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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

Outsourcing's Beneficiaries

 

They're still at it. The Bushies, Global Corporatists and anyone making a buck off of Americans losing their jobs are still trying to explain to us "plain folk" that outsourcing is good for us all. I guess you have to admire their tenacity.

 

"Outsourcing... is a good thing". Do You all remember that one? That was given to us all by President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush's first Chief economic advisor Dr. N. Gregory Mankiw, the man whose only job out of academic life was that of a sailing instructor for one whole summer.

Then, in January of 2005, we had John Stossel of ABC's 20/20 lie to us and say that a Dartmouth study found outsourcing to be a good thing. In fact, as Madman uncovered easily enough, the study wasn't funded or supported by Dartmouth, but by a group of "haves and have-mores" who simply commissioned a Dartmouth associate professor and allowed him to prostitute himself.

*****

A Dartmouth study found that outsourcers actually create jobs in America at a faster rate than companies that don't outsource. The same study found that companies that outsourced abroad ended up hiring twice as many workers at home.
-John Stossel"


*****

"The “Dartmouth Study” wasn’t commissioned by Dartmouth University. It was a study by Associate Professor, Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. And guess who actually DID commission the study? The Coalition for Fair International Taxation (C-FIT) commissioned it. And who are the members of C-FIT? There are 26 members of the C-FIT including Hewlett-Packard, Dow Chemical and Electronic Data Systems. Just ask the citizens of Houston, Texas what happened to their city when Hewlett-Packard outsourced their jobs. The 26-member coalition is lobbying for tax breaks, provided by Rep. Bill Thomas, the Republican Ways and Means Committee Chairman’s Bill, to keep jobs and money outside of the USA. Paying taxes outside of the USA does the USA and its citizens no good.
"By the way, this wasn’t a Dartmouth Study. This was a study by a Dartmouth Associate Professor paid for by twenty-six interested third parties. Think of it like this: I’m a network engineer and I work for 123 Company in New Jersey. If a XYZ Company asks me to perform an evaluation of their computer network on my own time, that company couldn’t claim that 123 Company did the evaluation, even though I am an employee of 123 Company. What’s more, if the evaluation that I performed turns out to be incorrect, 123 Company can’t be held responsible for the work I performed at XYZ Company. Who would be held responsible if the report by Associate Professor Matthew Slaughter turns out to be wrong, or even worse, was based on misleading date provided by the 26-member coalition? Will it be Dartmouth University? I don’t think they’d take the rap for that one, but Professor Slaughter would be, and should be looking for a new job. Much like I would be if my computer network evaluation was wrong."
-Madman, January 28, 2005 (http://www.nationalview.org/newsletter/newsletter_012805.htm)


Today, the truth about outsourcing is being challenged by another "never-had-a-job-outside-of-academia" college professor from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. Personally, I think that name of that school ought to be changed.

At a meeting titled "The New Economic Geography" at Federal Reserve conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (home of Dick "Go-<F---> Yourself" Cheney"), Professors Gene Grossman and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg argued that those with the least skills in our nation's workforce, or our nation's "unskilled workforce", have it better than they ever did. In fact, according to the pair's paper which was presented at the conference, wages for those workers have been rising since 1997.

So I checked the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' website and I found that, using pure DOL numbers that the duo was right. For those blue collar workers who actually still have a job, their real wages, as compared to the CPI (Consumer Price Index, A.K.A. Inflation) have gone up. That's great news if these people live in shacks near a stream so they can get free water; have a wood burning stove to keep them warm; and are able to walk to work instead of drive. Unfortunately, this report misses the fact that all universally used goods are not used, universally. Staples such as gasoline and home heating oil have not gone up at the same rate as real wages have gone up, but have eclipsed them numerous times over.

So I decided to check out a couple of articles written by Professor Grossman. In his article titled: A PROTECTIONIST BIAS IN MAJORITARIAN POLITICS, Grossman (along with co-author Elhanan Helpman) never used the word "worker" at all. And in his article titled "Outsourcing in a Global Economy", the word "worker" is used only once in 25 pages.

