Thursday, May 06, 2004

Americans have lost the capacity to defend their own economic interests.
many companies, including E-Loan and about half the Fortune 500, continue to move parts of their operations to low-cost areas around the world. Although public opinion polls show Americans are worried about this outsourcing of jobs, few people appear willing to back that up if it means spending more money or more time.

Even those who have lost jobs sometimes express more resignation than outrage. The lack of widespread passion on the subject, some say, helps explain why dozens of measures in Congress and state legislatures for limiting outsourcing have failed to gain much traction. . . .

"It was shocking to find a Democratic-controlled House in the liberal state of Washington could not pass a significant piece of legislation dealing with the offshore-outsourcing issue," said Marcus Courtney, president of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.
Much of this is due to the shift in self-identity from producer to consumer. A job is simply an 8- or 9- or 10-hour-a-day penance you pay to live it up on the weekend and have lots of cheap stuff from Wal-Mart piling up on your yard or porch. People are losing the ability to see that driving producers to the wall in order to get the low low price means eventually driving yourself to the wall as well. Real wages in the US are still below where they were in 1973! But even after being driven to the wall, Americans are more likely to see a layoff as a force of nature to be endured rather than a political-economic decision to be fought.

From 1947 to 1956 more than 1 million Americans were out on strike annually, demonstrating the power of their unions and winning concessions from capital and the state. Between 1947 and 1979 more than 1 million Americans were out on strike in 26 of those 33 years. Since 1979, guess how many years over 1 million Americans have struck? Zero. Incredible. In 2000 and 2001 there were under 100,000 Americans on strike annually, less than 10% of the level of the 1940s and 1950s.

When it comes to 1970s movies, Americans need to stop taking their cues from "Deliverance" and look to "Network" instead.


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