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I have just finished reading a most amazing book -- The Beautiful and the Damned. A Portrait of the New India, by Siddhartha Deb.

The book has many facets and provides a really informative view of several aspects of life in India -- from the plight of farmers, through the monotony and precariousness of workers' lives, to a glimpse of the lifestyles of the Indian super-rich. What I found fascinating, however, is the picture it paints of outsourcing -- of what moving jobs from America and Europe to India has done to the country and its people.

Follow me below the fold for some thoughts and observations.

I have never liked outsourcing. It has decimated the American middle class by taking away its livelihoods for no better reason than to pad corporate bottom lines and to allow corporations to avoid our regulatory regime in the form of labor and environmental laws (more on this later). It has resulted in what is perhaps the first economic experiment of this kind in human history -- an economy without much of an industrial core. How such an economy is supposed to survive long-term is a question that is tacitly being avoided in the media or in serious political discussions. We talk about "jobs" but do not say much about the quality of jobs available to American job-seekers. The service and retail industries occupy a central role in this, but who can raise a family on a job at McDonald's or Wal Mart? Outsourcing has also produced a vicious economic cycle, where because people lose their jobs, the amount of disposable income available to vast swaths of the American middle class has sharply declined, thus producing a decline in demand ... and a decline in demand produces a decline in supply -- with more workers being fired or working part-time instead of full time, leading to further decline in disposable income, and thus to further decline in demand etc...


It being in my nature to always look for a silver lining, I had thought naively that at least somewhere else on the planet someone could raise a family on our outsourced jobs. That even as we suffer in the Purgatory of waiting for the next technological innovation that will power up the American economy and create "the jobs of the future," at least, in the sum total of things, somewhere someone else is secure and happy. That at least the sum total of happiness and security in the world is preserved even as they are to be found elsewhere...

Siddhartha Deb provided for a VERY rude awakening.

The portrait of India that emerges from his book is one of hardship and sorrow, of lives destroyed and humanity diminished.

Deb looks first at some of the people who are supposed to be doing better because of the outsourced jobs -- the owner of a chain of colleges that supposedly provide young Indians with the skills for their "new economy" and then an engineer, who at least in theory, should be among the main beneficiaries of this new economy -- the emergent middle class, if you will.

But lo and behold, there is very little happiness or security to be found there. To the contrary, they compare themselves to the richest people in the West, and find themselves full of insecurities about their present status in India. What seems to have been transplanted best from the West is the eternal thirst for more possessions, the abhorrent consumerism we all know so well. So the college owner buys a Bentley Continental and has it repainted to match the color of his favorite shirt... And the engineer invests a vast amount of money into a half-finished house in the middle of nowhere finding it necessary to import cabinets from Italy ...

Writes Deb,

In contemporary India the new rich [...] are people in a hurry, expressing fevered modes of consumption, flaunting gargantuan appetites meant to astonish and dazzle the rest of us. They acquire things that are better, bigger and more exclusive [...] People are the amount of money they make, but even in the world of the Indian rich, that is no longer enough. (p.43)
I used to read much on the so-called "green revolution" in India and on how the World Bank and a vast array of NGOs focused on making India self-sufficient in food. But decades later, globalization and outsourcing have come to the Indian countryside too. Deb examines the effect of the dismantling of the government-funded program for providing seeds and loans to small farmers. New economic thinking (and rampant corruption) have allowed to a truly massive displacement of peasants from their land. They no longer have the resources to cope and, as Deb demonstrates, the free market is a capricious and an unmerciful god. Speculators dupe villagers into growing specific products (the focus in the relevant chapter is on "red sorghum") promising good prices for the harvest. But then at harvest time, these same speculators begin a cutthroat race to the bottom trying to undercut each other's prices and, in the process, devastating the lives of thousands upon thousands of peasants. The truly squalid conditions in which these poor people live are mind-numbing...

But quite apart from having to rely on a "free" market to make their living, peasants' lives are also blighted by pollution that goes unreported and uncleaned. This next part reads almost like a science fiction novel:

The stench hit me when I climbed to the top. My nose and eyes started to burn. There was a lake of sorts below us, bubbling and brown, its surface indented with rocks, and although we were well away from the lake, the fumes coming from it were so strong that it was like standing over a vat of sulphuric acid. Vijay pointed to the horizon on the other side of the lake, where the factories releasing the effluents were located. (p.130)
But perhaps the most poignant part of the book is the chapter dealing with life at a factory. This is what I wanted to read most from the entire book. For here perhaps, in industrial production, one could find some semblance of security or, indeed, the seeds of trade-unionism beginning to take root. No such luck. The life of a factory worker consists of a long 12- or 14 - hour shift and then fitful sleep... with cooking and washing clothes squeezed in-between... Workers actually live on the grounds of the factory (?!?!) in what is the crudest, most awful reproduction of some unholy mix of slavery and serfdom. Not only that, but a majority of them pay recruiters to find such jobs for them and their indebtedness to the recruiters never allows them to break above water.

