Important Bipartisan Currency Bill Introduced In House

A new bill was introduced in the House today to fight currency manipulation, including China’s. The bipartisan Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act was introduced by Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). This bill would treat undervalued currency as a subsidy under U.S. trade law, meaning we could apply tariffs to goods from countries that do this.

A nearly identical bill passed the House overwhelmingly in the 111th Congress and had 234 bipartisan cosponsors in the recent 112th Congress after passing overwhelmingly in the Senate. But Speaker Boehner refused to allow a vote, and the bill did not become law.

Currency Manipulation

Some countries go to great lengths to keep their currencies “weak” relative to where currency markets say they should be set. This means goods from these countries cost less than goods from countries with “stronger” currencies. This gives companies making things in these countries a competitive advantage in world markets, and the jobs and factories flow to those countries. It costs these countries money to accomplish this, but they get it back by gaining all those jobs and sales of goods and services.

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Is This Why Romney Won’t Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?

On the campaign trail Romney says we shouldn’t ship jobs to China and should “crack down” on China trade problems. But he refuses to help or even meet with the Sensata workers whose jobs are being shipped to China right now.
Why the refusal to line up his actions with his promises? A must-read, must-read, must-read news report explains how part of Romney’s $400,000/week income comes from … get this … shipping jobs to China!
First, the background…

Sensata – Happening Today

Mitt Romney started the “private equity” firm Bain Capital. Bain purchases companies using “leveraged buyouts” that borrow huge sums using the purchased company’s own assets as collateral, uses the borrowed money to immediately pay itself, then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed, along with standard big-business practices like consolidating business units, taking advantage of economies of scale not available to smaller competitors, squeezing distribution channels for price cuts, and other practices that bring competitive advantages. (See So DID Mitt Romney Really “Create Jobs” At Staples?) After reorganizing the purchased companies Bain then “harvests” them for profit.
One company Bain Capital purchased is Sensata, a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain. Sensata then announced it is closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China. (China is engaged in efforts to dominate American auto supplies. See China Cheating Costs 400K Auto Parts Jobs and Why The Latest Trade Complaint Against China Matters.)
Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.
The Sensata employees heard Romney on the campaign trail, and somehow got the idea that he opposes sending our jobs to China. So they asked him to come to Freeport/Bainport and help them. Read on to learn about Romney’s response to the Sensata workers, and how Romney is actually making big money right now from shipping their jobs to China.

“The week before they came they took the American flag down outside the plant. The week after they left they put it back up.”

The China Problem – The Public Gets It

During the George W. Bush administration we lost more than 50,000 factories and at least 6 million manufacturing jobs directly to China. (Never mind the effect on the supply chains, the grocery and clothing stores where those people shopped, etc… The foreclosures, the bankruptcies, the misery…) Thanks, George!
This chart from Think Progress shows what happened to our manufacturing base immediately after Bush took office. Seriously, look at this chart and see if you can just guess why we have such a terrible economy today:

The public gets it – the problem is China. Polls show that the public overwhelmingly – by percentages in the 80s and 90s for Democrats and Republicans alike – understands that a huge part of our economic troubles come from the was we have been shipping jobs, factories and industries to China.
ABC News, from July: ‘Made In America’ Policies Hugely Popular, Survey Shows

Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans and Independents and 91 percent of Democrats said they support “Buy America” preferences, according to the survey, which was conducted by the Democratic-leaning Mellman Group.

Another poll,

When it comes to trade with China, the poll found that voters emphatically support tough action on Beijing’s cheating on currency and other trade obligations.

Another, from a key state: New Zogby Poll: Ohio Voters Favor Boycott of China Over Unfair Trade.

Romney Can Read Polls

One thing the Romney campaign can do is read polls. So Mitt Romney sees the polls and says he wants to do something about China.
The Hill: Romney, campaigning in Ohio, vows to stop China’s ‘cheating’ trade practices
Bloomberg: Romney Ad Says He Will `Stand Up to China’: Video
The Hill: New Romney ad says Obama won’t ‘stand up to China’ on trade, jobs
So, on the campaign trail Romney says he will stand up to China’s cheating, and opposes companies that send jobs and factories to China.

Romney Refuses To Help – Even Talk With – Sensata Workers

Romney wants to be President, and polls show that the public overwhelmingly wants something done about the problem of jobs and factories moving to China, and the resulting was pressure that puts on the rest of us and on our economy. So Romney says he will do something about it.
But Romney’s current actions are opposite his current words. He complains about China currency manipulation, but refuses to ask the Republican House leadership to bring the China currency bill up for a vote, and refuses to ask more than 60 Republican co-sponsors of that bill to sign a “discharge petition” that would force a vote.
And Romney refuses to even meet with Sensata workers. When asked if Romney would help these workers the Romney campaign says Romney will not do it:

“Governor Romney has not worked at Bain Capital for over a decade, but for four years President Obama has been presiding over an economy that is creating too few jobs and sending more jobs overseas. Despite the President being invested in Sensata through his personal pension fund, and the government owning a major Sensata customer in GM, President Obama has not used his powers to help this situation in any way.”— Curt Cashour, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

Why is Romney saying he wants to do something about the trade problem with China, but refusing to actually do anything about the trade problem with China? Here is one possible reason why.

Romney Making Big Money From Bain Sending Sensata Jobs To China

A must-read news report today by Sharon LaFraniere and Mike McIntire in The New York Times explains. As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties (emphasis added, for emphasis),

Mr. Romney also has millions invested in a series of Bain funds that have a controlling stake in Sensata Technologies, a manufacturer of sensors and controls for vehicles, aircraft and electric motors that employs 4,000 workers in China. Since Bain took over the operation in 2006, its investment has quadrupled in value. Bain continues to own $2.6 billion worth of Sensata’s shares.
Two years ago, Sensata bought an operation that made automobile sensors in Freeport, Ill. At the first meeting with the plant’s 170 workers, Sensata managers announced that by the end of 2012 all the equipment and jobs would be relocated, mostly to Jiangsu Province. Workers have staged demonstrations, pleading for Mr. Romney to intervene on their behalf.
Chinese engineers, flown to Freeport for training on the equipment, described their salaries as a pittance compared with Freeport wages. Tom Gaulrapp, who has operated machines at the factory for 33 years, said he fears he will go bankrupt after he loses his job on Nov. 5.
“This goes to show the unbelievable hypocrisy of this man,” he said of Mr. Romney. “He talks about how we need to get tough on China and stop China from taking our jobs, and then he is making money off shipping our jobs there.”

