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Monday, January 23, 2006

Exodus of Jobs

Ford announced today that it's closing another slew of factories throughout North America, mostly in the U.S. Does anyone know what exactly Ford is trying to do with this move? The claim is that this "would make the company's North American division profitable" over the next two years. Hidden effects should not be overlooked, however. Rising unemployment directly contributes to rises in crime. When people don't have jobs and their prospects of attaining them in the near future are scarce alternative methods of income generation are entertained. People have to eat.

Blame big business. Either the working class population in the U.S. will give them cheap labor for factories and service-industry positions that will perpetuate their familial and communal poverty or even these meager jobs will be taken away (by shipping jobs overseas or making advances in technology that make human labor expendable) so that people resort to crime and have their labor exploited for far less through the prison industrial complex. To quote Blondie

One way or another I'm gonna find ya,
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha,
One way or another I'm gonna win ya,
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.

This is the song Corporate America sings to the U.S. and, increasingly, world population everyday.


At 3:10 AM, Blogger kyledeb said...

I seriously can't believe that you quoted blondie, chip.

In all seriousness though chip, I respect your ideals unequivocally but I'm going to challenge you to step up on the expression of your viewpoints.

For instance it's very standard anti-establishment to criticize Ford layoffs, but dig deep into that reasoning, and consider the counter-arguments against it.

For instance, an economist would say to you that it is completely ludicrous to employ people for something that is not profitable, as profitability, however crude this equivalency, can roughly be defined as a measure of want and the ability to supply that want in the most efficient means possible (what people want). Although there are a lot of problems with that statement, I don't think that there has been a better system devised to meet the wants of people, which is an incredibly empowering in the pursuit of happiness (I say that entirely independant of need, however). That was a long rant.

If you were to criticize the policies of Ford I think the most effective way to do so would be to analyze other aspects of the deal. Ford is willing ot decide the fates of 30,000 workers, but how much has it rearranged the positions of its top executives. Was the pay of these top executives cut as well in efforts to streamline the company. I think the most dastardly thing about this deal is that it is completely the fault of Ford executives that the company wasn't innovative enough to deal with the changing climate of cars. Ford is doing horribly in China, where GM has come out on top, it still makes horrible gas guzzling cars that no one wants to buy, and who suffers for those decisions. The 30,000 workers. This is a rather crude on the fly analysis, nevertheless it tries to get to the heart of what is wrong with this scenario. Hope all is well Chip

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous sarika bansal said...

I'm sorry, but that Blondie quote was the most unnecessary way to end the post. Ignoring that: I disagree with your attempt to paint Ford as big bad corporate America without first hearing their side of the story. Jobs are usually the last thing any company wants to cut to make themselves more profitable -- usually they look into updating machinery and other similarly non-insidious cost-cutting measures. Or they look into how to increase revenue. I didn't follow the Ford case closely at all, but I think they were having profitability issues for a while. Did they try EVERYTHING else before cutting these thousands of jobs? I have no idea. Was there an alternative? Perhaps, but I'm not sure.

Please, if and when you have such strong opinions in the future: at least mention all sides of the story. I'm all for strong opinions, but not ones that just sound like uninformed anti-establishment propaganda.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

Kyle: First off, it should be cleared up that I don't just say things for kicks or because it is "standard anti-establishment". I take offense to that, Kyle, and I feel that you put me in a particular category of someone who just says things because that's what leftists or revolutionaries or whoever says (I'm not saying that this is advertent on your part, but this is just my interpretation). I say that when large companies shut down operations in particular cities laying off thousands of workers IT IS BAD because I live in such a city where it has happened. Trenton, New Jersey's slogan is "Trenton Makes the World Takes". This slogan comes from the fact that Trenton used to be a manufacturing hub that cranked out everything from the steel wires that built the Golden Gate Bridge in California to the magic markers that little kids colored with nationwide. That site that's linked to in the previous sentence gives a glimpse at what Trenton had going on in terms of industry historically. A bit dated, but still pertinent information. Circa 1974 Roebling shut down its plants that are about a block from my house and left, in total, about 70 empty buildings in Roebling, PA and Trenton, NJ. Many of these buildings (that are HUGE manufacturing building mind you) are still not in use in Trenton. Over thirty years later. The reasons for this are numerous but know that my city has never recovered from the loss of jobs and income to its residents. Additionally, once Roebling left it opened up the way for numerous other companies to leave and has since left Trenton pretty desolate in terms of industry. All of this is to illustrate one situation where industry left a city. The direct result was people becoming unemployed and Trenton's rapid decline into one of the most dangerous cities its size in the nation (not to mention the racial demographics of the city changed and suburbs were created--white flight). It's a very linear model that has been duplicated in thousands of cities and neighborhoods throughout the nation (and world, I'm sure). Another huge example is Newark, New Jersey. These things that I say are backed up by facts and history and I'm not just pulling this stuff out of the air.