But what is most revealing about the whole arrangement is that employers in one part of the country only hire migrants -- local people could be troublesome, could try to form a union. Migrants are away from their support networks, they owe money, their jobs are of paramount importance to them... and so they put up with everything... long hours, unhealthy and dangerous work for which many of them have not been properly trained, the misery and squalor of cubicles where they sleep, cook, and get drunk on cheap liquor and beer... Theirs is not a life, it is a vegetative state -- from strenuous effort and extreme exhaustion to a few hours alone and hungry and drunk...
And these people often lose their jobs, so they move from place to place - totally anonymous in the vastness of that country - profoundly alone:

For what happened to workers who fell through the hole, I didn't have a person I talked to, only a vision. [...] He was young, maybe in his late teens, dressed in a black T-shirt and trousers. His feet were bare, and he moved on those bare feet down the middle of the road, unheeding of any of us. His eyes were bloodshot, staring into the void. He was most likely a Nepali and he was almost certainly drunk. But there was something about him that suggested a terrible violation, as if he had been raped and set loose on the street. Everyone stared, no one moved, either because they were stunned by his appearance or because they were used to such figures. He went past us, drifting towards the new highway... (p.206)
This is what corporations have done, though the word "done" is somehow not strong enough here. This is where our good jobs have gone. To be bad jobs elsewhere -- not a source of security or happiness, at all, but a machine for consuming lives... for destroying the environment... And even for the select few, providing nothing more than a bad replica of an American gated community. And this, in the end, is why corporate employers have done this. To avoid labor laws that prohibit them from hiring children or limit the hours in a working day. To avoid minimum wage laws, that allow them to virtually imprison people in factories abroad and mistreat them like no human being should ever be mistreated. To treat the environment as an unlimited source of all raw materials they need and, later, as a huge garbage dump whose cleanup is never their problem. This is what they have wrought. I shudder to think that this, perhaps, is Western civilization's greatest legacy to the world...

Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 2:40 PM PT: Update I: Wow! Community Spotlight... I am really glad. Outsourcing is a topic we do not discuss enough. Thank you all. Read on!

Originally posted to Gaius Septimus on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:58 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Recently talked to engineers in China (22+ / 0-)

    On a work assignment for a Western client.

    It was an eye-opening experience for me.

    Although they work in professional offices, at jobs that would be great career paths in America, they have absolutely no security and they barely get paid enough to have a middle class lifestyle by Chinese standards, even though the cost of living there is so much less.  

    Their companies don't have to comply with the same safety and ergonomics regulations, and so they are at high risk of repetitive stress injuries and have more preventable workplace accidents.

    Are they better off than their factory-worker peers?  Absolutely.  But we also apparently treat them with the same degree of disregard, even as they invent the ideas that lead to long-term company profits.

    They are not unaware of their position.  A few of them have traveled to the West for meetings.  They've seen how much nicer things are for their peers overseas - how inferior their clothes must seem, for example, or how a Western hotel room can be larger than their family's apartment.

    Inflation in China is a big problem - and the people in China are well aware of the fact that they only have jobs because they are cheap workers.

    "What happens when we are too expensive?  Will they go to the Chinese interior or to Africa?  What happens to my family then?"

    "He not busy being born is busy dying" -- Bob Dylan

    by Kascade Kat on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 10:19:15 PM PDT

    •  How long did it take (17+ / 0-)

      For wealthy developed countries to get where they are today?

      What hardships did people endure along the way?

      How were workers treated?

      If you study US history you may learn that Chinese, African and other non-European immigrant workers shared the hardships but got less than their European immigrant peers  (but plenty of blame and mis-treatment from them).

      And now that they are developing their home economies, again we find them the object of scorn, pity or hostility.

      I guess this stuff runs in cycles.


      Meat vs Rice - S. Gompers


      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 08:58:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You make a fair point, (8+ / 0-)

        one I'd love to see further discussed.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:25:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but we should be able to (12+ / 0-)

        Learn from our histories to prevent human misery.  Our leaders LET these jobs be outsourced without enforcement of the working condition and environmental protections clauses that are included in the trade treaties.  And we continue to buy and enjoy the cheap goods.  It really doesn't have to be this way.

        We're ALL better off when we're ALL better off!

        by susanWAstate on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:05:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes and No. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Even with the best intentions, there are a practical problems with transplanting economic and cultural change from place to place and it tends not to happen in one step, but gradually as countries come up by economic boot straps.

          Generations of poverty create conditions that are both ripe for exploitation (externally and internally), but also barriers to change that depend more on a learning curve and the initiation of virtuous cycles to overcome the vicious cycles we hope they will replace.

          Another point you may consider is the degree to which some of the prosperity Americans enjoyed was the product of not just hard work, but other natural or man-made advantages.

          Suffice it to say we live in a changing world and if we can narrow the argument to "interests", then it is the interest of developed countries to build stringer ties to developing ones since that is where the economic growth will come from and that is where some opportunities for change may be in the building rather than re-building.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 09:21:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  How sad ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Grabber by the Heel

        that you misread history and this diary to reach such a misinformed conclusion. Pasting high-bandwidth images into your comment is also disrespectful toward those of our members with slow Internet connections.

        Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

        by edg on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:42:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

          I mis-read history?

          The images I posted are part of American history. Not all, but but a significant part.

          For example.