The word "worker" to Grossman doesn't seem to come into the picture in relation to the economy. Perhaps he should remember the words of Abraham Lincoln:

 

"Capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed -- that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor."

-Abraham Lincoln, 1859

 

What I couldn't help but notice is the that the loss of low, unskilled jobs over the Bush years seems to not have been mentioned. The writings apparently miss the obvious fact that the American Worker can no longer compete for the jobs of slave- and slave-like labor in the nations of the world who don't have the freedoms and democracy we have here in the US. Similar to pre-US Civil War times in the US, when the southern states could offer cheap (slave) labor to sell goods to the northern states, our nation as a whole can't compete with foreign produced goods being sold on our shores.

The pair of professors talk about trade, but what is it which we are trading to the likes of Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China and India? Are there a lot of peasant workers hanging out at the local Starbucks? Is General Motors selling their a whole boatload of Sierra Trucks in New Delhi? Just what is it that makes this free trade?

Free trade, as defined by the authors of such papers as these, take the form of jobs going over to cheap-labor nations; then are sold in the US to those who are now offered no choice but to buy these goods. The "Free" part is no taxes paid by the importers to the US while at the same time giving them the freedom to see US companies close their doors and fire these unskilled workers, who are now free to compete with high school students for jobs at McDonald's Burger King and the local supermarket. The "Trade" part takes the form of us trading our dollars to overseas manufacturers so global corporatist CEO's have the "Freedom" to "Trade" in their rich lives for the ultra-rich lives of the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores".

The duo also talked about the increase in productivity of the American worker while failing to notice that, while production numbers have gone way, way up salaries haven't. In fact, since Bush has taken office, the real wages of the American unskilled workforce have been reduced. In other words, just because the 1997 through 2005 numbers show a rise in the real income earned by these workers, the 2000 through 2005 numbers show a real loss.

"far from exceptional"
-The wage gains by the US unskilled worker, according to Grossman and Rossi-Hansberg's report


See? It's not SO bad.

"This has allowed firms to take advantage of differences in factor costs and expertise across countries, thereby enhancing the benefits of specialization,"
-Grossman and Rossi-Hansberg

Our specialty will be to continue to be the purchasers of inferior goods sold to us at a small discount for work that we used to perform well.

Remember when "Buy American" was a rallying cry of the Right? Today, when I tell people that I always look to buy American first, they look at me like I'm crazy.

Here are the latest Bureau of Labor Statistic numbers (as of August 27, 2006):

Statistic Change 06/ to 07/2006 What it Means
CPI 0.40% Inflation Up - Bad for Consumers
Unemployment Up to 4.8% from 4.6% 4.35% Unemployment Up - Bad for Workers and workforce
Jobs Created Down from 135,000 to 113,000 19.50% Less jobs created - bad for recently unemployed and those still seeking jobs
Productivity 1.10% Up - Good for employers bad for workers if new jobs aren't created and wages don't increase.

Notice the huge decrease in "jobs created". While this means everything to the US worker, these statistics mean nothing to the Princeton professors whose numbers, evidently, are spun only to show the advantage of outsourcing to the manufacturer, not the benefit to the US worker. There is none.

 

Description June July Change
Civilian labor force 151,321,000 151,534,000 213,000
  Employment 144,363,000 144,329,000 -34,000
  Unemployment 6,957,000 7,205,000 248,000
Not in labor force 77,350,000 77,379,000 29,000

Note the loss of employed Americans from June o July of this year.

 

Description June July Change
Total Possible Workforce 228,671,000 228,913,000 242,000
Total Employed 144,363,000 144,329,000 -34,000
Percentage of Probable Workforce with jobs  63.13% 63.05% -0.08%

The actual amount of working Americans has decreased 34,000 in one month. This statistic has already taken into account the 113,000 new jobs that were created in July, 2006. You should also note the Madman provided statistic of America's "Total Possible Workforce", which adds the total number of employed Americans to the total number of unemployed Americans plus the total number of Americans not in the workforce. During times of great, shared national wealth, it's possible, and even probable that some Americans in two income families, might want to have one person stop working. But in these past few years of more American households requiring two (or more) incomes, it's highly unlikely that there are less Americans who want or need to be in the workforce than more. The total employed American workforce, as compared to the total possible workforce (Americans who can work but are either unemployed, need to work but have given up on a job search or choose not to work) has fallen almost one percent in just the matter of one month.