So there you have it. Mitt Romney says he opposes sending jobs to China, and says he will “crack down” on China. But he refuses to do things that he could do right now that would make an actual difference right now. And it turns out that right now he is making big money from Sensata and other companies that are sending people’s jobs to China right now.
Laying off American workers – usually shipping the jobs to China – and pocketing their wages for themselves is the story of the rise of the wealth of the 1%, and the decline of the American middle class. It is the Romney/Bain/Sensata business model. And the remaining workers have to do the jobs of the laid-off workers, often for lower pay, and are threatened with losing their jobs, too, if they don’t like it.
Please read the entire New York Times report, As Romney Repeats Trade Message, Bain Maintains China Ties. There is much more there about Romney, China, Bain and the huge gap between what Romney says on the campaign trail, and how Romney made his current $400,000/week income and how Bain Capital still makes its money.
Visit the Bainport blog for pictures and details about the Sensata workers who are trying to stop the Bain trucks from shipping the equipment from the factory to China.
More on Sensata:
You Should Know About Sensata – It’s What The Election Is About
Election Or Not, What Happens To Sensata-Style Workers?
Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport – This Is An IMPORTANT Story
Breaking – Arrests At Sensata “Bainport” Camp
Also, see:
Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story,
Romney, Jobs And China – Let’s Connect Dots
Rights Report Describes Romney-Owned “Brutal Chinese Sweatshop”
Romney, Republicans Again Side With China Over US Companies
Ohio And China – One Side Promises While The Other Delivers
Update: Here is a Democracy Now! report:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Job Fear From Trade Deficit Is What Happened To Jobs And The Middle Class

The middle class is disappearing. Our economy is “hollowing out” because the money goes to the top and the people fall to the bottom. This is because we allow American companies to close factories here and open them there, shipping the same goods back here to sell in the same stores, costing jobs, companies, industries and our economy. This makes us afraid for our own jobs and afraid to make waves. By helping a few at the top get fabulously rich, China has essentially recruited our own businesses leaders to fight against our own government – and us.

Yesterday’s Jobs Emergency Hollowing Out The Middle Class examined the reasons that our economy has shifted in ways that enrich a few at the top while the rest of us fall further and further behind. This is called “hollowing out” because the middle class is disappearing while the money goes to the top and the people fall to the bottom. In it I quoted Dean Baker on the real cause of the hollowing out. I want to repeat this part of the post for emphasis. Baker writes that last decade’s manufacturing job loss is because of the trade deficit. From the post:

Dean Baker responds, in Income Is Definitely Being Redistributed Upward, but Why Do We Think It’s Technology? at the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Beat the Press, (emphasis added to emphasize):

…the piece refers to the millions of manufacturing jobs that the United States lost over the last decade. The biggest factor behind the job loss was not technology; productivity growth in manufacturing was not markedly faster in the 2000s than in prior decades. The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit.

The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. However, the availability of low-cost imports raises the living standards of those who are protected from international competition.

The latter group would include highly paid professionals, like doctors and lawyers. Note that it is not technology that protects these professionals from seeing their wages depressed by competition from their low-paid counterparts in the developing world, it is deliberate policy. While it has been the explicit goal of trade policy to put manufacturing workers in direct competition with workers in the developing world, the barriers that make it difficult for qualified doctors, dentists, and lawyers in the developing world to work in the United States have been left in place or strengthened.

Once again, for even more emphasis: “The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit. The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. … it is deliberate policy.”

And for more emphasis: “The main factor leading to job loss was the growing U.S. trade deficit. The predicted result of an over-valued dollar is the loss of jobs and lower wages in the sectors of the economy that are exposed to international competition. … it is deliberate policy.”

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Trade Deficit – One Root Of Many Problems

You buy things till your wallet is empty. So you raid the savings account to buy more stuff. Then you get a loan, and buy more stuff. Another loan, another, you keep buying stuff… Finally you’re selling off the tools you had used to make a living. That’s where the country is now because of the huge imbalance in our trade relationships. We buy more from them than they buy from us and we have let this go on and on and on. This is the deficit we should be worried about.

The Root

Pick a national problem, and the odds are that our trade imbalance is aggravating it. Our trade deficits literally suck money out of the country. When looking up the numbers I had to double check, our annual trade deficits are so huge. In the chart below that first line under the dates represents $100 billion. Look at what happened in the late 90s, when we opened the China flodgates. (Click to enlarge):

In the 70′s the trade balance dipped below zero because of oil, and the country responded with conservation and the beginning of the search for alternatives — until Reagan. To make matters worse, Reagan preached “free trade” — as in use cheap foreign labor to break American unions. (But Reagan also enforced rules against “dumping” and other trade violations.) The real break in our balance of trade clearly begins around the time that NAFTA and the World Trade Organization went into effect, and then went absolutely nuts after China was brought in. Between 2001 and 2009 we lost 1/3 of all of our manufacturing jobs, more than 50,000 factories, and entire industries. We drained trillions of dollars out of our economy.

Causes

Energy. The trade imbalance started with OPEC and the oil price shocks in 1970s, and oil imports since then. This is a huge problem but the beneficiaries of this trade imbalance fight to keep things the way they are. (By the way, next time you hear someone of FOX running down our country’s green energy efforts, knocking the Chevy Volt or denying climate change, think abougt this: Fox’s second-largest shareholder is a billionaire Saudi oil prince. Also, FYI, Koch brothers == oil.)
“Asymmetries.” One-sided trade relationships are now draining money from our country at a dramatic rate. We are much more open to imports than many of our “trading partners” are. We buy from them, they don’t buy from us — and we just let this continue year after year.
“Strong” dollar policies, combined with currency manipulation by others. A strong dollar is great for Wall Street, but is terrible for manufacturers and producers. When the dollar is “strong” it means that goods made here cost more than goods made elsewhere. The dollar went way up in the early 1980s because of the borrowing following the Reagan tax cuts for the rich and the trade deficit went up along with it. Dollars had to be purchased to buy our bonds, creating a “demand” for them, which increased their “price,” contributing significantly to the then-record U.S. trade deficits. Meanwhile, we let countries like China manipulate their currencies to make them “weak,” which means goods made there cost must less in world markets.
Trade cheating. Many countries violate trade rules (like manipulating currency), which brings them a competitive advantage in world markets. We don’t call them on it for various reasons, largely because powerful interest groups benefit from the cheating. When goods from elsewhere cost less than they should it undermines our own manufacturers and producers, but the lower prices enrich distributors, retailers, and others.

The Trap

Here is the trap of our one-sided trade agreements: these “free-trade” agreements increase exports. The reason this is a trap and a problem is that they increase imports more. So, on the one hand the agreements create and enrich interest groups that push for continuation and expansion of the agreements, while on the other hand they increase trade deficits, which drain our economy.
Example: We opened up trade with China. China lets their imports grow, so we have some appearance of increasing sales to China, but they keep barriers while manipulating currency and subsidizing their companies, and their exports to us grow faster than their imports from us, which increases the imbalance. They can steadily reduce their import barriers and let their currency rise slowly, giving the appearance of moving toward open trade and providing what appear to be incentives to keep the relationship going, but by also increasing their exports they continue to drain us.