          Arguably worse, is how Native Americans including Native/Hispanic Americans have been treated in their own historical homeland up to this very day, and at root are issues of relative economic advantage and perceived ownership and entitlement. I don't think I'm imagining that these issues are still alive.

          If posting images or videos is disrespectful, why does the FAQ include such detailed instructions how to?

          Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words and allows people to draw their own conclusions, which was my intent.

          I understand that these particular images, which draw a sharp contrast on the issues, may make some people uncomfortable, but I do think they are relevant, particularly the first image which contains a message I think easily translates to much contemporary political dialogue and framing of issues such as immigration, trade relations, etc.

          Incidentally, the first and last images are included in the University of California archive (CA was a focal point of immigration related conflicts) and the middle image is from a political tract published the AFL when it was lead by Samuel Gompers, an immigrant from England, who was instrumental in getting Congress to pass exclusion laws against Chinese, Japanese and other Asian immigrants.

          History is complex. Hopefully, we can extract some simple lessons.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 09:47:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Concerns (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            One of my concerns is that your comment did not relate to the diary. Perhaps you should write your own diary. You made good points but I object to their inclusion in the commentary on Gaius Septimus' diary.

            Another concern is the size and placement of your images. Images are fine, in moderation, with your own diary. They don't really belong in a comment. I really would enjoy a diary written by you on this topic. Also, it is helpful to use image editing software to resize images for correct sizing and downloadability.

            FWIW, part of my ancestry is Native American and I am aware of their plight.

            What's that sound you hear when Mitt Romney walks? Oh, yeah. Flip-flop flip-flop.

            by edg on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 02:58:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I generally go for content first (0+ / 0-)

              Not that form is unimportant.

              Actually, I drafted a diary on this topic about a year ago when the site was going thorough a rough spot related to a provocative diary in Black Kos that resulted in some flame wars followed by the formation of the groups Barriers and Bridges and Discussing Race at Daily Kos.

              However, my wife thought it was a bit too forward and with an angry edge (true, lots of us were angry then) so I shelved it to avoid adding fuel to the fire.

              I also think now is not the time, because people should focus on the election and not get diverted on historical/social issues that can hold. Maybe later.

              As for going off-topic here, that's a judgment call and I thought it fit but I'm often mistaken.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:30:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  The point (9+ / 0-)

        of what I was trying to say is that we should know better. This is not about discrimination against foreigners... It is about what corporations do when there is no restraints on them...

        I am well aware that everywhere around the world, foreigners have been mistreated.

        But this is not about Indians being mistreated. It is about corporations moving to India so they can mistreat with impunity.

        •  However ... (0+ / 0-)

          I think it's a sort-putt to related issues "we should know better" about and that get bundled-together.

          For example, lots of people, including some Daily Kos members, do not differentiate much between Indian IT workers in India or Indian IT workers in the US; they simply become an outlier group.

          A 3 year site search using the terms "IT Outsourcing, India" returns 6 pages of diary links (this diary being number 2) and although the search algorithm seems not to narrow the list very well, I'm sure this includes diaries expressing various viewpoints, some of which include a fair amount of Indian bashing that might contain a grain of truth or reflect personal hardship I would not dispute. I can recall reading a few here.

          Complex topic. Appreciate your contribution.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 10:15:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Amen to that, bro/sis! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Only Needs a Beat, koNko

        Especially this bit:

        And now that they are developing their home economies, again we find them the object of scorn, pity or hostility.
        Powerful images from our (easily forgotten) history as well.
  •  I have seen the videos on 'ship decommissioning' (16+ / 0-)

    now being done in India.

    People working in extremly dangerous situations without even shoes on. No concern from the employer to the fumes or any other hazards.

    Just the other day on the BBC there was something about construction on the news report and show workers diggong into a dirt pile beside a new building.. What struck me as odd is the diggers had hard hats on, but no shoes?

    But this is not unlike Mexico or China.

    I recall the original Free Trade speeches and they told American and Canadians that "these trade agreements will lift Mexican workers to your standards".

    Some of us knew that wasn't the intent

    We need Fair Trade, not Free Trades............

    •  Everyone wants fairness (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal, FG, Only Needs a Beat

      But how it is defined and would work seems to be the problem.

      BTW, the country with the greatest amount of ship decommissioning activity is Bangladesh, India's poorer neighbor. It's really deplorable, but for some (many children), a living.

      But maybe not worse than living in a garbage dump, and millions do in poor areas of Asia and Africa.

      In fact, commercial enterprises in these poor countries can be part of the solution even when they exploit the situation to some degree, but obviously it's better is they follow reasonable basic standards of treatment and compensation.

      Which is far from what most citizens of wealthy countries would find acceptable despite the poverty around them at home too.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:06:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        steamed rice, koNko

        You can't compare what happens in these countries to Western economies and declare unilaterally that this is awful and must be stopped.

        These people aren't enslaved: they voluntarily do this work and even seek such work because their alternatives are even worse, either to starve or to work at even crappier jobs than these!

        Granted, do I think people should be doing hazardous work without shoes? No. There should be at least some level of protection for these people, and as living standards increase in these places such protections are being put online. But just saying that outsourcing is bad because of the work conditions and removing these people's lifeline is not (IMO) the solution.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 10:50:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is no reason the economies of any country in (8+ / 0-)

          the world cannot be developed with humane treatment of workers, and environmental protections, except for the greed of the self appointed world aristocracy.

