Comments on: Workers of the Western world Sun, 28 Jul 2013 14:34:09 +0000 hourly 1 By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 13 Dec 2011 00:48:24 +0000 @Sue4,

From the Industrial Revolution forward, it was people who could read that could learn and practice a trade without going through an apprenticeship. Those people didn’t “stay on the farm” scratching out a minimal existence. By and large they left the land and moved to the “town” or “city” where others would hire them. In short, they either went into “BUSINESS” themselves, or they were hired by a “BUSINESS”.

Fast forward and understand that our very understanding of “fair play and exploitation” is from a middle class perspective. Our “middle class” quite literally arose from the economic activities of businesses from the mid-eighteen hundreds, yet, as late as the late thirties Roosevelt was promising Americans “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”. NO ONE had “health care” unless they could PAY for it PERSONALLY!

“Great divide” notwithstanding, open your eyes! America is at the malls, and they’re SPENDING! With the great majority literate, with cars and all of any kind of food they want to eat (which is why we’re FAT), decent shelter, plus entertainment unavailable to royalty until the last several decades, personal computers, cell phones, etc. your suggestion that American business “exploits” working Americans is nothing short of ludicrous.

The world is in another economic and political convulsion as it transitions from a production basis to an information basis, and there will, once again, be “winners” and “losers”. Hang on. It will be a wild ride, and no one has the steering wheel. We live in interesting times but dangerous ones for those with their eyes closed.

By: Sue4 Mon, 12 Dec 2011 19:41:30 +0000 There is such a huge divide between people who watch the line between fair play and exploitation and those who think that the success of a business is the only priority and to push that until somebody cries uncle and refuses to cooperate. Who is responsible for what, is pure opinion unless there’s a contract. Even if I agree with the opinion it doesn’t really matter. If I don’t agree it doesn’t matter. The loss of the middle class can be counted. The consequences are real and effect everyone. Like global warming, eventually everyone will have to acknowledge that this is not a good direction to be going in. Not many people have wrapped their heads around what it means to lose the middle class and denial is a great talent of most. But this is a problem that needs to be solved, not because I’m a liberal who fell out of the middle class, which I am not, but because what we all have to lose is so worth trying to save. A great divide between the haves and the have nots makes for a very unstable and dysfunctional society, socially and economically. Read some history or check out any third world country where workers are exploited. This is why this article is on the money in terms of a primary issue that needs to be thought about by everyone! It’s a hard nut to crack. And it’s not a partisan issue. It is a long term issue which may be beyond the attention span of anyone with only short term goals.

By: OneOfTheSheep Sun, 11 Dec 2011 23:24:30 +0000 @Sue4,

I understand your frustration, but “people are exploited because of their need to eat” today all over the world. It is an unfortunate fact of life that has been “with us” since the beginning; and will likely be with us a long time yet, particularly with a world population of some seven billion and climbing.

It takes someone with “more” to be able to hire someone with “less” in the hope that, together, they can produce more than the two of them could produce separately. Let’s call the one with “more” the “employer”, or “business”, or “corporation”. Whatever the name, this is “who” creates the “job” for someone else (the “worker”).

Whether the “worker” is “homeless” or has “medical care” before or after being hired, unless these things are promised by the “employer”, they remain the SOLE responsibility of the “worker”. At ANY time a company becomes unprofitable, the clock is ticking until it’s jobs ALL disappear and it’s “workers” join the ranks of the unemployed. So, once again, while it is a shared responsibility of both management and labor to make and keep an “employer” profitable, if either fails BOTH eventually “pay the price”.

A “Worldwide minimum wage of ten dollars an hour with health care coverage” will not come about in my lifetime or yours. The United States can’t afford that RIGHT NOW, and we’re far ahead of most of the rest of the world economically.

Never, never mix up your aspirations with your expectations!