The Answer: Balance

We must balance our country’s trade. Of course, to do that we must understand ourselves as a country again. Our competitors certainly do.

We’re A Country. Deal With It.
Here’s the important thing to understand, even if you think the idea of “countries” is out of date, and don’t think of the United States as a country is important anymore: Others see themselves as countries and they organize their countries to win as countries. And you don’t live in those countries. They see us – this geographic region we live in — as a country, even if we do not, and they plan their efforts accordingly. They attack us as a country and you happen to live in the geographic region called a country that they are attacking. So as they seize the jobs and factories and industries from our country all of us who happen to live within the geographic borders that we refuse to call a country lose out economically, whether we believe we are part of this country or not. This means we have to respond as a country regardless of whether our ideology says we shouldn’t. We are under economic attack as a country, so national government still matters as the only force capable of organizing a national response.

Our government must say that the amount coming in must match the amount going out. Period.
(Note, The Causes of the U.S. Trade Deficit, Robert A. Blecker, Ph.D., August 19, 1999 is a good read.)
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Democracy Improves Lives In China – And Here, Too

Democracy properly applied brings widespread prosperity because when people have a say what they say is give everyone good wages, benefits and a share of the pie. They say reinvest some of the profits in infrastructure and education to keep the good times rolling. Last but not least they demand equal enforcement of the rule of law. Undercut those things and what you get is … well, you get what we see happening all around us today…

Democracy Improves Lives

Here is a surprise that isn’t a surprise in the WSJ today: Democracy Improves Lives of People in China,

A little bit of democracy has gone a long way to improving people’s lives in China.
Such is the conclusion arrived at by four economists who recently published the results of an investigation into the economic effects of China’s village elections.
Studying elections from 1982 through 2005, the quartet found villages that elected their leaders spent 27% more, on average, on “public goods” such as schools, tree plantings and irrigation canals than villages that didn’t hold elections. Elected officials also helped vastly reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Why the gains? Largely because elected leaders pay attention to their constituents as a way to assure their re-election. “The increase in leader incentives is an important driver” of change, write Monica Martinez-Bravo of Johns Hopkins University, Gerard Padro i Miquel of the London School of Economics, Nancy Qian of Yale University and Yang Yao of Peking University, in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. [emphasis added, in order to add emphasis]

Prosperity Is Fruit Of Democracy

This is not a surprise. When people have a say, they say they want better. And when We, the People are were in charge, we got it. Because Americans had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

Unions Enforce Democracy

Before unions came along to enforce the idea of democracy we didn’t get the share of the prosperity that democracy promised, after unions we did. Before unions we had 12 (or more)-hour workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we certainly didn’t get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Before unions a wealthy few were able use their wealth to pay off influence legislators and keep the rules bent in their favor. Unions organized and forced changes that brought a larger share of the pie to We, the People.
Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? It was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea. People organized together and demanded that We, the People get a share of the pie, and the results grew the pie. Unions are why we have had a middle class.

Our Prosperity Made Us A Big Market

That prosperity meant that we had a very big market that the rest of the world wanted to sell to. This market power gave us leverage. We protected that market by refusing to let in goods made by exploited workers without applying a tariff. This tariff kept the price of imported goods from undercutting the prices of goods made here by people who have a say, and said they were going to get a share of the pie. The tariffs helped pay for good schools and good infrastructure that gave our companies a competitive advantage in the world, even where people were paid less.

“Free” Trade Undermines Democracy

But for decades the democracy experiment has run the other way. Our “free” trade agreements have undercut our democracy. We allowed goods made by exploited workers to come in and undercut the good wages that we were receiving because we had a say. The exploited workers elsewhere were used as a hammer over our heads: “Accept lower wages and cuts in benefits or we will move your job out of the country.” From Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions Vs. Servitude,

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.
Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

And the result was that our share of the pie got smaller and smaller. The concentrated wealth has been used to undermine our democracy, and we are in a downward spiral — a “race to the bottom.”

Decades Of “Free” Trade Has Made Us Poor

Corporate conservatives like Speaker Boehner like to say “We’re broke“:

House Speaker John Boehner isn’t going to step in to stop proposed cuts for a low-income heating program.
Asked specifically about why now is time to be cutting LIHEAP and other key programs to help poorer Americans, the Ohio Republican said, “Everything is on the table. We’re broke. Let’s be honest with ourselves.”

If, as they claim, “we’re broke,” then how did we get that way? By undercutting our democracy with “free trade” agreements, that led to terrible trade deficits. The Trade Deficit Keeps Draining Money From Our Economy,

Another month and another terrible trade deficit report. Why is it that DC elites who profess to care so much about deficits say so little about our worst deficit? The trade deficit drains money from our economy, lowers our wages and forces us into an ever-lower standard of living.
…Here is the formula since Reagan:
1) We open our borders to imported goods made in places where people don’t have a say, so they don’t have good wages or environmental protections. We send our factories over there and import “cheap goods” into the country.
2) This sends dollars over there, and they don’t buy back from us (that would be actual trade), so they accumulate the dollars as they drain our economy.
3) Then we borrow those dollars back to fund the tax cuts for the rich. Our rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer, while they gain more and more power over us. The tax cuts force us to cut back and cut back on schools and infrastructure and other things that make us competitive
4) Meanwhile the imports from over there are used to break the unions and drive wages and benefits down over here.
5) Bob’s your uncle, here we are where we are today.

The economic result of decades of these trade agreements demonstrates that when we let in products made where people don’t have a say it undercuts our own economy. We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don’t have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, “take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too.” We allowed the 1%ers to make the benefits of democracy into a competitive disadvantage! From Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both,

How often do you come across arguments that “globalization” and “free trade” mean that America’s workers have to accept that the days of good-paying jobs and US-based manufacturing are over? We hear that countries like China are more “competitive.” We hear that “trade” means that because it’s cheaper to make things over there we all benefit from lower-cost goods that we import.
How often do you hear that we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay? They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes.
What they are saying is that we need to shed our democracy, to be more competitive.