          Germany and Japan both practiced slave labor 70 years ago. Now both have thriving middle classes, strong unions, and lots of wealthy people.

          3rd world countries in 2012 are developed using 18th century industrial standards and 17th century labor standards because 21st century economic elites are getting away with these crimes against humanity.

          It is pillage not progress.  

          •  It's not that simple, unfortunately (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There's plenty of corruption in the 3rd world, and the elites there benefit from and support the conditions that make outsourcing to those countries feasible.

            You could say that we third worlders could grow up and make our countries better, but it's not that easy, either.  Most such countries are young, with relatively weak institutions weakened further by dictatorships run by cronyism.

            We would like to enjoy the security and order enjoyed by industrialized nations like the USA, but it will take time for our societies to mature.  

            Or we could go the Singapore way and become rather, well, sterile.

            Please be assured that many of us (or at least, I am) embarrassed to have so much business process outsourcing directed to my country.   But what can we do?   People here need jobs, and we won't turn our noses up at honest work.  

            •  Developing nations workers don't steal jobs from (5+ / 0-)

              workers in developed nations. Financial elites steal them and ship them off to a place where they can exploit labor and disregard the environment even more.

              And the security and order of industrialized nations are being degraded by their own financial elites who collude with other  elites in developing countries to exploit those nations  workers.

              Five years ago or so I read articles on the Chinese leaders plans to allow Unionization and to improve working conditions and wages. This plan was stopped in its tracks by U.S and E.U corprateers. They have no interest in improving the lives of Chinese workers, or any other workers in the world.

              The exploitive nature of the corprateers and banksters globalization is at fault. It makes workers in developed countries poorer and doesn't allow workers in developing nations to become middle class.

              If not for the greed and recklessness of the global elite worker and worker would not be pitted against each other in a way that makes both come out losers.

              •  Actually most plants in China are unionized. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Grabber by the Heel

                By law. Of course, for years, these unions were mainly just an arm of the government, but in the past 5 years or so the situation has changed quite a bit and since 2010 there have been many labor actions and strikes, some of the larger ones getting Western media coverage.

                In fact, public demonstrations are more common in China than the US, including an increasing number related to environmental issues in which I'm active.

                About 2007-2008, when China as drafting a new labor law and it went out for pubic comment (all national laws go through a gazetting/comment process) multinationals lobbied hard to dilute the law and were partly successful, but important things like strengthening labor contract rules, work rules and grievance procedures as well as protections for migrant workers  were enacted, so now the task is to pressure to enforce them and some of the big unions are taking the lead.

                But in poor countries, freedom from want usually comes before the others, it's a fact of life dictated by circumstances.

                What about my Daughter's future?

                by koNko on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:42:10 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Is it really that simple? (0+ / 0-)

            First, I have to ask by what process and over what time period did Japan and Germany achieve what they have?

            The point being that the economic, social and legal changes required tend to be more evolutionary than revolutionary because it requires, above all, cultural change.

            In the cases you cite, losing a world war was ultimately the catalyst for change, but both were actually fairly modern and affluent countries before then, and benefited in some ways by becoming the vanquished - at least in terms of getting a jump start repairing the damage.

            600 years ago, China and India were the most prosperous and productive societies on earth. European visitors were amazed at what they found (and wasted little time taking what they could), so why do these same nations today have pockets of 17th Century conditions blighting the landscape?

            Partly a result of too much success followed by decline and social/economic decay; partly the result of colonialism (traditional and present-day economic colonialism) that took advantage of the decay; and partly because the West got a head start on Industrialization that eventually brought prosperity.

            But I think your ideological position misses a lesson in this sweep of history: that societies continually evolve and go through economic cycles, benefit or lose through relative advantage or disadvantage, and that humans are capable of both goodness and bad.

            And consider this: if we had a magic want to wave over the world to suddenly make everyone equal, where would the mean fall, and would the wealthy suddenly finding themselves in more humble circumstances find it acceptable?

            I don't just mean the wealthy 1%, but the wealthy 99%.

            Surely the present accumulation of wealth you refer to is wrong if for no other reason than it is not sustainable, but then so is the median in many counties.

            IOW, the world does possess enough resources to feed and clothe all of it's inhabitants, but not quite to give them the middle-class existence many enjoy.

            I don't think we are far apart in political of philosophical terms, but having been raised in a poor country, educated in a rich one and then returning to a developing country, I have found myself at a loss for simple solutions and resigned myself to accepting incremental change that can be had.

            It's a long road.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 09:07:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Generally I agree (0+ / 0-)

          Although, to be accurate, when you go to some of the poorest regions of these countries, de facto slavery exists, as does the situation when people have little choice but to accept poor conditions that could be better, or to go hungry.

          I'm not here to make apologies for exploitation of anyone, but rather for people who tend to over-simplify and see a 2-dimesional picture to think in 3-dimensions.

