetCo is going to go find people who are willing to make them cheaper. In a free country, this gives you two choices: Accept less money for making widgets, or find a new trade that offers the lush financial rewards you feel that you're worth.

Unfortunately, most Americans don't like the idea of a free country. At least for other people. Namely, the kind of people that pay salaries. This is why a presidential candidate can hop on a stump and propose all manner of things that are not only not part of the American way of life but actually repugnant to it, and still have people wave little plastic American flags and cheer. Because, dammit, those fat cats owe you a job! More importantly, they owe you the job you want at the pay rate you deserve! (The queasy part is that there's at least one person who read that and nodded their head, completely oblivious to its sardonic intent.)

While Hillary stopped short of promising, like a certain Democrat candidate of thirty-some years ago, not to rest until all Americans had above-average incomes, there were other moments of comedy gold. She lauded the economic prosperity of the '90s that she apparently helped bring about by being married to the guy in the Oval Office, and then reminded everyone that she was against NAFTA now. Also promised was that her administration would start "investing in manufacturing." This despite the fact that the only really constitutional way the federal government can "invest" in manufacturing is by investing in Boeing and General Dynamics Electric Boat division, and Democrats think the stuff that they manufacture is icky. Or at least they did when Reagan invested in a bunch of it.

Nonetheless, thousands of Hoosiers cheered as Clinton promised to lead them out of the wilderness of unemployment and into the Big Rock Candy Mountains. I can only shake my head and wander off in search of the alleged streams of alcohol that come trickling down the rocks. It's probably going to take a lot of drinking to make it through the next four years no matter who wins this clown show.

20 comments:

HTRN said...

As somebody who does work in manufacturing, I'd like to point out that the median wage in the US is $43K and change. That's only $20/hr or so. Skilled manufacturing labor can make that easily.

It's the unskilled gruntwork commonly found on assembly lines that pays terrible outside of unions.

José Giganté said...

During college, I got a summer job at a factory in Indy and it was the best thing to ever happen to my grade point average. It went up a full point because I decided that although it paid better than any other job I had previously, there was no way I was going to install blowers in furnaces the rest of my life!

Some folks can't/don't go to college or have any further education past high school and so these jobs are a good way they can make a decent living. The thing is, as US citizens, we need to start demanding more of ourselves, our children and our representatives and stop trying to keep jobs that enable people to check out and not better themselves.

Anonymous said...

The problem in my mind is that with the free trade push of Clinton and then unfortunately with Bush has left us competing on a worldwide market for jobs and salaries.

Thus on the worldwide scale, low skill manufacturing jobs like nut turners and bolt inserters go to the country with the lowest cost of labor like China, Indonesia or India. Thus unless we erect strong trade barriers that artificially raise the wages the labor force is stuck.

At the same time we allow our country to be flooded by illegals looking for a better future and artificially drive down the real wages internally. The easiest solution to the wages and jobs is kick the illegals out and give folks a job again. Oops, problem is that those jobs are poor paying so we have to raise wages, and increase the inflation for final goods.

Finally at the same time, since we compete worldwide for jobs, highly skilled technology jobs like mine have very few laborers and lots of openings worldwide, thus the salaries have gone up dramatically. I was impressed recently where my company said that we are suffering an 12% attrition rate of folks leaving for better jobs and opportunities. Hard to believe it could be that much better outside, but maybe.

Thus some conservatives like me are caught in a quandary. My personal salary is way up, I pay more in taxes now then I earned less then a decade ago and bonuses are great so I am much better off while the country goes down the tube. Just this week I realized I have finally done better then my parents.

I keep thinking about Nero fiddling while Rome burned and wondering if he had the same internal turmoil with the situation.

Anonymous said...

"Clown show" is absolutely spot-on.

If I vote in the next presidental election it will be for the most acceptable VICE-PRESIDENT, as I refuse to vote for any of the three presently offered.

My guess is the Republican Vice Presidental candidate is going to be the tie-breaker cause at 71 The Manchurian Candidate ain't likely to last through all eight years.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Jim Sullivan said...

Very well said, Tam.

Roberta X said...

Anon, people can either develop marketable skills or live down to their ability. If all you can do is spin bolts, then you're gonna live on a boltspinner's pay. If you price your labor out of the market, your employer's going to look elsewhere (Oh, so very elsewhere -- I'm writing inside the borders of the Rust Belt).

I have virtually no formal higher education. I work at a highly skilled trade thanks to natural inclination, learning by doing, and vracious self-education. My income is well above the median -- still not rich by any means.