The 1%ers Say Jobs Solution Is Be “Business-Friendly”

With our wages and benefits cut out from under us and our working hours lengthened the corporate conservatives demand more, saying we need to be more “business-friendly” to compete with countries like China. They oppose the minimum wage. They oppose pensions. The oppose health care benefits. They oppose unions. They say we have to cut taxes on the rich and corporations or they will leave, taking their jobs elsewhere. “Business friendly” means giving the 1%ers everything they want.
In fact, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”. So was the South, before the Civil War.
But it remains a fact, where democracy flourishes prosperity follows. Where democracy is weak, so is the economy for regular people. And when regular people are not doing well there isn’t much of a “market.” Democracy is the only economics that works.
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Apple/Foxconn Promises — We’ll See

The “independent” audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing supply chain is out, and it is not good. Workers are being exploited in ways that violate human rights standards and laws, and letting them get away with this is costing us our own jobs. Apple’s suppliers promise to improve conditions, make workplaces safer, stop forcing such long hours and lift wages. Foxconn even says they’ll start obeying Chinese law — but not until next year! If this really does happen can China keep its competitive advantage?
“Free Trade”
By opening up so-called “free trade” we made democracy a competitive disadvantage. We just let in goods made in places where people have no say, and as a result there is no environmental protection, little worker protection, terrible working conditions, very low wages and terrible exploitation of people. So of course that undercuts goods made where people have a say, and therefore demand better. We made We, the People having a say (democracy) into a competitive disadvantage! Because we make this mistake we lost millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories, and entire industries. We devastated out not just towns and cities, but entire regions. (See Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both.)
Free People Won’t Tolerate That
A recent groundbreaking New York Times story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, exposed how workers are treated by Apple’s suppliers. Summary: Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because factories in China have people living in crowded dorm rooms where they can be rousted in the middle of the night and made to work 12-14 hour shifts, 7 days a week, standing the whole time, for very little pay, using toxic chemicals, and all kinds of other violations of human rights. Corporations can’t get “performance” and “efficiency” and “productivity” — profits — like that out of free people who have a say, so they move their operations over there and lay off workers and close factories over here. (Important note: it’s not just Apple, Apple is the biggest so the company name is really shorthand for the real culprits: namely, all of them.)
The FLA Report
This NY Times story had quite an impact. Apple was worried that people’s knowledge of their exploitation of workers in China might affect profits. So Apple responded by hiring the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a “labor monitoring group” that has no actual organized labor organization participation, to conduct an audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese suppliers. The report found numerous violations of labor standards and even Chinese law. For example, the report found “numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row.” In addition, the report “also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.”
TPM: Apple Supplier Foxconn Violated Workers Rights, Audit Finds,

The 60-plus hour work week found at the factories is above both China’s official legal maximum, 49 hours, and the maximum standard allowable by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the organization that Apple paid to conduct what it said would be an independent audit.
… The FLA inspection also revealed that “more than 43 percent of the workers report that they have experienced or witnessed an accident,” and “a considerable number of workers felt generally insecure regarding their health and safety,” especially pertaining to aluminum dust, which caused an explosion at a factory in the city of Chengdu in 2011 that killed four workers and injured 77, as the New York Times reported.

Apple’s Own Published Standards Violated Chinese Law!
Chinese law limits weekly work time to 49 hours but “industry code” and Apple’s standards limits weekly hours to 60. That Apple’s (and other companies) own published standards violate even Chinese law demonstrates they were aware they were ignoring the law and using what they could get out of the workers. It demonstrates that these companies are knowingly engaged in illegal exploitation of workers, for profit. It also demonstrates that the Chinese government has been ignoring its own laws.
HuffPo: Foxconn Apple Factories Violated Chinese Labor Laws, According To Fair Labor Association

The Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours.
That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, the CEO of the FLA, said Hon Hai is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.
Apple’s and FLA’s own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

Promises
In a PR attempt to soften the impact of the FLA report, Apple’s suppliers made promises to improve.
NY Times, Electronic Giant Vowing Reforms in China Plants,

Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. The move could improve working conditions across China.

And, get this, they promise to start obeying the law — by July of next year,

Foxconn’s promises include a commitment that by July of next year, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week — the limit set by Chinese law.

WaPo: Pledge by Apple’s iPhone manufacturer in China could set off new round of wage hikes,

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., promised to limit hours while keeping total pay the same, effectively paying more per hour. Foxconn is one of China’s biggest employers, with 1.2 million workers who also assemble products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

From the HuffPo story,

“The report will include new promises by Apple that stand to be just as empty as the ones made over the past 5 years,” said SumOfUS.org, a coalition of trade unions and consumer groups, ahead of the release of the report.

And from the TPM story,

“For months now, SumOfUs.org members have been calling on Apple to clean up the working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce the next iPhone be the first ethical iPhone,” the spokesperson told TPM, “That hasn’t changed at all. Our campaign is going to continue until real workers see real improvements — and so far Apple has been all talk and no action.”

We’ll See
This is one of those “believe it when we see it” situations. Phrases like “lip service” come to mind. We’ll see. Apple’s supplier promises to start obeying the lay — by July of next year! Wow.
But here is a question: where is our government on this? American companies are breaking laws overseas, exploiting workers and violating human rights standards. They are hoarding the resulting cash offshore to avoid paying their taxes, when we have a national deficit. These actions by these companies are wiping out our jobs and communities. Where is our government on this?
Click here to see the Fair Labor Association report.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both

Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
Is This “Trade?”
“Trade” means to exchange, to buy and sell, you buy from me and I buy from you. I have something you want and you have something I want, and we exchange. We both end up better off than where we started.
Is it “trade” to close a factory here and move it to a country where people don’t have a say? It is “trade” to just move all of the machines from a factory here to a factory there, send the same parts and raw materials over there, and then bring bring back whatever it was the factory used to make and sell it in the same places here? Is that really “trade?” Or would another word be more appropriate?
When People Have A Say
When people have a say we insist on good wages, benefits, safe working conditions, and a clean environment. We even go so far as to say we want good public schools, parks and opportunities for our smaller businesses. When We, the People have a say we get so uppity and ask for the most outrageous things!
Efficiency vs. Humanity
Yes, countries where people do not have a say are more “efficient” and “business friendly.” Countries where people do not have a say can make things at a much lower cost than workers where people have rights. But when we let exploitation of human beings be a competitive advantage it undermines our own democracy. It means that democracy is a competitive disadvantage in world markets.
We Can’t “Compete” With This, We Have To Fight It
Let’s get right to the core of this. Suppose the South actually did rise again, and they reimposed all-out slavery. Would it be “trade” to close factories here and move them south, so the companies would have lower costs?
When we allow companies to just import stuff that is made by exploited workers in countries where people do not have a say, we are granting not-having-a-say an advantage over having a say. We make democracy a competitive disadvantage.
This Is About Preserving Democracy, Not About “Trade”
How often do you come across arguments that “globalization” and “free trade” mean that America’s workers have to accept that the days of good-paying jobs and US-based manufacturing are over? We hear that countries like China are more “competitive.” We hear that “trade” means that because it’s cheaper to make things over there we all benefit from lower-cost goods that we import.
How often do you hear that we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay? They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes.
What they are saying is that we need to shed our democracy, to be more competitive.
P.S. Tell Congress and the White House to Stop China’s Illegal and Unfair Trade Practices
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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We, The People Have To Say, “No You Can’t Do That”

