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March 22, 2006

All Good Jobs Going Away? Who Is Our Economy FOR?

-- by Dave Johnson

In Will Your Job Survive? Harold Meyerson writes,

In the new global order, Blinder writes, not just manufacturing jobs but a large number of service jobs will be performed in cheaper climes. Indeed, only hands-on or face-to-face services look safe.

... the grand total of American jobs that could be bound for Bangalore or Bangladesh is somewhere between 42 million and 56 million. That doesn't mean all those jobs are going to be exported. It does mean that the Americans performing them will be in competition with people who will do the same work for a whole lot less.

Meyerson quotes an economist who recommends that people specialize "in the delivery of services where personal presence is either imperative or highly beneficial. Thus, the U.S. workforce of the future will likely have more divorce lawyers and fewer attorneys who write routine contracts."

Here's the problem with "service sector" jobs: they require people with money to service. We won't all be able to service the top few who are winding up with all of the money and property in the country.

Meyerson agrees, writing,

Every other advanced economy -- certainly, those of the Europeans and the Japanese -- has a conscious strategy to keep its most highly skilled jobs at home. We have none; American capitalism, dominated by our financial sector, is uniquely wedded to disaggregating companies, thwarting unionization campaigns and offshoring work in a ceaseless campaign to impress investors that it has found the cheapest labor imaginable.
His proposals (go read them) are much more modest than what I would recommend. I think we need to completely redefine the concept of "ownership."

Who "owns" a corporation? The government - you and me - grant corporations certain protections, including limitations of liability. In other words, stockholders in a company are not liable for the debts of the company. When a company goes bankrupt the shareholders don't have to cough up the money to cover what the company owed. So what is happening here is that for the benefit OF ALL OF US, we allow companies to operate in certain ways. It isn't about letting a few people get really rich while stealing our pensions and cancelling our health insurance. It's supposed to be about ALL OF US ending up better off.

A society shares resources. Does an oil company "own" the oil, or water, or air? Or does society grant them a license to profit from the extraction and development of that commonly-shared resource, FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL OF US?

Companies are granted charters to operate by the community-at-large. Does a drug company have the right to refuse to develop new antibiotics? Shouldn't we instead yank their licence to be a drug company and give that license to a different company that agrees to develop needed drugs? I mean, they were chartered as a corporation to serve the public by developing drugs! And what about vaccine companies that reduce costs by shutting down or otherwise reduce their vaccine-making capacity?

So why are we letting corporations export our jobs in order to enrich a very few people? Why aren't WE sharing in the proceeds? Why is it COSTING us our pensions and health insurance and wages? WHO IS OUR ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY?

This throws a few ideas into the air. Discuss - let's see where they land.

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 22, 2006 1:28 PM

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Comments

From a non-US point of view, it seems like money is moving away from the poorer people and funnelling upwards into the ever-richer people at the top, who own these corporations.

With that motivation, jobs will continue to be outsourced, and America's poor will get poorer because they can't find jobs, and the rich will get richer because they outsourced the labour.

Posted by: SharonC [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 3:44 PM

It's really terrifying, for an awful lot of reasons, not just the loss of jobs and the lack of quality of products. For one thing, aren't we rapidly, via economic suicide, rapidly becoming the new third world country?

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 4:17 PM

I always wondered about these greedy conservatives understanding of human nature. The ultimate result of their policies isn't likely to be them living in a fuedal state where they can rape and pillage at will. The most likely result of the system they're trying to set up will be them hanging from lamp posts. The only thing that stopped it last time was the fact that FDR wasn't a tyrant. What are the odds the guy who runs against durring the economic meltdown of 2036 will be that nice?

Posted by: SoulLight at March 23, 2006 8:35 AM

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