 

Spinning numbers is easy for college professors who never had to perform the kind of labor they're spinning the numbers against. But the truth is this: Americans are worse off today than they were a mere five years ago.

 

Spin That!

 

-Noah Greenberg


Mel's Steps

 

Try and not to picture this, if you please.

Most men will know what I'm talking about. You're in a new-millennium-style beer hall, like a T.G.I. Friday's or a Bennigan's, having a few semi-watered-down "brewski's" when "the urge" taps you on the shoulder (or a little further south) and you retreat to the place near the fake, early twentieth century phone booth and some old pictures of people you don't know. (That's the bathroom, for those of you too snooty to enter one of these suburban watering holes.) You have two choices in Friday's/ Bennigan's/ Chili's when you "do your business": You may stand in front of "Urinal A" and read the sports' page (the preferred urinal) or you may stand in front of "Urinal B" and read whatever news the busboy thought was worth thirty seconds of your time (up to a full minute, depending on how much you've already drank).

This is where I saw a small article about Mel Gibson titled: Gibson Makes Apology Calls

Now, anyone who has read my thoughts on the road warrior (a name more apt today then when he starred in that movie franchise), or my daughter, Bonnie's article written when she was 16-years-old about Hunter Gibson (Mel's Holocaust-denying dad, who explained it away by saying that all the Jews moved to Ohio) knows that I wasn't a fan of Gibson's for some time now. So my writing about his shortcomings should come as no surprise.

But today, I am here to praise Gibson with my tongue pressed firmly on the inside of my left cheek.


Noticing the small article above "Urinal B" (as "Urinal A" was already occupied), I saw a picture of the star and and started reading. Here's the beginning of the article:

"Mel Gibson has decided to make good with the Jewish community, one Jew at a time.
"TMZ has learned that Gibson has been calling entertainment industry honchos with whom he's worked in the past and apologizing for his anti-Semitic rant the morning of his DUI arrest."
-From www.tmz.com, Mel Phones Jews -- "I'm Really Sorry" at http://www.tmz.com/2006/08/24/mel-phones-jews-im-really-sorry/

 
Wasn't that nice. Gibson was calling all of the people who control his purse-strings, many of whom happen to be Jewish. This, I thought, was similar to his wanting to speak at one of Los Angeles' Synagogues during the upcoming Jewish high-holy holidays or Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for a fake apologetic photo-op. I'd bet my bottom dollar that the house of worship he would have chose for this Mea Culpa would have had a couple of these Hollywood big shots in its congregation for the "Lethal Weapon" to make eye contact with. Maybe he could even force out a tear or two.

So I kept laughing, attempting to control it (after all, I had aiming to do) when I got to this part:

"It is unclear why Gibson began making the calls, however his rep has told TMZ that his client was in a recovery program, which includes a twelve-step program to sobriety. Step Number Nine is making amends. If Gibson is on Step Number Nine, he clearly is on the fast track."
-The
www.tmz.com article

This is when I couldn't contain my laughter. I think I peed on the guy in "Urinal A's" shoes.

In an online poll, 41 percent of those who answered said that they think Gibson was "sincere". See? there really IS hope for the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party after all.

Let me get this straight. Mel Gibson was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving on Friday, July 28th of this year. Even if his twelve-step program began on July 29th, that would mean that Mel has completed steps one through eight in less than four weeks. That's two steps a week! This must be some kind of record or, perhaps, the movie-star/ producer/ director is just full of what we all know he is actually full of.