In Will We Choose A Chinese Future, David Sirota asks the core question: “Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?” THIS is the choice that the “job creators” are demanding that we make when they say we need to be more “business friendly.” THIS is what they are asking us to do to ourselves when they say that less government, less regulation, lower taxes, anti-union “right-to-work” laws, and the rest of the corporate-conservative litany is what will restore the economy and “create jobs.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
It’s Not Low Wages, It’s Low Democracy
The reason so many factories have moved to China is not just price, it is because they do things a democracy cannot allow. Steve Jobs famously said, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because over there they make people live in dormatories at the factory and can roust them at midnight and make them work 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, using toxic chemicals. Richard Eslow lays it out in, Hell Is Cheaper: China, Apple, And The Economics Of Horror,

Companies like Apple don’t outsource to China because the workforce is better-educated or more highly motivated. They don’t even outsource just because the labor is cheaper there. They outsource because employers who defraud their workers can make products more cheaply, and those who ignore their safety can produce them more quickly. [...] It’s possible that Steve Jobs and other outsourcing executives really think that “those jobs aren’t coming back” because they expect it will always be impossible to underbid the Chinese – because they don’t believe Chinese workers will ever be protected by law.
That’s the inexorable logic of the unrestrained and unregulated market. If things don’t change, there will be no stopping the outflow of employment from the safe and the stable to the cheated, the endangered, and the abused. Bad ethics drives out good ethics.

Jobs is saying that those jobs and companies and factories are not coming back because over there the workers can be forced to do those things, because they don’t have a say. They don’t have We, the People democracy like we do, so they can’t do anything about it. And our trade agreements allow our companies to close our factories here and force our workers to compete with that.
We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People — the 99% — are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” We have to say it to the companies that move jobs to China, where people have no say and are exploited. And we have to say that goods made by people with no say cannot be brought into our country without a strong tariff. We should use the funds brought in by that tariff to subsidize goods made here so they can compete in world markets. Otherwise we are making democracy into a competitive disadvantage. And if countries like China don’t like it, they can give their people a say, pay them decent wages, and protect their environment. That would be a race to the top instead of the current race to the bottom.
The Climate Change Denial Industry
Oil and coal companies are funding a “denial industry” to keep us from doing what needs to be done to rescue the planet’s climate. They make billions upon billions from pumping carbon into the air, and block efforts to cut back their polluting. Modeled after the tobacco denial industry and its “doubt is our product” strategy, they fight efforts to move us to green energy sources. They even direct their propaganda to attack electric cars and high-speed rail.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
The Too-Big Banks
It’s the same story with the biggest banks. They pushed debt on us. They used their power to gut regulations and then took huge risks that crashed the economy. They demanded taxpayer money to rescue them without even cutting back the huge salaries and bonuses. And then they funded propaganda that blamed us, the poor, the government, public employees, unions — anyone but themselves. And they used their vast power and wealth to block investigations and accountability, forcing “settlements” that make their shareholders and their employees and their customers pay.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
Other Examples
There are many, many other examples of wealthy, powerful interests – “the 1%” – using their wealth and power to make us do things that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And as this continues life for “the 99%” gets harder and bleaker and we fall further and further behind.
In all of these example We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
That’s What Government Is
Government is We, the People banding together to watch out for and take care of each other. Government is We, the People saying to the wealthy and powerful, “No, you can’t do that.”
When the1%ers demand “less government” they are using their power and propaganda to force us into a position where we are less able to say to them, “No, you can’t do that.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” Until we do, they will do that, and that, and that.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?

I want to send a warning to working people in Europe: when you let your businesses save money by mistreating workers in other countries, it might teach them to think they can save money by mistreating you, too. Over here in the US we have learned this the hard way. We entered into “free trade” agreements that enabled our businesses to take advantage of exploited labor in countries like China, and the plutocrats used that as a wedge against us here to drive down our wages, get rid of our benefits and break our unions. Now your own business leaders are taking advantage of eroded labor rights here, and if you let them get away with this they will want to bring these working conditions back to you.
Recently in the post Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude I described how American companies use China as a wedge to drive down wages and labor rights here,

The threat is in the air: “Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China.”
… Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won’t have any job at all. They are given no choice.
Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.
The unions are weakened, the government doesn’t enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

In countries like Germany workers are still paid fairly well and have benefits and rights. Here our pay, benefits and labor rights have eroded terribly. This is the result of American companies using exploited labor in countries like China as a wedge to force concessions at home. Can the same chain of events attack wages, benefits and unions in Europe? Last May, Harold Meyerson’s LA Times op-ed, The U.S.: Where Europe comes to slum, described how European companies come here and behave like American companies,

… slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe’s leading companies, and they often do things here they would never think of doing at home. These companies — not banks, primarily, but such gold-plated European manufacturers as BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Siemens, and retailers such as IKEA — increasingly come to America (the South particularly) because labor is cheap and workers have no rights. In their eyes, we’re becoming the new China. Our labor costs may be a little higher, but we offer stronger intellectual property protections and far fewer strikes than our unruly Chinese comrades.
… The auto companies of Europe and Japan have opened factories in the nonunion South over the last couple of decades. Not one of them has agreed to refrain from waging a union-busting campaign should their workers wish to organize. Their stance could not be more different from their attitude toward workers and unions in their home countries.

Meyerson describes the kinds of anti-union, anti-worker things these companies are learning how to do,

As a report released by Human Rights Watch late last year documents, companies that routinely welcome unions, pay middle-class wages and have workers’ representatives on their corporate boards in Germany and Scandinavia have threatened their U.S.-based employees with permanent replacement by other workers as the penalty for protesting wage cuts (that was the German manufacturer Robert Bosch), ordered workers to report on fellow workers’ pro-union activities (that was T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom) and disciplined workers who couldn’t show up for unscheduled weekend shifts announced on Friday night (that was IKEA, according to an L.A. Times story).