          But I agree that the process takes time, and what Chang expresses in her talk, was perhaps best expressed in the ending of her book quoted in the NYT review:

          “If it was an ugly world,” Chang concludes, “at least it was their own.”
          I would add to that these photos of Foxconn workers taken by Tomasso Bonaventura (scroll to the right) and young Indian and Chinese 99%ers By Adrian Fisk in his series iSpeak India and iSpeak China, giving them a voice beyond the stereotypes.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 08:25:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It's not so much trade as workers rights (4+ / 0-)

      Making workers rights universal is hard.  We can barely keep our own rights to safe working conditions here.  But, we must continue to try pressing to make safe working conditions a universal right.

      "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

      by noofsh on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 02:05:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My job went to India... (20+ / 0-)

    In the 80's and 90's, I made over $50,000 a year as a word processing operator in a large investment bank.  The large presentation center I worked in employed at least 15 operators and proof readers each on four different shifts. We worked on pitch books that bought in billions of dollars of business. But just like what happened to our manufacturing industry, once Wall Street big shots learned they could pay less money to oversea workers, these middle class job rapidly disappeared and are all but gone except in a few places.

    I helped train my Indian counterparts who eventually got my job. The turnover rate in the Indian office are over 60% because of the stress from the working conditions. My former Indian co-workers take a lot of abuse from their American counterparts.  The pay is low even by Indian standards and there is no job security because workers in these countries are easily replaced on short notice.

    At some point, this level of outsourcing and corporate greed has to stop. But where and when?

    •  Making people train their replacement is salt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Only Needs a Beat

      in the wound, and training an "offshore" replacement has got to be a level worse than that.

      I worked recently in an office where half the workers were Indians, and we had daily teleconferences with the teams in India, who came in late and stayed late to make up for the 11.5-hour time difference. It was frustrating as all get-out for me to get help; having a 2-hour window in which to talk to someone in India live, plus the language barrier, plus the joys of long-distance communication. One time, I sat with telephone mashed to my ear for 45 minutes, straining to understand what the woman in India was saying. Not only that, we had no in-house expert (it was unfamiliar technology to me and googling for examples was itself an exercise in frustration, as the engine found example after example that were either ridiculously complex or had nothing whatever to do with what I needed). "We had one, but she had to go home," I was told...and not to Muskegon, I suspect. If I didn't have a clearance, I'd have lost my job to "offshoring" long ago.

  •  Another good book (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nomandates, Sparhawk, SoCalSal, IreGyre, FG

    Is Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang.

    NYT Review

    What people in developed counties need to take into account is that:

    (a) what might be unacceptable to them might be opportunity to others

    (b) Developed countries did not get to where they are in one step; in fact, the process of change was much slower than the contemporary development of countries such as India, China, Vietnam et al today.

    Here is author Leslie Chang on TED

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 08:41:27 AM PDT

    •  Why in the 21st century do the people of the (28+ / 0-)

      world, have to tolerate a mix of middle ages serfdom and industrial age horrors to develop economies? This behavior on the part of global corporations should be classified as crimes against humanity.

      After the 2nd World War Europe was a bombed out looted ruin, Japan was a burnt ash, yet these economies were rebuilt without returning to slave like inhuman conditions. In fact human rights and labor rights were improved in these ruined dictatorships after they had committed the worst crimes in human history.

      It is a lie that India or China can only be developed by ending the middle class in the West and creating a serf/slave society in the East.

      This only serves the worst of the worlds 1% and throws justice,  human decency, the environment, and the rest of us, in the trash can of the worlds newest self appointed aristocracy.

      There is  a better way forward. But the people who profit from this global rape and pillage want us to believe there is no other solution.

      •  I wish I could Rec your comment numerous times (9+ / 0-)

        Yes, we are tolerating crimes against humanity.  In a world where there are plenty of resources, we're allowing a few individuals to get filthy rich while 10s of millions suffer in abject poverty.  And we're destroying our planet's ecosystems in the process.

        We can and should do better.

        We're ALL better off when we're ALL better off!

        by susanWAstate on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:11:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And we all deserve better. Thanks. (4+ / 0-)
        •  Indeed. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I could not agree more.

          A common theme in the comment here is income disparity, which is rising in many countries including the US, India and China.

          A common root is the effects on unconstrained Capitalism, but how it factors may be different form pace to place. In the US, it's the middle "haves" getting less and the top getting more.

          In India or China it's the "not haves" getting a bit more while top gets more (including some former "not haves").

          The dirty words "taxation", "redistribution" and "regulation" come to mind as solutions, and that is why politics matters.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 10:48:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The Republicans have been winning the message war (0+ / 0-)

            "Taxation", "redistribution" and "regulation" should be positive words, along with sustainability and compassion (which by the way is their word).

            We're ALL better off when we're ALL better off!

            by susanWAstate on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 12:56:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Yes Absolutely n/t (3+ / 0-)

        To Goldman Sachs in according to their desires, From us in accordance with the IRS.

        by Bluehawk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:15:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think I replied to your other comment (0+ / 0-)

        Along these lines.

        But you raise a good question: why?

        I suppose it has something to do with the human capacity for greed, which has not been solved.

        Too bad India and China were seen as American allies in WWII, but then formed their own governments more politically aligned to the USSR than the USA, or recent history might be different.

        But then, I'm not sure if the recipe that worked for Japan and Germany would have translated as well for them considering they were much poorer and more populous nations.