-Noah Greenberg


More on Bush's Lunch with Rocky

Although Madman usually prints response at the bottom of each issue, I felt it necessary to print this one as an original article. It's ore of a continuation of "Bush's Lunch with Rocky" than a response to it. -NG

Madman's splendid commentary on the "Rocky" visit to Bush last week wasn't just incisive and on-the-mark, but it actually raised issues buried by the GOP since Katrina.

I lived in New Orleans, in the Ninth Ward. I worked in two poverty-stricken neighborhoods, Treme and Desire. My friends who still live in New Orleans tell me all three of these places are simply ghost towns.

One of my closest friends, Greg Herren, a well-known writer, editor of Southern Tier Edtions and organizer of the annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival and the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, was one of many New Orleanians displaced by Katrina. After several months of living with family in Kentucky, he moved back to New Orleans last winter only to find that it looked exactly as it had immediately after the storm. And continues to, for the most part.

Herren has explained it this way: "People who aren't here say it's like the Third World. It isn't. It's like the Balkans or other parts of the Eastern bloc--we have electricity, but it goes in and out regularly. We have water, but it also shuts down periodically. If you need medical care, you have to go to a different city--fine if you are middle class, but not so good if you aren't."

And Herren adds that the same is true of other basics, like getting one's car fixed. It's a struggle to live in New Orleans now and many residents who returned are leaving, disheartened. There is no tax base, because the city has lost half its residents and half its revenue. The city is virtually bankrupt.

Many will rage over Mayor Ray Nagin's 60 Minutes interview in which he made some arguably unfeeling comments regarding the rebuilding of New Orleans versus the rebuilding of Ground Zero, but the point behind his unfiltered statement needs to be considered: There has been endless thought, consideration and money poured into the concept of what to do with Ground Zero. Has an iota of that been generated over the near-total decimation of one of America's most unique cities and the displacement of 1.5 million people?

Rocky can posture all he wants about St. Bernard Parish (which isn't exactly as Noah Greenberg described it, by the way--much of it is very poor and it was terribly hard-hit by Katrina. However what does differentiate St. Bernard Parish from New Orleans proper is racial demographics: St. Bernard is white.) and he can talk about Bush being a people president, but the reality is this: The majority of the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans have been accomplished not by the federal government, but by Habitat for Humanity, individual church groups, college kids affiliated with church and political groups, and Oprah.

It does seem that a full year after Katrina somebody other than Spike Lee should be castigating the Bush Administration for it's utter failure to lead and to do anything at all to rebuild one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the nation.

Rocky was as wrong as he could be and this obviously orchestrated event was just one more despicable photo-op meant to deflect attention from grim reality: They are still finding bodies in New Orleans. They are still pulling refrigerators filled with year-old rotting food from houses that were never even touched in all this time. There is such a premium on construction in the area that even people who can afford to rebuild, can't.

Bush didn't cause Katrina, but he has done less than nothing to fix the subsequent damage done by the hurricane. What happened to New Orleans was nothing less than a national tragedy and as clear an indictment of government as 9/11. Not a more or less significant tragedy than 9/11, but one that needs to be memorialized and dealt with as avidly as that tragedy was. That, I believe, is at the heart of Nagin's angry comments. And it remains difficult for many of us, myself included, to think that if Katrina had impacted mostly white financiers on Wall Street. we would have ignored the hideousness of its aftermath the way we have done as a nation. How much money was paid to survivors of 9/11 by the federal government? Billions of dollars. How much money was loaned to survivors of Katrina? $2,000.Good luck rebuilding your life anywhere in the U.S. on $2,000.

Bush is the arbiter, but if we don't call him to task--literally--then we are collaborators, once again, in the spiraling down of this nation and all it's supposed to stand for. Katrina is an ongoing tragedy in America. We are fighting a "war on terror" in response to 9/11, which killed 3,000 people. Katrina killed 1,800 and we have just looked away, happy to hear folks like Rocky tell us all the news is good.

Aren't we hearing that about Iraq, as well? Time to wake up and smell the reality--and it smells like the rotting corpses of New Orleans who still demand a modicum of justice.