T-Mobile’s Anti-Union Efforts
Here is an example. Germany’s Deutsche Telkom is trying to turn their wholly-owned subsidiary US company T-Mobile into a low-wage, low-benefit, union-free dumping ground. Is this an effort to ultimately bring these tactics back home to break Germany’s unions?
This is how T-Mobile is operating now: In May T-Mobile workers in upstate New York filed a petition for a union election. Over the next three months management used anti-union “isolate and pressure” tactics to erode support. Instead of letting the workers decide for themselves if they wanted a union, they contested the effort and brought in a “union avoidance” specialist firm.
The company used excuses to delay the election, and launched a propaganda campaign, making the workers hear a constant barrage of reasons to suspect union motives, suspect the benefits the union promised, and other reasons not to vote for a union. They were repeatedly required to leave their job to attend meetings and conference calls, on company time, where they were lectured, given misinformation, told they would lose benefits they current had, that unions would make them pay $5,000 in dues every year, told again and again that the union was lying, that union organizers were only telling them things to get bonuses, told they must not ever talk to each other about the union on company time and that if they voted for a union the company would have to eliminate their jobs and contract out the work instead. After enough of this the workers withdrew the election petition.
The Sheer Weight Of This Wears You Down
When regular people who are just doing their jobs, who work hard and get up in the morning and go home tired and don’t make a lot have to face constant tactics of daily pressure by management, constantly being told that unions are evil and “unions bosses’ and “union thugs” are trying to trick them, and they are put under tactics that isolate them from being able to discuss what is true or not, finally the sheer weight of all of it together can be too much.
Again and again when workers try to form a union they are up against these tactics. Management repeatedly calls meetings where they give professionally-crafted propaganda speeches about all the terrible things that will happen if workers vote for a union. If a worker has the courage to stand up and talk about the good reasons for a union, they are excluded from future meetings and isolated from the other workers. (This is when a company stays legal and doesn’t just fire people who favor a union – not an uncommon tactic and it takes years for the company to be penalized for illegal firings, if it ever is.) In these situations management completely controls the message and keeps workers from hearing the other side.
Typical Here, Outrageous There
This all sounds normal to American workers, because this is what American companies do. This is what workers regularly face when they try to organize to make their workplace better and safer and get things like sick pay, decent wages and some benefits. We have sort of become used to this kind of treatment here. In America we have gone from 30% to 7% union membership because companies are allowed to fight unions, and routinely do things like this.
But T-Mobile is wholly owned by a German company. Germany respects workers rights and German workers would be absolutely shocked if they understood that a German company was doing this to workers. They would be shocked to even see a company try to stop a union – why would a good company want to?
Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?
So here is the question for European working people to ask. Will Europe let the US be their China? American companies learned to use China as a weapon against workers here. Will European companies bring American anti-labor practices home as a weapon to break down European worker rights and living standards?
Will European companies learn to use American anti-labor practices against European workers? Or will European workers stop this in time? If you think this sort of thing can’t happen in Europe, just look at what is happening to Greek workers right now.
US workers are threatened with having to do things like China does them in order to compete. Will German workers be threatened and told things have to be like the US? Will they tell that German public that their policies need to be more “Business friendly?”
So this is a warning to European working people. Pay attention to what your companies are doing in the US. You really don’t want them learning to operate the way a lot of US companies operate, or your own wages, benefits and even your jobs could be on the line – like ours are here.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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China Is Very “Business-Friendly”

China is very, very “business-friendly.” Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more “business-friendly,” in order to “compete” with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay — even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be “business-friendly” enough to compete with China, and here is why.
Workers In Dormatories, 12 To A Room, Rousted At Midnight
China is very, very “business friendly.” Recent stories about Apple’s manufacturing contractors have started to reveal just how “business-friendly” China is. Recently the NY Times’ Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher exposed the conditions of workers at Apple’s Chinese suppliers, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. They describe how China’s massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean, as Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. … New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Right. No American plant can roust workers out of nearby dorms at midnight to force them onto a 12-hour shift. And the corporate conservatives criticize America for this, not China, saying we are not “business-friendly” enough to compete. This is because we are a place where We, the People still have at least some say in how things are done. (Don’t we?) Later in the story,

The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

“Business-friendly” = living 12 to a room in dorms, rousted out of bed at midnight for 12-hour shifts, working in a plant paid for by the government, using a neurotoxin cleaner that harms people but enables more production for companies like Apple.
Forced Labor Is The Real “Business-Friendly”
Arun Gupta at AlterNet, in iEmpire: Apple’s Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think, writes,

Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months’-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.
… Foxconn and Apple depend on tax breaks, repression of labor, subsidies and Chinese government aid, including housing, infrastructure, transportation and recruitment, to fatten their corporate treasuries. As the students function as seasonal employees to meet increased demand for new product rollouts, Apple is directly dependent on forced labor.
… The use of hundreds of thousands of students is one way in which China’s state regulates labor in the interests of Foxconn and Apple. Other measures include banning independent unions and enforcing a household registration system that denies migrants social services and many political rights once they leave their home region, ensuring they can be easily exploited. In Shenzhen about 85 percent of the 14 million residents are migrants. Migrants work on average 286 hours a month and earn less than 60 percent of what urban workers make. Half of migrants are owed back wages and only one in 10 has health insurance. They are socially marginalized, live in extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, perform the most dangerous and deadly jobs, and are more vulnerable to crime.

Please read the entire AlterNet piece, iEmpire: Apple’s Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think. These things are not “costs” that we can compete with by lowering our wages, these things are something else.
Not JUST Low Taxes — Massive Government Subsidies
These stories also describe how the Chinese government massively subsidizes these operations, assists their low-wage labor-recruitment schemes, and looks the other way at violations of labor and trade policies. The Chinese government is very “business-friendly.” They hand money to businesses so they are much more able to “compete.” They are so friendly to business that they even own many businesses.
Trade Secret Theft
Another area where China has very “business-friendly” policies is when their own businesses steal from non-Chinese businesses. This NY Times story, U.S. to Share Cautionary Tale of Trade Secret Theft With Chinese Official details just one case of the “unbelievably endemic” problem of Chinese theft of “intellectual property” — the trade secrets that keep businesses competitive. In this case China’s Sinovel sole the software that ran an American company’s products, and immediately cancelled their orders for those products because they could now make them in China:

Last March, China’s Sinovel, the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer, abruptly refused shipments of American Superconductor’s wind turbine electrical systems and control software. The blow was devastating; Sinovel provided more than 70 percent of the firm’s revenues.
… Last summer, evidence emerged that Sinovel had promised $1.5 million to Dejan Karabasevic, a Serbian employee of American Superconductor in Austria.

If you steal the ideas, processes, techniques, expertise, plans, designs, software and the other things that give companies a competitive edge, then you don’t have to pay them and you can just make the things yourself. When you get in bed with a very “business-friendly” country, you might find that they are more friendly to their own businesses. Because they consider themselves to be a country with a national strategy, not a self-balancing, self-regulating “market.”
Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy
As a result of our ideological blindness, refusing to understand China’s game, we have a massive trade deficit with them. This means hundreds of billions of dollars are drained from our economy, year after year. And to make up for this we borrow from them in order to keep buying from them. But this does not cause their currency to strengthen in the “markets” because China loves this game the way it is going, and intervenes against the markets to keep their currency low. And so it continues, year after year. We believe in “markets” they believe in rigging markets so they come out ahead…
Markets Can’t “Compete” With This
Corporate conservatives tell us we need to be more “business-friendly” to “compete” with China. But at the same time Steve Jobs was being a realist when he said “the jobs are never coming back” because he understood that the current political climate, controlled by a wealthy few who benefit from China’s “business-friendly” policies will not let us fight this. Why should these companies bring jobs back here, when over there they can roust thousands from dorms at midnight and make them use toxic chemicals for 12 hours a day for very low pay to make iPhone screens that he can sell at fantastically high prices? Why should they, unless We, the People tell them they can’t do that to people, and that we won’t let them profit from it?
As long as we continue to think that this is about “markets” competing, we will lose. China sees itself as a nation, and they have a national strategy to continue to be so “business-friendly” that our businesses can’t compete. Our leaders and corporations may have “moved on” past this quaint nation thing but China has not.
We, The People Need To Act To Fix This
As long as we continue to send our companies out there alone against national economic strategies that engage entire national systems utilizing the resources of nations, our companies will lose. But the executives at those companies are currently getting very rich now from these schemes, so what happens in the future is not their problem. Maybe the companies they manage won’t be around later, but that is not their problem. Others are concerned, but are forced to play the game because no one can compete with national systems like China’s.
When everyone is in a position where something isn’t their problem, or where they can’t do anything about it on their own, it means this is a larger problem, and this is where government — We, the People — needs to get involved. It is our problem but we have been convinced that we — government — shouldn’t interfere, or “protect” our industries, because “the markets” don’t like “government” — We, the People — butting in. This is a very convenient viewpoint for few who are geting very, very wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.
We Need A Plan
In U.S. must end China’s rulers’ free pass at Politico, AAM’s Scott Paul writes, Read it, read it, read it!)