Secondly, a capitalist economist would say what you state in your fourth paragraph. Yes. Not one that does not subscribe to that system. Seeing as how I am not capitalist I look towards things besides profitability when I (theoretically) seek to employ individuals and enter a business enterprise. Additionally, which system are you describing to "meet the wants of people"? If you meant "needs" as oppose to "wants" then obviously capitalism does not do that as you yourself has stated in another post's comments on this blog. The trade off is equality and this means that some people's basic needs won't be met, some people's basic needs will be met, and some people will NEVER EVER NEED. That's the game of capitalism and I choose not to play. It's not a surefire win situation for people like me. I don't purport to be an economist, however, so a deeper critique of Ford's decision to cut these jobs replete with an analysis of the more acute financial implications to this deal is out of my league. On your question of whether or not Ford cut the pay of their top executives we can look here and see that Ford has "reduced its total number of corporate officers by four". The difference? These people are rich and so them not having this job and income is very different than 30,000 lower-level employees not having their jobs and income (not to mention healthcare, which most likely extends to coverage for their families).

Sarika: I totally disagree with you on your point about jobs being the last thing any company wants to cut. I would argue that it is the first thing, especially when its workers are deemed expendable. Labor is often the biggest cost of any large scale corporation especially in the manufacturing industry where huge workforces take up huge amounts of healthcare.

Their side of the story can be seen here. In an eight-page press release the cutting of jobs for regular folk got one sentence. Three lines out of 284. THREE. Obviously this is not what the company wants people to focus on in the midst of their "Ford Fights Back" campaign. Who are they fighting? These companies. Capitalism is competitive. Sometimes you have to cut healthcare to children and poor people in order to "win" and "fight back". Who's fighting against Ford? Who's fighting for their workers? Ford actually had a positive accord with workers just a few years ago with this huge success for unions. But what happened? Here is the response from this same union that praised Ford just a few years ago. Corporations rescinding promises to workers. The capitalist way (forgive my truthful cynicism).

Sarika, as I've said before, my expressed views have all been backed up by links to facts. Probably more than you care to point and click to research and verify. Nevertheless, I want you to understand (like Kyle and many others) that "uniformed anti-establishment propoganda" is NEVER what I put out. Do your research and then talk to me about this topic.

Much love to both of you two for coming to the site. Don't necessarily view my rebuttal as personal attacks, also. I just really dislike being dismissed as a "looney leftist" or something.

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Guess What said...

Kudos on the self-defense, but I just want us not to forget that white flight was not just influenced by the "structural" factor of job dispersal or the "pyschological" factor of racial paranoia, but actually paid for by the United States federal government through blatantly discriminatory housing legislation codified by the so-called friends of the Negro people, the Democrats (see Massey and Denton's American Apartheid or pull up some Douglas Massey on JSTOR). When the government financed white flight, for homeowners and entrepreneurs, they infused suburbs with capital they were unwilling to spend in urban (read: black/Hispanic) areas. That the buildings in Trenton and other areas lie empty is not even as much of a fact of unstoppable contemporary economic change, as is most often insinuated in structural analyses of the problem, but is at least partially the result of a set of decisions made by government officials with maliciious intent or callous disregard for black life and community. For those who doubt, it seems rather strange that these empty warehouse buildings are now "magically" condominiums, lofts, restaraunts, nightclubs, supermarkets, and office parks all throught formerly "unviable" neighborhoods, especially in the East Coast ex-industrial centers like Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and now, even the Camden waterfront. None of these areas has experienced a tremendous economic transformation anywhere near the scale of deindustrialization, despite (pie-in-the-sky?) hopes that biotechnology will become such an engine. As an honest Bill Clinton (an oxymoron indeed), would say, "It's the government, stupid!"

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

True. The government has their hands in everything including helping subsidize and spur the creation of White suburbs to the detriment of Black cities. Another standard text on this is Hillel Levine's Death of An American Jewish Community on white flight from Mattapan (a.k.a. "Murderpan") in Boston. Mattapan is "The New Roxbury" in terms of racial demographics nowadays since it's the most racially segregated neighborhood in Boston.

For a bit of comedy on the topic look at the cartoon "A Brief History of America" from Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine that gives funny but, sadly, VERY true account of White fear of darker populations (among many other things) throughout their time in the "New World".

At 10:43 PM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Hey Chip,

I know we respect each other enough that heated arguments won't diminish our friendship. Furthermore, I especially like it when people are rough with my viewpoints and words so thank you.