        Sometimes size matters.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 10:26:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Afterthought (0+ / 0-)

        I guess the question I would put back to you, framed by Chang's talk, is whether people living in poverty should wait for the world to be perfect, or is it acceptable for them to chose whatever opportunity they can find to better themselves?

        In a response comment elsewhere, I have linked to some photos of Chinese workers of Foxconn and some photos of young Indian and Chinese people.

        They are not without stress, uncertainty or concern about their own futures, just like American kids their own age.

        But in many cases, they are doing a lot better then they have and would not like to go backward, just to do better.

        Personally, I think it's a measure of progress that young Chinese increasingly complain about their situations and voice aspirations; it's what people do when they move beyond mere subsistence and raise their eyes. Curiously, I find that a hopeful indicator and one answer to the question posed in my sigline.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 10:42:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I've known plenty of people who worked for a buck (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jessical, Only Needs a Beat

    a day, though the rate is now up to $3. They hated the work but were glad to have it. It's good to have a job whenever you want it. Kids can eat.

    Only solution I see to declining wages is huge increase in minimum and guaranteed benefits. If McDonalds had a 30 hour week and paid enough to support a family of 4 with vacations and health care I'd work there. If a burger doubled in price it would kill no one.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 10:15:08 AM PDT

    •  Why not form Unions again and demand a fair slice (5+ / 0-)

      wealth? No one is employed who does not create profit for the employer. The fact is the worlds economic elite are criminal looters.

      America is itself slipping out of the ranks of civilized industrial countries. Go count the graves of miners in West Virginia or find the bones of drillers in the Gulf.

      There is no justification for starvation wages, environmental destruction, and inhuman treatment of workers in 2012 anywhere in the world, except for the greed and recklessness of economic gangsters and banksters.

      •  because unions only include a tiny percentage (0+ / 0-)

        of people who work and none of the jobs I've ever done. Great if you're a teacher or something but not for people in Micky Ds or Wally World.

        In order for benefits to be any good they have to benefit everyone.

        How big is your personal carbon footprint?

        by ban nock on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 01:16:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Increase worker representation in all occupations (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          No Exit, Only Needs a Beat

          was my point. And I understand how difficult this is due to Taft/Hartley and other restrictive anti-Union laws in America.

          I agree with you that benefits to be any good have to benefit all. And thats why we must have global economic systems that improve everyones lives not just the worlds financial elites.

    •  I am not so sure (0+ / 0-)

      that corporations like McDonald's will be able to survive if they had to pay a living wage and provide the entire array of benefits to their employees.

      They will have to increase the price of what they offer and then their entire raison d'etre will be gone.

      Who will pay $10 for a McDonald's burger if you can get a better one at any local bar and grill for less?? No... the very idea of cheap food is premised on cheap labor.

      But don't take my word for it... Look at either Fast Food Nation, or Overdressed... both amazing books

      •  If minimum wage is increased across the board and (5+ / 0-)

        benefits are given to every single worker the price of a burger would not be $10. Right now a McDouble costs $1, I doubt a living wage would double the cost.

        The local bar and grill, the fern bars, Olive Garden, Your favorite ethnic eatery all could charge double and it would hurt no one. All that money is disposable income or people wouldn't eat out.  Right now the 53% is reaping the low wages of the 47%. Importing labor, exporting jobs, cheap everything is premised on underpaying US workers.

        Germany has fast food and pays a livable wage, why can't we?

        If a company can't survive paying a living wage they need to go out of business. They are a leach upon society. Today we hear poor white women have a decreasing life expectancy. No more. I'm fed up.

        How big is your personal carbon footprint?

        by ban nock on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 05:30:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  McDonalds in Europe pays a living wage. And (3+ / 0-)

        thanks to the same global gangsters who exploit workers, the age of cheap food may be coming to an end because of their exploitation of the environment.

        And who would work in that local restaurant? A local? And where would the profits park? Locally?

        The fracking  that is happening across the American Midwest and Great Lakes region is producing a lot of jobs but not for locals. The frackers buy up empty hotels and motels and bus in workers. All this work and the damage it will do to ground water will hardly move the economic numbers up a tick for the local towns and villages in the areas. But for a few the money for the fracked gas will go elsewhere and so will the wages paid to the workers.

        The same exploitive forces at work in 3rd world countries are hard at work in the developed world as well. The global system is predicated on more for the elite and less for the rest.

        Too bad locals where ever they are.

      •  no loss... (0+ / 0-)

        those f*ckers are killing people with that crap anyway...

        however, i don't believe they would disappear if they had to pay a living wage.  they may have shrink to the point where they are no longer as ubiquitous as gas stations, but, that's a small price to pay.

        No System of Justice Can Rise Above the Ethics of Those Who Administer It. (Wickersham Commission 1929)

        by No Exit on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:28:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What did you expect? (5+ / 0-)

    Capitalism is plunder.

    •  There are many examples of companies (5+ / 0-)

      That choose a sustainable, humane approach to their business.  We need public policy that rewards sustainable practices and punishes plunder.  Step one would be to bust up the media conglomerates and get real news to the public.