We shouldn’t fear China’s citizens. But we should be worried about the actions of its authoritarian — and, yes, still communist — regime that tightly controls the People’s Republic. And we should be downright terrified by some of our own leaders’ attitudes toward China.
… China is not merely the key U.S. supplier of cheap toys, clothing and electronics: Its government is also one of our foreign financiers. China achieved this status by defying the free market and its international obligations toward more open trade and investment.
[. . .] History didn’t do in the Soviet Union. A sustained and aggressive strategy did. China engaged our business and political elites — and seduced them into believing these policies were no longer necessary.
… There has been no strategy, no effort to prevail economically.
… No one is suggesting that China is an enemy and we should just update our Cold War strategies. No one can accurately define what China’s intentions are in terms of foreign policy or defense. But on the economic front, the lessons of the past are instructive: We need a plan.

We need a plan. We need to understand that China is not competing with us in “markets’ they are competing with us as a nation. We need a national economic/industrial strategy that understands the urgent need to fight as a country to win the industries of the future.
It’s not just price, it is things a democracy cannot allow. We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People — the 99% — are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.
Democracy Is The Best Economics
When people have a say they demand good wages, benefits, reasonable working conditions, a clean environment, workplace safety and dignity on the job. We need more of that, not less of that. We must demand that goods made in places where people who do not have a say do not have a competitive advantage over goods made in places where people do have a say. And we must demand that those places give their people a say.
As long as we let democracy be a competitive disadvantage, We, the People will lose.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude

Servitude: “a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life”
Democracy: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”
Plutocracy: government by the wealthy
Labor union: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions
You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about how hi-tech products are made in China. The stories focus on Apple, but it isn’t just Apple. These stories of exploited Chinese workers are also the story of how and why we — 99% of us, anyway — are all feeling such a squeeze here, because we are suffering the disappearance of our middle class. Our choice is democracy or servitude.

Working In China

A collection of excerpts from the Charles Duhigg and David Barboza story, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and the Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher story, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work both from the NY Times:
Rousted from dorms at midnight, told to work:

Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

(How close is that to the very definition of servitude?)
Long shifts, legs swollen from standing:

Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.

Write confessions if late:

Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.

Injuries from speed-up toxics:

Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.
Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

American companies forcing Asian suppliers to squeeze workers:

“You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”

The Results For The 1%

A series of recent newspaper headlines tells the story of how China’s working conditions benefit the 1% here.
NYT: Apple’s Profit Soars‎
CBS Moneywatch: Apple shares close at record high
SF Chronicle: Apple CEO’s Stock Awards Lift Compensation to $378 Million
ZDNet: Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore. We don’t even get to tax the profits from moving our jobs to China, to use for schools, roads, police, etc.

The Results For The 99%

Headlines like these show how things are going better and better for the 1%. But what happened to our middle-class prosperity? We allowed companies to move jobs and factories across the borders of democracy to places where workers are exploited, calling that “trade.” This enabled the breaking of unions and the weakening of our democracy.
The threat is in the air: “Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China.” How is that threat used on us? Here is an example: We have heard the stories of Mitt Romney’s company Bain Capital, and how it “earned” its millions. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened when a Bain-owned company “came to town”:

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.
Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.
The unions are weakened, the government doesn’t enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.
This quote by Steve Jobs is from How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

Democracy Brought Us Prosperity

We used to be a democracy, where everyone used to have a say in things. Because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.
China, on the other hand, is not a democracy, and workers in China don’t really have a say. So they don’t make much money, they don’t have good working conditions, the environment isn’t protected, etc.

We Used To Protect Democracy

We used to protect our democracy. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy. This brought us prosperity.
For some reason, we started letting our companies move our factories over there, forcing our workers to compete with workers who have no say. We got tricked, by people who call that “trade,” and said it would be good for us. (Like cutting taxes for the wealthy “job creators” is good for us.)
We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don’t have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, “take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too.” We made the wages and working and conditions and environmental protections prosperity that democracy brings into a cost. We turned ourselves into a cost. We made democracy a competitive disadvantage.

Plutocrats Say Shed Benefits Of Democracy

Plutocrats say we need to shed the benefits of democracy and become more like China if we want to compete. They say get rid of regulations, employee protections, environmental protections, good wages, benefits like pensions and time off, etc… They say that We, the People (government) “get in the way of doing business.” They say the taxes that pay for good infrastructure and schools and police and courts and services like Social Security and care for the disabled and health care for children “take money out of the economy” but they mean these take some of the money that they have been taking from the economy.

Democracy Is The Best Economics

Look at the primary target of the corporate/conservatives: unions. That should tell you something. This is a power confrontation. This is the power of the 1% overcoming the power of the 99%.
Democracy is the power of the 99% to make the decisions, and to build structures that protect us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. This confrontation is the story of the origin of our country — how We, the People confronted the power and corruption of the British aristocracy, overcame that power, and built a country of, by and for the people.
Democracy and the taxes it enabled us to ask from the wealthiest is what enabled us to build the infrastructure and schools and everything that enabled our prosperity. The regulations of democracy are what enable our smaller businesses to compete with the giants. The shared prosperity — redistribution of wealth — is what enabled the middle class to grow, and turned us into the most prosperous country and largest market in the world.

Unions

Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.
It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn’t need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.
It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better. And now, when our demcoracy has been weakened by the money and power of the 1% and their corporations, the rest of us are so much worse off.

