We just finished a section on the distribution of wealth in my Social Problems class where we read books like Schlosser's Fast Food Nation
Ehrenreich's Nichol and Dimed
. While these books give my students a better perspective on how the working poor (or little people) view the world (of which many are a part of or but one step removed), these books don't help them see the world from the perspective of the important people. So some fail to understand how President Bush can encourage outsourcing their jobs to India and defend these actions as a good thing.
To help them see why Bush is right, I've written the following essay to appreciate the differences between "little people" and "important people." Since there has been much discussion of this issue on the Kos site, I'm hoping you can help me make this even better. Please give me feedback and suggestions on how to improve this before I email this to my class on Monday.
After the jump
We just finished our section on social class and economic inequality. This morning I was asked how President Bush can defend the outsourcing of more jobs to India as a good thing. One strategy social scientists use to understand the social world is try to mentally put yourself in the shoes of other people and view the world as they see it. Several of our readings tried to let you see the world from the perspective of the working poor. However, you can use the same method to try to understand the perspective of people at the very top of our economic ladder and how Bush's comments make sense when you view the world from that height.
If you are a little person - someone in the bottom 98 to 99% of the economic ladder - it might not be in your personal best interest to promote outsourcing jobs to India. But don't be so ego centric, think about that 1 to 2% who make the big decisions and run this country.
Sometimes, we little people have trouble seeing the bigger picture (that might be why we are little people or maybe we just didn't choose our parents wisely). So you are working your way through school to get that accounting degree, J.D. in law, or maybe you strive to be a medical doctor. You are hoping to land a good job or even great career where you can live comfortably, provide for your family, give your kids a good life, and maybe even contribute something to your local community.
That is all good and admirable but you are still thinking like a little person. From your little person perspective, you want the government to fund educational grants, keep medical and drug costs down, and you want your skills to be enough in demand that you can easily find rewarding high salary employment. And President Bush feels your pain as evidenced by his comment that, "People do lose jobs as a result of globalization and it's painful for those who lose jobs."
But Bush also sees the larger picture with his follow-up comment that "globalization provides great opportunities." Now if you little people are still with me, try to see the world from the perspective of the important people. For example, how might the Frist family (our next First family?) view the situation?
The Frist family worth is over $1 billion (that is 1,000 million, a number the human brain has a problem comprehending). They are founders and primary owners of Hospital Corporation of America, the largest hospital group in the U.S. According to their website, "At its peak, the $20 billion company had approximately 285,000 employees, more than 350 hospitals, 145 outpatient surgery centers, 550 home care agencies and several other ancillary businesses." Restructuring, they sold non hospital properties and some less profitable hospitals and how have "approximately 191 hospitals and 82 outpatient surgery centers in 23 states, England and Switzerland."
For members of the Frist family, the agreement to out source more jobs to India is a good thing. Their worries are not the pedestrian concerns of little people but how to profitably manage the above empire. Jobs and careers are not a personal goal but assets of the corporations they buy and sell. If they can replace expensive U.S. accountants, lawyers, and doctors with competent Indian personnel at a fraction of the cost, they have increased the wealth for their stockholders and their families. If they hold stock in drug companies or bill on a cost plus basis, they don't want lower drug costs or Canadian competition. And they want to limit the rights of patients to sue doctors and hospitals if they make mistakes.
Of course, the Frist family is not the only Billion dollar family. There are many other families in similar situations who control major sectors of the economy. With the increasing concentration of wealth and growing inequality it is sometimes difficult for the little people to understand the motives and behaviors of the important people. I hope this has helped you better understand the problems our important people face.