Adventures in Drywall
Is the Third World Just Around the Corner?
One of the definitions of a third world country is as follows: A technically less advanced country having an economy that depends on exports of primary products in return for finished products. Does this describe present day America? Consider the following:
• Last year, Wal-Mart imported $18 billion worth of goods from China. Of the company's 6,000 suppliers, 80 percent are located in China. Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation and employs 1.4 million people, more than Ford, IBM and GM combined.
• Delphi Corp., after filing for bankruptcy protection, is calling for the elimination of benefits and steep wage cuts for all workers. In October, the company started talks with the UAW seeking wages as low as $9 per hour. Its chairman, Robert "Steve" Miller, acknowledges workers pursued the American dream and have been swept over by "globalization." In addition to wage and benefit cuts, Delphi wants the freedom to "outsource" work.
• A University of California study estimates 14 million U.S. white-collar jobs (one in nine) are at risk of being outsourced.
• Thousands of IT and call center jobs have been moved to India with workers earning only 20 to 30 percent of their U.S. counterparts.
• The U.S. healthcare industry is currently sending X-rays and MRIs to be read by Indian radiologists.
• The I.R.S. plans to process 400,000 tax returns in India in 2005.
The list is endless and everyone has their own opinion on whether outsourcing jobs either benefits the greater good or is destructive to the fabric of our very existence. However, the book "Outsourcing America" quotes a study by the Economic Policy Institute, which states, "From the end of the recession in 2001 to the first quarter of 2004, corporate profits grew 62.2 percent while labor compensation grew only 2.8 percent."
This figure not only troubles this writer but consider the following quote from former Wal-Mart CEO David Glass: "One of my concerns is that with the manufacturing out of this country, one day we'll all be selling hamburgers to each other."
"We're all working together; that's the secret," said Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. "And we'll lower the cost of living for everyone-not just in America-but we'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better lifestyle, a better life for all. We're proud of what we've accomplished; we've just begun."
One has to wonder if Sam Walton is turning over in his grave. I doubt his vision included a nation of burger flippers.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sale price for a single family home this year is north of $200,000. Using the figure of 6 percent interest on a 30-year loan, the payment on a $200,000 home is in excess of $1,100 per month. Even though I didn't go to college and major in economics, I can do simple math. A Wal-Mart associate making $8 an hour or a Delphi worker who may have to accept less than $10 an hour to keep working rather than have his job go south of the border will not be able to afford to make this payment.
Think outside the bunThe construction industry has enjoyed strong growth for a number of years, driven in part by historically low interest rates. However, construction has always been on the leading edge of the economy. Logic suggests this bubble cannot sustain itself. Every one of us has asked a co-worker the following question while sitting on an overturned bucket in a million-dollar home on a postage stamp lot, "Who the heck is buying this?" Logic also dictates: it matters not what the interest rates are if you have no income.
So far, the service industries have been able to grow and prosper. But the following snippet from the thread that got my attention bears note:
"As of now, the service industries are what are supposed to grow. Right now, the Chinese can't take away our construction trades work ... yet. I just hope they don't figure out how."
Indirectly, industries leaving the country will have no factories or offices to build. Didn't the politicians say that China having an economy would somehow help the American economy?
As was stated in the beginning, this was written after reading the heartfelt views expressed by some truly concerned individuals over how these issues affect them in their lives. Our jobs depend on our neighbors being able to build that new house or add on an addition. Businesses in this country must be able to build a new factory or office building to compete. We all must make the decision whether to support our local economies. The question you must ask yourself is this: Is it worth saving a few dollars at the expense of my community?
Remember: It's not all about you ... you have neighbors.
In MemoryI am saddened to have to share the following. My close personal friend (and former AID contributor) Bill Scannell has had to cope with the loss of his beloved stepdaughter Tiare. On August 13, 2005, Tiare Richards died tragically in an automobile accident. Bill and Lisa, along with Robbie and Catie, take comfort in the many joyous memories they have of Tiare. The memories of winters in Londonderry, N.H., playing in the snow with Rob and then-baby Catie. Watching her cheer for the Panthers and Titans in New Hampshire and then competing in the All Star Cheer Squad in Virginia. Lisa will forever have the priceless memory of being able to coach Tiare and her friends when they moved to California. Memories of celebrating her sweet-sixteen in Kona, Hawaii.
Tiare had a smile that would light up an entire room. When I first met her in Londonderry, she was in her pre-teens. At a time when most kids of this age would blow off an older person, Tiare made sure I felt welcome in the Scannell home. I will remember her warmth and caring along with her world class smile forever.
A scholarship fund has been set up in Tiare's memory to benefit a Mountain View High School student. Donations are accepted at the Bank of America, 1210 NE 3rd Street, Bend, Oregon, 97701.