By: Sue4 Sat, 10 Dec 2011 03:24:52 +0000 I heard this quote a long time ago, can’t remember the source: A successful business deal is when both parties walk away happy. Well “happy” is too strong a word, but the idea is that if the friggin company can’t pay their employees enough to live under a decent roof and have access to medical care etc. then that company should probably go ahead and go out of business and let somebody else give it a try! Of course a business will go after cheap foreign labor. That’s a given. No sense in whining about it. But to say that a worker isn’t “worth” minimum wage is saying that the unskilled worker in the USA should be homeless with no medical care! That’s a very unsuccessful business deal! Why should it be on the workers’ backs to make a company profitable? Only because other costs are fixed and that’s where the flex is. At what price won’t the job be there? At what price will the worker not be there? It’s business. But when people are exploited because of their need to eat then it becomes something else. And preventing that is not called communism. Think of it this way; without the rules there would be no baseball. The third world is going to catch up and businesses are going to have to deal with it. Worldwide minimum wage of ten dollars an hour with healthcare coverage….. It’s coming. Fewer jobs, maybe. But those who seem to want the USA to be more third world in order to compete with the third world, don’t seem to have a grasp of what they are up against or what it means to live that way. Progress is when the standard of living rises. It’s nice when businesses do well and the stock market rises, but it’s not the same thing..

By: Jampot Fri, 09 Dec 2011 23:52:38 +0000 I think productivity means getting the most out of you workforce, not necessarily reducing it, though in practice this can certainly happen. Increasing productivity opens up the possibility of apportioning resources in directions that may not have been possible when lower productivity was the case. Is it a net drain if instead of staff on an assembly line, heads are put into marketing roles creating, as an example, inbound leads? Few businesses even those with high productivity, would argue they have more resources that they need. Invariably, there are things left undone in any business for lack of resource.

The wage arbitrage of east vs. west is a fact however, and it is no longer necessarily the case that the unskilled US worker has access to better tools. (it still is true more often than not though). I worked for a company that over 15 years grew from zero to 15 million, with probably 40% of its revenues in the USA. We employed fewer people after 15 years than we did in the first year. Turns out none of those high skilled information industry jobs couldn’t be done less expensively overseas, with little diminution in quality. It is not just the low skilled workers who are overpaid.

The fellow complaining about the cost of air travel is all wet…he may carp about getting bus line level service, but flying is still exceptional value.

By: OneOfTheSheep Thu, 08 Dec 2011 03:04:55 +0000 @FredFlintstone,

You object to “the damage caused by unrestrained capital over the past few decades” and complain of “…endless mergers, de-regulation, and wage suppression.” Please. You speak of what you do not understand.

Mergers, when they go well (and there is no warranty they will), reduce business costs and increase profits. If the same or more work is then accomplished with less people, the merger increases productivity. Productivity is the “standard of measurement” for management, good and bad. Yes, in most businesses, the simplest and most direct path to higher efficiency is doing what must be done with less people…i.e. jobs are lost.

De-regulation has been rough on unions, but good for businesses and taxpayers. In the airlines, it meant more flew and paid less because of increased competition until 9/11. Since, costs for fuel and security have exploded. Bankruptcies have eliminated the unsustainable agreements dictated by the unions, thus lowering costs, so now we have the “service” comparable to traveling by bus at the cost of traveling by limousine. With a world in flux, few subjects can be examined individually and compared with ten or twenty years ago. Different world.

OSHA and other government alphabet agencies continue to dream up more and more costly regulations for businesses and/or consumers to pay for. Guess what? When the cost of certain projects go up, they don’t get done. When they don’t get done, that’s profits lost and jobs lost. There’s still a lot of this “out there”. Lose-lose for workers, taxpayers, business and government!

If the U.S. minimum wage had risen with inflation since it was $1.00/hr. it would be about $5.50/hr. today. Few unskilled workers are genuinely WORTH the current $7.25/hr. to do something anyone can do with two weeks on-the-job training. Accordingly, “entry-level” positions are disappearing for young people that want to work. Raising the minimum wage is like going faster and faster down the wrong road. Really, really bad idea!

The more a worker is paid, the greater incentive for a business to automate their task. Those jobs don’t come back. Get used to it! When “…governments to step up and balance interests between all players in…society…”, that’s called communism or socialism. Neither are an “easy sell” here in the good ol’ U.S.ofA. When autos replaced horses, those who made buggy whips had to retrain!

If the U.S. minimum wage were the $16-$18 as you suggest there would be NO entry level positions! The whole supply and demand framework would quickly be at risk because making a profit on the work product of each worker becomes much more difficult.