      We're ALL better off when we're ALL better off!

      by susanWAstate on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:14:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Until they get bought out or investors insist on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        new "Wall street friendly" CEOs and the board gets packed by fleecers and self serving profiteers.... and the outsourcing and firing and even liquidation.. partial or total commences.

        It does not happen right away but it sure seems to happen eventually with far too many formerly "good" companies... sure it also often wrecks the company or turns it into a very different animal... just a taker outfit which has strong armed into a semi monopoly or has a sweet set of outsourcing and tech lock or market rigging arrangements with competitors....

        Companies can be good to work for and succeed and have a sustainable and honest business plan but the pitfalls are everywhere and the vultures are lurking.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 03:05:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What ban nock said (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel, kurt

    Erm.  At least I didn't read this on my iPhone.

    This so very very easily becomes an identity where a nationalistic view of humanity becomes the solution to post-colonial exploitation.  I don't know that it is all bad.  There are too many of us, and our industrial model of human achievement and life is, as you note, pretty damn icky.  Mush it up against huge societies with vast inequality, mix in US and EU capitalists who happily consider humans as disposable parts,  and the result is quite awful.  

    Why I think the labor movement traditionally included communists and extended beyond borders.  In our country, the outsourcers have mostly been the Romney style sociopaths, who think the barbed wire is just to keep the suitors out while the young women do the jobs they are so grateful for.  The perfect funagbility of  human labor is a national value.  We seem unable to hold two things together in our heads -- the idea that neither protectionism nor free trade are moral ideals, and there are deserving humans on both ends.  We don't know how to do that, or care to do that.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 12:17:08 PM PDT

  •  My job was outsourced to : Oklahoma (2+ / 0-)

    The Singaporean company that bought the company I once worked for only wanted one of our chip designs, they got that and ran the company into the ground, along the way hiring the cheapest people they could find.

    It's a global shell game where companies and executives have no borders, but people are ever more restricted in movement.

  •  White Tiger (0+ / 0-)

    is an excellent fictional account of the world you describe; one of the best books I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 02:39:33 PM PDT

  •  The jobs that came to e.g. India still represent (0+ / 0-)

    a major improvement for people there compared to the options that would have had otherwise. Yes, there is plenty of stress from adjustment. But this is what US was like 100 years ago. I'm sure Europeans complained a lot about outsourcing at the time as well.

    •  A 100 years ago in the U.S. Andrew Carnegie and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      No Exit, Only Needs a Beat

      Frick were having striking steel workers shot down by Pinkerton thugs. Oh, and Carnegie built some libraries. He and Frick also destroyed the environment wherever they went.

      The jobs are outsourced. Why do workers have to live in locked down factories in China and in Guam and in American Samoa?

      The criminal financial elite will not let us leave behind the exploitations of the past. The global pirates of the world want a shining future for themselves and a grim past for the rest of us.

      •  How are we going to enforce labor law in India? (0+ / 0-)

        We can do smth about Guam and Samoa.

        •  If we could do something about the slavery in Guam (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          No Exit

          and Samoa it would already be done. The people and corporations responsible have bought their politicians.

          The labor and environmental crimes committed around the world by the global elite are committed against t us all.

          And it is crime.  

          •  If we can't even enforce labor laws in US, what's (0+ / 0-)

            the point in complaining about India?

            •  The conditions for the worlds workers are not (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yamara, chakadog

              going to improve because of globalization. Creating a secure working class and a prosperous middle class thru out the world is not the goal of Romney and company. NAFTA created 25 billionaires, up from 2, in Mexico. Wages went down for everyone else nation wide. And the farmers were ruined by American agra business.

              We keep being dealt down to a harsher more unfair world. The corporate exploitation of workers, government and the planet has to be derailed. And all of us are riding a rock thru space that is going thru some dangerous environmental changes. And we may all be fighting for water and a patch of land to grow potatoes instead of lucre.  

              Billions around the world are stuck in a mix of the middle ages and worst horrors of a Manchester mill, and the rest of us will be joining them if we don't demand that the pirate elites chill the fuck out.

              If Indian workers don't matter than I don't either. We are all just on the banksters menu.

              •  Globalization has been around for centuries. It (0+ / 0-)

                hasn't started with Romney. US was the place where the outsourced jobs went back in the late 19th century. We can try to improve conditions for working people but we can't turn back the clock.

                •  The clock is turned back. No corporation should (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  be allowed to profit from locked down factories and concentration camp conditions to build chips and consumer widgets. Fear and starvation wasn't OK in the 1830s, and the 1920s in Europe or the States and its not OK in 2012 in developing countries. The wealthy and powerful should stop trying to make the rest of us live in a grim past so they can live in a privileged present not caring about the future they deny everybody else.  

                  These global elites are no different then any other criminals in the past. And what they are selling is colonialism or empire or the right of pirates to plunder, because they are risk takers. Globalism without the economic justice, civil rights, and social advances people of the world have fought centuries to achieve  is just stale bread in a new wrapper.

                  Unions, Mexicans, Chinese workers, worker safety and living wages aren't my enemy, but Wall St, the Davos crowd, and corporations keep proving they are.