I don't feel the slightest compassion to the eejits who pushed and pushed and were paid more and more for grunt work while griping about the cost of consumer goods going up. They cut their own throats and can either learn or perish.

Tam said...

htrn,

"That's only $20/hr or so."

Oh, to have ever made "only" $20/hr. Maybe I should vote for Hillary!

Tam said...

PS:

"Skilled manufacturing labor can make that easily."

Only in a regulated and artificially protected job market.

staghounds said...

One big mistake-

"WidgetCo is going to go find people who are willing to make them cheaper"

No, your fellow citizens are going to buy Widgesubishi widgets. Widgetco and its unions will buy themselves some time with tariffs, but eventually that won't work. Widgetco will go into into bankruptcy, because the workers won't let Widgetco compete.

As long as Americans are paid a basic bottom wage to not work, then we will get no Americans working for a basic bottom wage.

tkdkerry said...

Unfortunately, most Americans don't like the idea of a free country.

They think they do. They just have absolutely no understanding of what it really is.

+1 on Jose. My epiphany came while working at a petroleum coke calcining plant, driving a scraper at 0200. The seat belt was broken, the seat shock absorber was broken, and glass was missing from my side windows so snow was blowing into my cab. Back to engineering school I went.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I hear that there is a lake of beef stew and of whiskey, too. You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe.

All at the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

DirtCrashr said...

Well said! The mission of Widget Co. indeed!

José Giganté said...

I hear that there is a lake of beef stew and of whiskey, too. You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe.

Whoa! Nobody said nuffin' about a lake of beef stew and whiskey! I'm turning in my guns and votin' for Hills!

Jeffro said...

It's probably going to take a lot of drinking to make it through the next four years no matter who wins this clown show.

If our clever social engineers let us. Wouldn't wanna increase universal health care costs by drinking or smoking.

Anonymous said...

It's all sloppy thinking. The $20/hour boltspinner jobs didn't go overseas -- they no longer exist.

Now, there are $0.005/piece boltspinner jobs.

"If you would like an $0.005/piece boltspinner job... oh, never mind, I forgot that your elected representatives outlawed them. OK, I'll go somewhere where $0.005/piece boltspinner jobs can be offered (which, conveniently, is also a place where people WANT my $0.005/piece boltspinner jobs.)"

If the "Dey took mah jawbz" crowd started by grasping this, maybe they'd... soemthing. Quit whining? Never mind.

bob r said...

That's only $20/hr or so. Skilled manufacturing labor can make that easily.

Maybe true for manufacturing jobs that require _skilled_ labor; however, that is not a valid description of _most_ manufacturing labor jobs (the skilled part).

If you can learns how to do the job within a few weeks of on the job training, you are _not_ performing _skilled_ labor; if it takes you a couple of _years_ to be considered proficient, you are. So just ask yourself: How many jobs really take more than a year to learn? My bet is that if the output of that job (highly skilled) is something that a significant number of people want then the pay is not "low".

joated said...

Every time I hear a Presidential candidate promise to create more jobs I cringe. The President of the US can not create any jobs beyond those of presidential aide. He has absolutely no power to do so. And no act of congress can do it either without taking scads of money out of the citizens' purse.

You want to "make jobs"? Go with "right to work" legislation in every state and abolish the minimum wage laws.

Ben said...

And today in Charlotte, I sensed something, a presence I've not felt since...

Bill Clinton was here today. He spoke to a crowd of at least eighty people on behalf of Hillary and the campaign. Seriously.

Billy Beck said...

"The problem in my mind is that with the free trade push of Clinton and then unfortunately with Bush has left us competing on a worldwide market for jobs and salaries."

That's a "problem"? Believe me: that's no problem to me. Guess what you're competing for. That's right: my dollars. And if you can't meet the competition, then you're fired.

Joe R. said...

My problem with this is the perception of what is seen. Two things are happening to me:

1) I went to a tech college to learn a skill to get a better job. That skill has served me well but times are changing and the stuff I work on has gotten inexpensive enough now that it's cheaper to throw it away than to fix it. I'm 45 now and looking to learn another skill isn't exactly promising.

2) My company only cares enough about me to make sure that I can work anywhere in the plant they want me to. The money that we make for being #1 in our market isn't going into my pocket - it's going to the BOD that makes sure that they get their money as they figure out how to move the company somewhere else for cheaper labor.

You can't have it both ways in this life. You want an item cheap and American-made... that doesn't happen. You want cheap, don't complain that the item is made in China. You want the item marked " Made in America ", it's gonna be more expensive. My problem is to make the people running the companies that going global may be good for the bottom line but not good for this country.

Joe R. ( kind of rambling but means well...)