When you see a “shop labor rate” of $70/hr., that means the cost of the workman, including all fringe benefits and employer contributions cannot exceed $35.00. “Take-home” pay for such a person is close to your $16-$18/hr, but we are talking trained and certified people, i.e. “skilled”, not trainees! Current skills are the key to success in any job market. In WW II our government trained millions quickly and efficiently. Why not today?

By: FredFlintstone Wed, 07 Dec 2011 01:45:41 +0000 Economists are not the only ones who can read the UBS research — business people do, too. And some of them are concluding, as one hedge fund manager said at a recent dinner speech in New York, that “the low-skilled American worker is the most overpaid worker in the world.”

The irony is that the globalization this hedge fund manager touts is precisely the exploitation Marx decries. While this is an interesting article, it leaves out the (deliberate) effects of endless mergers, de-regulation, and wage suppression. These three policies have dramatically reversed any economic gains by working people and the middle class, particularly in the US.

In the US, for example, all inputs to business since 1972 have been allowed to rise except one. Can you guess which one? Right, the minimum wage. If it had been allowed to rise and fall along with other inputs, the US minimum wage should be $16-$18 an hour. And the effects would’ve been absorbed into the economy the same as the rise in oil prices (even the rise due to commodity speculation, too much untaxed money chasing too few goods).

Reversing mergers, in a sensible manner, is one of the key missing steps we need to take to reverse the damage caused by unrestrained capital over the past few decades. We need more economic diversity, more true capitalism, to continue the trend this article so cheerfully promotes (even as the trend is going the other direction). We need governments to step up and balance interests between all players in our society, instead of standing back and letting the aristocrats and monopolists run wild.

By: edwong Wed, 07 Dec 2011 01:44:24 +0000 sad, but very true, asia is hungry and ready,
faster cheaper and better.
any business have to be profitable.
with WTO the world have changed.
but thank to the west, soon we will all progress togather.

By: Boethius Mon, 05 Dec 2011 15:53:33 +0000 @jalakhar: The process of shifting jobs to the developing countries is not an expression of Darwin’s law of survival of the fittest because there is no such law.

That idea, that the survival of one is bought at the price of another was introduced by Herbert Spencer who, ironically enough, was concerned with helping to lay a solid ‘scientific’ basis to the project of 19th century Western/European colonial over-lordship which first helped to establish the world as globablised and globablising.

The fact that such lazy nonsense is once again being wheeled out in order to cheerfully gloss over any legitimate questions and objections to current developments I think shows very clearly just how much is at stake for ordinary European workers in the current situation.

I think it is the absolute depth of cynicism to turn the historical oppression of two-thirds of the world, the fact that workers in China or Thailand have to (and have had to since the gunboats of modern global capitalism first appeared) make do with the kind of oppressive work and wage situations which would have turned J.S Mill into an out-and-out socialist, into a justification for turning the screws on European workers.

The same arguments which were once taken as sufficient justification for European economic interventions and deprivations abroad, the laziness of the native population, the lack of productivity and simply being ‘behind the times’, are now the same arguments being applied to the Europeans themselves at home.

We should all be very clear here, hedge fund managers and the like aren’t calling for steps to be taken to close the gap in wages by reversing the (historically over the last century I believe) declining share of wages in global wealth. Rather, it would seem that they would prefer instead to turn the old logic of rapacious capitalist extraction back upon its alma mater.

If it were to have its way, by its nature, I suppose financial capitalism would prefer a situation in which the market determines the value on all things, including wages, purely through a process of internal self-reference. In such a world there would never be any idea of long-term stability that wasn’t somehow itself a product to be sold as such.

Just as 19th century gunboat capitalism showed itself indifferent at best and out-right hostile at worst, to indigenous (or non-capitalistic) social, political and economic arrangements in the colonised world, so too 21st century financial capitalism shows itself indifferent at best to the social, political and economic arrangements of contemporary Europe.

By: jalakhkar Mon, 05 Dec 2011 11:38:59 +0000 Shareholder capitalism demands that the businesses should employ resources with cheapest overall costs. Therefore, the drive towards cheaper foreign labor is unstoppable. And the “high standards of humanity” is just a hyperbolic expression of upper class guilt – just remember that the workers in the developed world were doomed by the same upper class through force-fed credit binges. So the process of shifting jobs to the developing countries is actually an expression of Darwin’s law of survival of the fittest (in this case the hungriest)!