                •  Oh and nations didn't destroy their own industrial (0+ / 0-)

                  wealth in the 19th century. British steel makers in Liverpool didn't pack up factories and send them to foreign countries. Europe sought natural resources and brought them home. Labor was cheap enough. Brits came here to invest in railroads and raise cattle. The colonies were captured markets for manufacture. Remember the Brits didn't even want us to make barrels for ourselves. Not until finished cotton goods were sold back into Britain were Brit businessmen allowed to put England's industries in competition with colonial industries in any large way, and this not until the 1930s.  England grew cotton in Egypt during the Civil War and sent it back to England. They stole America's overseas cotton market. They didn't turn the pyramids into mills and make the workers sleep in the burial chambers. Though it is an old trick.

                  The global banksters got no new tricks, just new marks.

                  •  Yeah, that was the colonial trade system. It only (0+ / 0-)

                    worked b/c these countries were colonies. Do you propose to go back to that? US broke it b/c it was not a colony.

                    •  How do you keep missing the point? I believe (0+ / 0-)

                      that American countries manufacturing abroad should not practice industrial slavery and commit environmental destruction because the power elites in developing countries will allow them to. Our trade deals should encourage a higher standard of behavior. Workers should share the wealth they help create and corporations shouldn't poison the earth to make widgets.

                      We cannot protect the environment in our country or have a civilized standard of labor rights if corporations can always wage slave and poison water somewhere else in our over populated and shrinking polluted world.

                      NAFTA was example of the depth of depravity modern corporations will descend to so they can make not just profit, but a killing. And when they were done putting the American Mid West out of work, they took the jobs  from Northern Mexico and sent them off to Viet Nam and Asia. Ever seeking cheaper labor and less regulated conditions. And everywhere they go they promote the values of dark age robber barons and survival of the fittest Manchester mill owners.

                      My brother worked in Japan and China for 20 years. He built the parts for his plastic mold computer in China. He worked   in Asian, American and European manufacturing plants to install his equipment. He was a small businessman man and he fit into the system, he didn't design it. As a former steel worker and Union member he was appalled by working conditions in China and Southeast Asia. And he would have still made money if the plants he worked and manufactured in, were safer and less polluting. But he worked for tens of thousands per deal not billions. He was hard working not a greedy schemer.

                      It is the rotten deals the criminal global elites make that need to be structured differently. The worlds workers deserve a better deal. And the world would be better for it.

      •  But this is precisely the point... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Grabber by the Heel, No Exit

        We have lived through this... both in this country and in Europe. We allow history to repeat itself.

        I cannot agree that just because misery and squalor were part of industrialization here, the process should be replicated all over the world... We know better.

        If we demand that standards are enforced, outsourcing may not be such an attractive option for these companies.

        Also, I know people in India and elsewhere CHOOSE to take these jobs. That is undeniable. But... think of how traditional society has been impacted by more and more pervasive markets... Is it really a choice if they cannot equally choose to remain in traditional society and engage in traditional employment -- if those traditions have been or are being eradicated by globalization? What kind of choice does that give them? Awful job or starvation? Awful job or homelessness? Is that really a choice?

        This is precisely the reason why third world countries are so attractive to rapacious corporations. On the one hand, traditional life, backward as it may have been, is no longer viable. Colossal displacement and much misery results. Deb also discusses peasant suicides in his book... a truly overlooked phenomenon. All these people who can no longer subsist are invisible to these states that do not have any sort of social security net. This is the cost of spreading this kind of market capitalism abroad -- a cost that is, of course, externalized by corporations. They do nothing less than destroy traditional life and then take advantage of the victims. Of course, an awful job is better than starvation. But we need to see the entire phenomenon in its totality... And in this, globalization is the original sin.

  •  So there are two things here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BocaBlue, Grabber by the Heel

    Jobs - labor - employment, that's one thing.

    Working conditions, employee rights, working standards, that's another.

    In most developed countries, like Japan, the US, Canada, the UK, most of the EU, Australia, the two things do go together, largely due to the positive influence of unions and negotiated agreements between workers and corporations.

    The trump card that labor has is, obviously, the strike. Just as we saw in Chicago with the teachers' union. Management was forced to bargain regardless of how much it didn't want to do so.

    It is natural and understandable that corporations seek to dodge the power of labor. This has made labor, where exportable, a commodity to be sold to the lowest bidder.

    BUT WAIT! Factory and manufacturing jobs are starting to return to the US. Good, yes?

    Well, in the past 40 or so years, labor unions, guilds, federations in the US have been decimated. About 1 in 10 are left standing so that only around 14 percent of US workers have that sort of protection.

    Look at Detroit - new UAW employees have sharply curtailed wages and benefits.

    The outlook for the jobs picture in the US isn't good if management, if corporations, hold the brutal upper hand and can force employees to work long hours for minimum wage. We will have to re-learn the lessons of our forefathers and re-fight the battles they once won.

    The employees of WalMart, Amazon, Subway, McDonalds, etc., have got to organize and fight to claim a larger portion of their companies' profits. They deserve them.

    Disclosure: I've never worked for a union and never thought much of them. As a knowledge-worker, I've lived my life outside of these concerns, and it is weird and strange that I'm talking like this, like some kind of 1930's rabble-rouser.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to the man. - dls

    by The Raven on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 03:56:21 AM PDT

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