 

-Victoria Brownworth


President Photo-Op in the Big Easy


On April 27, President Bush went to New Orleans for a photo-op and visited 74-year old Ethel Williams, whose house was badly damaged when Hurricane Katrina struck. Putting his arms around Williams, Bush promised that her house would be rebuilt:

Mrs. Williams has invited myself and the Mayor and the Governor and Congressman into her home which had been wiped out by the storm. And she went to Texas for a while and she made it clear to me she was glad to be out of Texas and back home. But the amazing thing that’s happened in her home is that there are people from across the country here who are helping to rebuild it.

But four months later, as NPR reports, “not much has happened.” Williams said, “[W]e all disappointed because nothing’s been done.”

Unfortunately, the rest of the New Orleans hasn’t fared much better. A recent report from the Brookings Institution found that rent prices have sharply increased over the past year, while unemployment rates remain higher than pre-Katrina levels. Crime levels are also up in certain districts, and 60% of houses and businesses are not receiving electricity. New Orleans’s current population is only at around half its pre-Katrina level.


– Rohan Mascarenhas, submitted by Victoria Brownworth


Letter to the Editor

 

The following was in response to a pro-life/ anti-choice letter sent to a Midwest newspaper by Randi Haley, a regular reader and sometimes contributor to Note from a Madman:

Responding to Aaron Wright’s letter on August 23, I agree that abortion is a sensitive issue. I am afraid, however, that is where our agreement ends.


Ms. Wright starts by stating that the moral debate over abortion is simply about “whether or not a fetus is a life”. Reducing the discussion to such narrow terms negates all scientific evidence related to human embryonic development.


Of course a fetus is alive. Most of the things we eat were “living” before we killed and cooked them. The question before us, in this debate, is what qualifies as a living human being. The U. S. Supreme Court carefully considered this and concluded that viability is a relevant factor.


The roadside billboard religious notion that there is a baby in a woman’s belly immediately after conception is a lie. A human organism takes several months to evolve from a clump of cells to a tadpole like structure and into a viable human being. At twelve weeks, the legal limit on abortions, the embryonic organism weighs less than an ounce, does not resemble a human, cannot see, hear, smell, breath, or feel in any human way. It has not yet established a central nervous system.


Also, Ms. Wright’s argument that women choosing to have abortions should be forced to view an ultra-sound and endure opposing points of view lacks truth and substance.
As a woman who counsels and cares for pregnant women, I know many pregnant women who are opposed to having ultra-sounds. I also know that there is no logical reason for a woman who is not proceeding with a pregnancy to need an ultra-sound. Therefore, the only purpose for the ultra-sound is to serve the needs of someone other than the woman involved. To me, this is a violation of privacy and the woman’s right to control what is done to her body. As for forcing women to read literature presenting “alternative views”, are we talking about religious views or something else? Is this still America?


Finally, I would like to suggest that by openly admitting you don’t know all the facts and yet proclaiming yourself as “against abortion”, you are admitting to having a closed mind. If you are going to close your mind, please don’t enter a ballot.


-Randi Haley
Certified Childbirth Educator
Certified Breastfeeding Educator


Just Get It Done
International Troops and the Buffer Zone

French President Jacques Chirac's caviling over the number of troops called for to fulfill UNIFIL's mission in South Lebanon is almost beneath contempt.

Has the learned gentleman already forgotten the difficulties encountered by the Coalition in Iraq, the IDF or even French internal security forces that arose from committing too few troops to suppress Islamic insurgents?

Common sense and military doctrine call for the commitment of OVERWHELMING FORCE as the best assurance of victory.

Time is not on our side, the time to disarm Hezbollah is now, while their forces are degraded from their recent encounter with the IDF. Each passing day allows Hezbollah to replenish their arsenal, and recruit and train new fighters.

France, Italy and the other powers involved in UNIFIL must recognize the urgency and importance of successfully using an international force to cool one the recurrent hot spots in the world.


-Robert Chapman


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-Noah Greenberg