China Made

If you want to know why America has lost so many jobs, look around your house at all the stuff that is made in China.

I bought an American-brand razor — made in China; an American-brand computer — made in China. Even my Confederate coffee mug, for heaven’s sakes, is made in China.

Of course, Americans know how to make ceramic coffee mugs, appliances, computers and whatever. But what they won’t do is make those things for 59 cents a day and no benefits. The use of what amounts to slave labor in foreign countries accomplishes two goals for the powers that be in this country. One, it increases the profits of the corporations, and two, it disguises the fact that the American dollar has been drastically devalued by years of inflation.

What the powers that be have done is in effect create a hallucinatory drug concocted of cheap imports and ideology to make the American people think that they are more prosperous than they really are. People who are officially classified as “discouraged” are not counted as unemployed, though they are; highly qualified people forced to work part time or in low-paid service jobs are considered employed. But if you added up the “discouraged” and the underemployed, you’d find that the real unemployment rate in America is closer to 9 percent than to the official 5.9 percent, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. And this trend is growing, not shrinking.

When the old ideological arguments between free trade and protectionism originated, the multinational corporation didn’t exist in its present form. Today, a lot of what is called “trade” is actually just intracorporate transfers.

When an American-based corporation closes its American plant and hires Chinese to manufacture its products, those products, when they come into the United States, do not constitute trade in the old sense of that word. They are not Chinese products. They are American products that were simply manufactured overseas. And the purpose of today’s so-called free trade is to make sure that these corporations don’t have to pay tariffs on these foreign-made but American-owned goods.

Therefore, the old arguments about free trade versus protectionism no longer apply, though God knows ideologues never let the facts get in the way of their ideology. We are not, for the most part, trading American-made goods for foreign-owned goods. Many underdeveloped countries like China have few products to export — except cheap labor. Unless the present trend is reversed, America will continue to bleed manufacturing and high-tech jobs to cheap-labor countries. If you think America’s corporate leaders today give a hoot or a damn about the American people or America, think again. Many of these corporations have even changed their names to disguise their American origins. Their loyalty is to the cash flow and their own shamefully high, undeserved cut of it.

Multinational corporations feel as if they are a power unto themselves, and most of their executives feel no loyalty to the country where their headquarters happen to be. At the newspaper where I used to work, we had visits from the CEOs of two major multinational corporations. I tell you the truth — they arrived with a larger entourage and more security than the assistant attorney general of the United States, who drove himself and walked in unaccompanied, like an ordinary human being.

Several good Americans have tried to organize “Buy American” campaigns, but that is increasingly hard to do. I deliberately chose an American-brand computer, only to discover when I unpacked it that it had been made in China.

This is a problem created by the federal government, which at first sacrificed American jobs as part of its Cold War strategy and is now in the tight grip of multinational corporations. It can only be solved by a political revolution — that is, by electing men and women who recognize that free trade and American jobs have become mutually exclusive. The only way to stop the export of American jobs is to tax the heck out of the practice. It’s being done for economic reasons. Congress must apply an economic reason to stop it.
© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.