Last year, about 1.3 million factory jobs disappeared in America, according to USA Today. Every year we see more and more of our jobs moving to Mexico, China, and other countries, while Americans are left with fewer and fewer options to find employment.
As companies close down or ship jobs offshore, we see small towns and big cities across the country reduced to virtual ghost towns as workers move away in search of new jobs. Businesses shut down because their customer base is shrinking, schools lose funding as class sizes diminish, local governments cut back on services, and the downward spiral continues.
It’s easy to blame big business for the problem, believing that all they care about is profits, and if they can produce their goods cheaper offshore, that’s what they are going to do. And cooperate greed is a very big part of the problem.
However, that’s only one part of the problem. Employees themselves have to carry some of the blame for the predicament they now find themselves in. For years labor unions have demanded more and more, until some companies just could not break even. I saw it in Arizona in the early 1980s, when copper miners in Clifton and Morenci went on strike against the Phelps Dodge Corporation for even higher wages than they had been getting. Three years later, none of them had jobs. If Arizona copper miners didn’t want to work, there were plenty of miners in other countries eager for jobs. Today copper mining, once a powerhouse industry in Arizona, is almost a forgotten relic of times past. A few weeks ago I wrote about an Elkhart, Indiana band instrument company where the same thing happened.
The world has changed. As Third World nations emerge, their industries do not have the restrictions and pressures American industry has. To survive, American industry and industrial workers need to change too. The “us against them” labor/management attitude needs to be replaced with one of “we’re all in this together.”
Another factor are the environmentalists who don’t want us to cut down trees, drill oil wells, build pipelines, open factories, or do anything else that might in any possible way disturb obscure critters like dung beetles and spotted owls.
And let’s not forget the folks in Washington, D.C., who heap restrictions and taxes higher and higher on the backs of American businesses. If they make a dollar profit, it seems like they are expected to give 99 cents of it to support foreign aid, foreign wars, illegal aliens, and home grown welfare moms. How can a factory survive?
But we, as consumers, are not without guilt either. We all want to spend the least amount of money for anything we buy, which has led to the proliferation of big box stores that have run the small retailer out of business, and to the glut of cheap foreign goods those big stores sell. Every American wants to earn top wages and pay bargain basement prices. That just doesn’t work.
For a company to produce quality goods and pay their employees high wages, they have to charge more for the finished product. Only by cutting expenses can they produce and sell anything cheaper. Do you remember that old saying about buying oats? If you want nice, fresh oats, you have to pay top dollar for them. But if you are willing to settle for oats that have been run through the horse already, they are a whole lot cheaper!
The government announced in January that, for the first time in history, most union members are now government employees, not workers in the private sector. America needs blue collar jobs. We need manufacturing. We need industry making products that bring wealth into a community and a nation, instead of spending our dollars offshore to buy products made elsewhere. We cannot survive as just a service economy. We need to stop shipping our jobs to Mexico and China, and bring them back home.
So how do we do that? I’m afraid we can’t. Well, let me clarify, I’m afraid we won’t. The first thing we all have to do is to change our mindset, and I don’t see that happening! We are all too selfish to give up the cheap junk we buy at mega retailers. Our government is too afraid of offending other countries by imposing tariffs on their goods. Our lawmakers are too happy sticking lobbyist and special interest money into their own pockets, rather than allow things to change.
We need to impose sanctions against companies who close down U.S. plants and move them overseas. We need union workers to understand that it’s a new world and that the gravy train has derailed. They need to learn the word compromise. We need lawmakers who have the guts to say “no more” and make the hard changes, no matter how unpopular they are. We all need to be willing to pay a little more for quality American made goods.
If we don’t, just like the mill and factory towns that sit mostly empty and broken, I fear that America itself is in danger of becoming the world’s biggest ghost town!
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