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« Breaking News: Obama Hates America! (Joe) | Main | The Earliest Indian Americans »

October 07, 2007

Comments

What about concern for lost U.S. jobs?

The wholesale transfer of manufacturing to China has been a way to bypass the
tougher and, in my view, necessary, labor and environmental standards.

Any guilt that parents feel, or feel they are made to feel, on account of contaminated toys or food or tires, should take a distant second place to concerns about the erosion of middle-class jobs, imho.

These recalls are getting out of hand. I'm afraid that this is only the beginning and we're going to see alot more as we get into the Christmas time. I now go to www.leadtoyrecalls.com every day to make sure I have the latest news.

It's also got guidelines for toy safety and a list of safe lead-free made in USA toys and where to buy them.

Yay for WTO and China! Free trade works!! :)

Nandini,

Lost U.S jobs is a very real concern in the outsourcing of the manufacturing industries (whether primary or secondary or tertiary,might be just a simple difference of opinion and frame of reference). There's no doubt that there are legions of plants closed down, with their processes and jobs being transferred to the industrial and software parks of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, etc. None of the top management 'gives a damn', so long as their golden parachutes get heavier and heavier with the weight of the bullion.
But you can be sure that the profit motive will almost always override any concerns, whether for consumer health, the health of US economy and job sector or the health of those living and working in the vicinity of the said plants. The sad but not astonishing part is the now open complicity of the government in removing regulatory provisions, just because company XYZ made several thousands of dollars worth of donations to the RNC or the candidacy of _______

Amit,

That was a strange glimpse into a totally different view of the WTO! I thought I had landed on an Onion page of some kind by mistake. Quite interesting and well-worthy of more detailed examining, so I've bookmarked it to check out at my leisure.

AW,

Thanks for the link. I've added it to the post. One of the linked articles on that page shows that with this sudden media-brouhaha over the lead in toys, companies are still scrambling to get their act together on how to dispose of the lead tainted toys. Only Mattel seems to even have a semblance of a plan in place. As for the others, my suspicion is that poorer countries are going to see an influx of cheap or free toys tainted with lead, just as an earlier case of a toy recalled for mercury toxicity and disposal issues.
On a trip to India made in July 2004, I noticed that Kelloggs India had a special "only in India"promotion of a Spiderman toy freebie with their cereals, which my kids promptly put to good use in fake battles. Except that the toys in question had already been subject in the same month to a recall in the US, because of the danger of improper disposal of its batteries which contain mercury. Why does Kelloggs do this? Because they can. Because ultimately, brown lives and environments are worth less than those in the US. Because the Indian government couldn't care less unless some celebrity chooses to start a hunger fast on the issue.
Fast forward to 2006, and those pesky environmentally-unfriendly 'cool wrist-projector' toys are still being dumped in India on another promotion,for the latest Superman movie this time. Curiously, Google searches don't pull up any advertising for this new promotion. Meanwhile, questions arise about how all the previous toys had been disposed of. It was an unsettling sight/olfactory experience to drive past the burning refuse piles of Pallikaranai on the outskirts of Chennai. One wonders about the toxins released by improper disposal of these kinds of trash, the effects on the groundwater and food chains.

Sujatha, re: Kellogg's, they have an excellent precedent to go by where the Indian government demonstrated it has no backbone: Union Carbide and Bhopal.

Umm, I disagree on concern for US jobs. I want the US to lose more jobs to outsourcing. Let me explain.

Economists differ significantly in their approach to "free market" economics -- the two poles historically represented by the U of Chicago (conservatives like Milton Friedman) and the Harvard (liberals like JK Galbraith) economics departments. But there is virtually unanimous support for "free trade" in both Chicago and Harvard. Among other things, "free trade" implies that each country should make what it can make better than anybody else in the world (i.e., more cost effectively), and that protective trade barriers like tariffs that artificially prop up inefficient industries should be removed (economists differ here on whether a gentle ramp down is better or a sharp one).

Loss of jobs should not be a concern if we have safety nets and job retraining opportunities, as we do in the US (it can be debated if it's enough). Outsourcing is a natural and healthy aspect of a dynamic economy. The US has grown rich precisely because it has continued to lose all those manufacturing jobs to Japan, China, and Taiwan over the last 50 years. This has allowed the US to move towards higher value services and the so-called knowledge economy jobs. What US shareholders / companies save by outsourcing is reinvested to create new jobs. What the rest of the world makes with their new jobs is then used to buy US products. And so on. Real "free trade" is a win-win.

This is one viewpoint I think Republicans have right and I resent the misguided Democratic populism on scaling back outsourcing. Loss of jobs in the US is ultimately good for the US and also good for the world. For years now, US unemployment has been at an optimally healthy 5% or so. The focus of liberals should really be on shoring up regulations, labor laws, retraining, and safety nets worldwide, rather than keeping people in inefficient jobs.

Namit,

In an ideal world, I would be nodding in agreement with your views without any reservation. Outsourcing has indeed generated wealth in the US- the problem lies in its distribution. Whatever the increase in wealth, it hasn't been trickling down effectively to the more impoverished groups, whose incomes and standard of living has basically not changed more than a fraction of a percent. In other words, the rich get richer, the middle class and poor are stuck where they are, and it's not a pleasant place to be, especially with the rise in fuel prices and the impact it has on prices of necessities.
Outsourcing has brought its share of 'economic blessings and dynamism' to the countries where the jobs/manufacturing has been moved, but again, this is not an unmitigated blessing, especially in the absence of safeguards and regulations to prevent exploitation of the workers, environment and other concerns.

Sujatha,
Unfair distribution is a problem but not because of free trade: the two are independent. Both liberal and conservative economists support free trade and outsourcing (a mechanism for efficient production). But only liberal economists tend to be concerned about fair distribution (and labor laws, env. regulations, safety nets, etc.).

Even the poorest nations gain from free trade. Notice that the battle at the WTO is mainly about fairness (US disbanding its subsidies to farmers, Japan allowing greater access to US autos, China floating its currency, etc). Each nation has to then decide how much to tax their newly wealthy classes, how to distribute that tax, and what other laws to put in place. It is a legitimate argument that free trade should also include improving environmental and labor laws in all countries - else it's not a level playing field, say, for the Scandinavians. So I think liberals should push for fair distribution, better regulations, etc., while also supporting free trade and outsourcing.

Sujatha, also consider buying a SurvivaBall. :D

That is so cool, Amit! I want one, or on second thoughts I'll wait for the family edition. How come Keith Olbermann/Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert haven't been notified of this? (Hint, hint...) If Bill Moyers can interview the YesMen, so should they.

Ruchira,

Did you happen to catch a recent Colbert segment where he interviewed Chris Jordan whose art we had a link to in this May 2007 post? Quite goofily Colbertian.

Surprisingly enough, I did. Most days I don't watch Jon Stewart or Colbert because my husband has the TV tuned on to something else and I am usually reading by that time. But last Thursday, I was away in Galveston with a friend who is a die hard fan of the two shows. So I watched them with her. I did not much care for what went on between Colbert and Jordan. But later the same evening, I liked Colbert's interview on Larry King Live on the late night broadcast.

Ruchira, the Colbert-Daily Show episodes are also available on Comedy Central's website.

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