Forgive me if you felt that I insinuated you were just spewing lefty talking points. I was writing my response as I was going out the door. I probably should have emphasized further this sentence, "I respect your ideals unequivocally" (I did not use that term lightly). That being said I was critiquing your post as I didn't feel your deep thoughts came out in your post, allowing people dismiss you. The fact that Sarika and I had the similar reactions (both being sympathetic to you) says something in itself. To make the connection between ford lay-offs and the prison industrial complex seems to me to require essay-length reasoning, but we got blondie, lol. Now on to the meat.

I appreciate you figuring out that they eliminated four corporate jobs, compared to 30,000 other jobs, that's insane! First of all I was arguing from a capitalist viewpoint, and I used the term wants instead of needs purposefully (and there should be qualms with that as well). I guess what I was trying to get you to answer to, was the standard economic argument.

A capitalist would say to you, that it is horrible what happened in trenton (I know that pain just as much as you do friend having to return to Detroit twice a year to visit relatives, albeit more removed) but what is the purpose of employing those people if what they are doing is not profitable. The reason they are employed in the first place is profit, and if your argument is for keeping jobs, it is Ford's duty to fire the workers and streamline the company, so that it can continue to offer jobs to the thousands of others that it employs.

I hope you saw where I saw the error in that statement. I also disagree with sarika in that jobs is one of the first things companies cut, for exactly the reason you said chip, they are an "operational cost", whereas the machinery sarkia mentioned is pure "capital". In purely basic terms on of the first things companies do in times of trouble is cut operational costs, the majority of which is labor. Any economist will tell you that the healthiest economy is one in which workers don't have a stable job, so that they can be sifted to where they are need most.

What I was trying to point off is one of the major problems with this scenario I said, was the problem of representation. The costs you explained so eloquently, the brunt of which is born by the labor, is not represented in the the boardroom. Why is it that the workers have to suffer for a mistake that in this case was solely the fault of the executives. US car companies, especially ford, was making a huge mistake in investing in gas guzzlers, which was the only thing they could sell in the states. Who has to suffer from that mistake, the 30,000 workers.

I apologize again for the hostility that came out in my tone friend, just trying to help you gather more support and put forth a viewpoint that I see as extremely valuable.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

Understood about the personal thing. I don't take offense easily but this was a situation where I did.

The connection between Ford layoffs and the prison-industrial complex is simple: when people don't have jobs they resort to crime to meet their basic needs and, in time, enter the prison system where their labor can be exploited for industrial gain. Either you're making their cars for x-dollars an hour or you're making their license plates for x-cents an hour. Thus the Blondie quote.

People's wants, thanks in large part to the marketing of corporations that are adept at creating a false "need" feeling in consumers, can never be met. Their will never be enough. That's why I want to focus on needs because while the microscopic elite of the world pursue higher and higher levels of want their are still billions out there pursuing basic needs. I appreciate you arguing from this standpoint, however, since I eat capitalists for dinner. As I do children. On Sunday mornings during the summer in purple shirts with face paint on Massachusetts Avenue...

Could you or someone else provide more clarification on this point?:

"if your argument is for keeping jobs, it is Ford's duty to fire the workers and streamline the company, so that it can continue to offer jobs to the thousands of others that it employs."

At 4:03 PM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Seems like it might as well be Kyle and Chip chatting but I thought I'd post again as I found an article in the Detroit Free Press about the corporate cuts.


Again I realize the many problems with the wants comment and don't want to engage in debate about the differences between wants and needs, I was just using it as a defining term.

First of all I'm no expert, and I always welcome people calling me out on it, but I'll do my best to clarify the comment. The concept is simple.

If your argument is one of jobs, then it is the duty of the Ford Motor Company to streamline and ensure profitability so that it can continue to offer the thousands of other jobs that won't be cut. If your argument is for keeping the most jobs possible within the United States, then Ford is doing the right thing to ensure profitability.

The common ground between those is that Ford should streamline the company, but Ford, or some other entity, should make sure that the people fired are re-trained and employed in other sectors where their production is most needed. This would be to mitigate the many problems you mentioned.

Also I see the connection you aluded to with the prison-industrial complex, but I don't see the causality. I think it would be pretty hard to argue that Ford practices putting people out of a job in order to capitalize on cheap labor, hence the objection to you connecting the two in your post. To argue that this is what happens on a systematic level I would support entirely, but I don't agree with the individual attribution to the Ford Motor Company.

I think it is extremely important to realize that systematic consequences are often very far removed from individual intentions. People from all political stripes like to attach a name and a face to "evil" or wrongdoing, which does very little to correct systematic problems that usually have nothing to do with individual intent.

I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this and its significance but I think that's enough of the Kyle and Chip show, signing off friend.


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