Not US v. China

This is not about US workers and markets vs China. Working people in all countries are at risk when their countries trade with countries where workers are exploited. China’s huge trade imbalance is threatening the world’s economy. The loss of manufacturing to countries that exploit workers is threatening workers in many countries.
The US market is still large, and the US can still demand that imported goods be made according to better standards for workers. The rest of the world can also demand that China’s workers be brought up to international standards. And we can certainly hold companies like Apple accountable, and demand that they only buy from suppliers that treat and pay workers according to international standards, because allowing companies to cheat, exploit workers and commit fraud drives the good companies out of business.
This is not about taking jobs back from Chinese workers! This is about demanding they be paid fairly and given a say in their workplaces! This is about not exploiting people there or here!
Trade can be an upward spiral, rather than a lever for exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. If Chinese workers are given a say and paid fairly then they can buy things we make and we can keep buying things they make.
Unions = Democracy = Middle Class = Shared Prosperity
Jon Stewart explains:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Santorum’s Make It In America Plan Shows Republicans Can Read Polls

One after another, the Republican Presidential candidates have come out with strong statements that appear to show support for making things in America and revitalizing American manufacturing. This is because they can read polls and polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want American manufacturing revitalized, are tired of offshoring, understand the importance of fixing trade deficits and want to see things made here again. Donald Trump gained a lot of traction from the appearance of taking on China. Mitt Romney also talks about how we need to take on China. Rick Santorum has his own “Made In America” plan. But do their actual proposals match up with their rhetoric?
Romney
Mitt Romney has strong words about China. For example, last week Romney visited Competitive Edge, an Iowa company that sells promotional campaign items that you can put your own brand or message on. (“We’ve got items for convention give-a-ways, business gifts, direct mail campaign items, fund raising, political campaigns, special events, company promotions, and more!”) At this campaign stop Romney said,

“I’ll clamp down on China that’s been cheating,” Romney said. “They’ve been stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our know-how, our brands, they’ve been hacking into our computers. That has got to stop.”
“I will stop it if I’m President of the United States,” Romney said.

However, in spite of Romney’s words, many wonder if he is only saying this to get votes. For example, the website for Competitive Edge, the site of his Iowa appearance, says, “Competitive Edge is a major importer of Specialty Products from Asia and Europe.” According to TPM, the president of Competitive Edge “said he doesn’t think Romney’s being completely serious when it comes to his tough China talk.” He explained,

“I think the rhetoric of a campaign is different than the actual application,” he said. “[Romney] will sit down and he will get the right people in, he will take the advice of maybe a Huntsman who will say, ‘this is how to handle China.’” … When it comes to actually governing, Greenspon said he expects Romney will take a much softer approach to China at the urging of his supporters in the business community.

So much for Romney. As with so many of his campaign positions, surrogates explain behind the scenes that he is just saying what he needs to say to get votes, what he will do if he is elected might or might be completely different, there is no way to know.
Santorum
Rick “not-Romney” Santorum is now the official #2 in the GOP race. Santorum can also read polls, and is offering a “Made In America” plan. The plan begins the way Santorum always begins, “Rick Santorum believes that to have a strong national economy, we must have strong families.”
Much of Santorum’s plan is the usual Big Lobbyist and Wall Street-backed Republican stuff about cutting taxes on the rich and getting rid of any restraints on the wealthy and powerful as “pro-growth” policies. Items 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 are actually all the same item: cut taxes on the rich and their big corporations.
And then Santorum diversifies. Item 13 is get rid of President Obama’s health care reform, with no explanation of how this will help manufacturing. Item 15 includes, “eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and support adoption” and “eliminate funding for United Nations organizations that undermine America’s interests.” Again, there is no explanation of how these will help manufacturing. These points are apparently included in a manufacturing plan to reassure the Republican base that he is certifiably nuts, to attract Michelle Bachmann voters.
Some of the items appear to be the result of selling advertising space to lobbyists from various industries.

  • The oil industry purchased Item 20: Tap into America’s vast domestic energy resources…
  • The big Telco giants purchased Item 21: Unleash innovation in telecommunications and Internet consumer options by getting government out of the way…
  • Pete Peterson shelled out for Item 22: Reform Social Security and Medicare…
  • The big Wall Street firms that are investing in privatizing education purchased Item 26: Reclaim the role of parents as the decision makers in their children’s education and incentivize the states to promote parental choice…
  • Canadian oil companies that want to sell to China purchased Item 28: Approve the Keystone Pipeline…
  • Wall Street and promoters of “The Big Lie” purchased Item 30: Phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s government backed role in mortgages…

The plan is not all bad. Santorum accidentally comes up with a few things that would actually help American manufacturing. Of course, they are mostly just more about cutting taxes, but these cut specific taxes on manufacturers, which might help bring some manufacturing back. These are:

  • Item 10: Eliminate the corporate income tax for manufacturers – from 35% to 0% – which will spur middle income job creation in the United States and will create a job multiplier effect for workers
  • Item 11: Spur innovation in America by increasing the Research & Development Tax Credit from 14% to 20% and make it permanent

Santorum’s Item 32 is important, and I’m singling it out for attention: Strengthen our national security and national defense so that we are not dependent upon our foes or competitors for critical manufacturing, technology, energy and other security needs
So Santorum’s plan has a few good points but only barely matches the promise of its title. In reality it only offers more of the same policies that boost the 1% at the expense of everything else, even harming smaller manufacturers trying to compete with the multi-national giants. The plan even offers a number of items that have ravaged our manufacturing base, pushing even more disastrous “free-trade” agreements. And, the plan has the added bonus of a series of unrelated proposals apparently included only as filler and the necessary proof of insanity to qualify him in a Republican primary.
President Obama’s Office of Manufacturing Policy
As one component of a set of policy initiatives to improve manufacturing President Obama recently set up a new Office of Manufacturing Policy that will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. The office will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.
Congressional Democrats’ Make In In America Plan
In May Democrats in the Congress brought out a “Make In In America” package of specific legislative proposals to revitalize American manufacturing. In Democrats’ Plan Makes Jobs In America I described the plan:

Congressional Democrats yesterday unveiled the Make It In America plan for the 112th congress. This is a set of specific, detailed, targeted bills that clearly create jobs and restore our economic competitiveness, beginning with a national strategy for manufacturing. This is very different from the vague, sloganeering, lobbyist-written plan offered by Senate Republicans.
Yesterday House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled their Make It In America plan “to support job creation today and in the future by encouraging businesses to make products and innovate in the US and sell it to the world through strengthening our infrastructure and supporting investments in key areas like education and energy innovation.”
This Make It In America initiative involves a series of bills that have been introduced for consideration by the 112th Congress. This initiative will create jobs here, grow the economy and reduce the trade deficit, all of which help reduce our budget deficits. Creating jobs and growing the economy reduces deficits by increasing tax revenues and decreasing spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc.

Click through for details of the plan.
A Warning
There is a warning here for President Obama and all other candidates of either party running for office in 2012: the public wants to see plans to bring back American manufacturing. The public understands what the NAFTA-style trade deals have done to our wages, jobs, factories, industries, trade deficit and economy. They hate Wall Street’s quick-buck outsourcing schemes and the trade deals that enabled them, and want American manufacturing revitalized. Supporting Wall Street and trade deals and the quick-buck, offshoring economy harms the country and for that reason is political suicide
The public wants to go into stores and see “Made In America” again.
Frank Sobatka explains:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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