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Class War in America, the Ongoing Assault

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Protectionism.  Capitalists were all for it before they were against it.  When manufacturing took place in America, when they paid workers enough to buy the products they produced, adding a tariff/tax/fee on to the cost of imported goods made by these same manufacturers' competitors overseas, was fine.  It just made sense.  It was good business to prevent your domestic market from being flooded with cheaper goods from overseas, because that would lower domestic manufacturing's ability to make enough money to stay in business.  And this is exactly how the British and the Americans built their global empires.

But when "free trade" was elevated to the god of the marketplace, when American manufacturers had the ability to locate manufacturing overseas in order to take advantage (and I do mean take advantage) of "cheap labor platforms" - that is, to stand on the backs of poor people in other countries who had no choice but to work at a rate far below American workers, who, after all, were Americans and had come to expect a "fair" share of the wealth they created with their labor in the form of wages - well then, all bets were off.  And the downsizing of American industry and the outsourcing of American jobs were off to the race to the bottom in order to fatten the bottom line.

American industries became multi-nationals.  They built their manufacturing plants in many countries with all the "cheap labor platforms" they could find to use as scaffolding.  They lost the ability to think of themselves as American manufacturers, except when it came to branding their products (produced outside America via foreign, "cheap labor platforms") as American, reaping the benefit of American manufacturing's reputation without actually selling American-made products.  Thus, many American manufacturers were American nationals in name only.  There were transnationals, manufacturers without a country, since they stood over/across - trans - all countries to make their profits.  And in the process they abandoned America, Americans and their own American-ness.  They abandoned loyalty to their own country and transferred it entirely to money.

As the rate of downsizing and outsourcing accelerated, American manufacturing on American soil was reduced to a hollowed-out shell of its former self.  American factories stood empty, rusting away in The Rust Belt, initially in places like the former Motor City, Motown, and then all across America.  And not only were American manufacturing facilities left to deteriorate into oblivion, so too, were American workers, who became collateral damage at "American" transnationals' economic Donner Party.

Goods of all kinds were being produced in Mexico, East Asia and China, stamped with American brand names and sold all over the world, including America, in Big Box Stores which dictated low, low prices not just in their retail stores, but from the wholesalers from whom they purchased those goods, further spurring the race to the bottom.  If you were an American manufacturer, and you wanted to sell your products to Big Box Store, you had to produce it cheap, cheap, cheap.  So you left America and produced it on the backs of those "cheap labor platforms" overseas.  And to do that you closed more and more American manufacturing plants and transferred more and more American jobs overseas. 

This enabled what was left of American manufacturing to lower wages across the board in America (except those of union labor).  In addition to the large pool of out-of-work, labor-in-waiting within America, which was created by all the downsizing and outsourcing, American workers who still had jobs were competing with desperately poor people in countries like Mexico, where NAFTA had decimated local farming by flooding the country with the American-taxpayer subsidized products of U.S. Big Ag.  This drove Mexico's ruined, rural farm population into American maquiladoras, or manufacturing plants, built conveniently all along the US/Mexico border by "American" transnationals. 

And when these "American" transnationals found a cheaper "labor platform" on whose back to stand in China, the Mexican maquiladoras began to pay even less, or close, just like here in America.  And this drove Mexican people left jobless to rush in a great stream across the border into America, much to the delight of American manufacturers still in America, who were looking for ways to slash their labor costs to better compete with the transnationals.  This was a bonanza for them, cheap labor to whom they could really dictate wages and conditions by threatening to report them to La Migra and have them deported.

So now Americans with jobs were competing not only with other, out-of-work American workers and those "cheap labor platforms" in other countries. American manufacturers were building a cheap labor scaffold right under their noses, pulling even more scarce jobs out from under them, because American workers were just "too expensive" for American manufacturers to employ.

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In addition, the transnational buzzards were circling American service jobs.  They realized they could downsize their US operations into lean, mean service- job-outsourcing machines by transferring functions like accounting, billing, call centers, anything computerized, to India and Ireland.  And there went a lot of our service jobs, out of America.

Workers in America were increasingly unable to buy "American" goods with their stagnant-for-30-years wages.  American workers were increasingly unemployed workers.  They needed to be able to buy food, healthcare, education, transportation, shelter, etc.  Enter super-low interest rates, courtesy of Alan Greenspan's Fed, and super-easy "credit" (a euphemisim for debt) from America's homegrown financial buzzards.  And the beat went on.  American workers were "buying" things with money they didn't have, spending it on those cheap goods made by "cheap labor platforms" which supported "American" transnationals.  And since for many American workers the only equity they had was the roof over their head, they began borrowing against the value of their homes in order to live.

"American" manufacturers were loving it.  "Free" trade agreements allowed them to sell their products all over the world without fear of these products being slapped with import fees/tariffs.  And they sold these foreign imports in America without fear of cost added to these products by tariffs, which would normally be charged on goods made by foreign manufacturers.  And make no mistake, these transnationals are "foreign" manufacturers with no particular interest in America except making money here. They made the goods in foreign countries with foreign workers and used American brands' names and reputations to sell them, unconcerned with lead in toys, melamine in pet food or formaldehyde leeching into American homes from Chinese-made, particle board kitchen cabinets. All without fear of cost added to these products by tariffs.  What's not to love?  At least for "American" manufacturers.

For American workers it's another story.  Up to their eyeballs in debt, they couldn't even go bankrupt.  Their "representatives" in Washington, excuse me, I mean the representatives of "American" transnationals and financial corporations, including our Vice President, who was known as the "Senator from Master Card", saw to it that even those who did make it to bankruptcy would have the Credit Card Company vultures come first to pick at what was left of their financial corpse, before house or car or student loan payments.  The Credit Card Companies have dibs on it.  Now they want to be allowed to garnish Social Security checks.

But this still isn't enough.  It wasn't enough to close plants in American and move them and our jobs overseas.  It wasn't enough to bankrupt us with medical bills and foreclose on our houses.  It wasn't enough to "extend" us "credit" to subsist on since our wages are insufficient.  Oh no, no, no, dearie, no.  "American" corporations need more.

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"American" corporations, transnationals, dontcha know, discovered H-1B.  No.  Not H1N1.  H-1B.  They claimed that they couldn't find enough qualified American workers to do those high tech jobs that weren't so easy to outsource.  And there is an entire industry... OK.  Maybe not an entire industry, but a niche, a nit-brained, immoral niche of law/consulting firms that do little but make sure "American" corporations do not find any qualified Americans to do these jobs.  Enter H-1B, a visa that allows these "American" corporations to import labor, thus displacing even more American workers, who are now competing with other out-of-work Americans, those "cheap labor platforms" in other countries, the labor scaffold transnationals are constructing out of "illegal" aliens, and legal aliens on H-1B visas brought to America specifically to take more American jobs.  Pretty soon we're going to have to cross the border to look for work in transnationals' Mexican maquiladoras.  Oh, wait, some "American" corporations planning to relocate overseas will allow you to keep the job you've had for 20 years if you're willing to relocate.  To India.  Whatta deal!

Now, you may think I have a problem with "illegal" immigrants driven here to look for work by NAFTA, or the people in countries like China doing the jobs Americans were doing before they were outsourced, or legal immigrants working in America on H-1B visas.  But you would be wrong.  Unlike easily-led tea-baggers (And I'll get back to them.  I promise.) anyone smarter than an artichoke can follow the money from the pockets of American workers, funneled by means of NAFTA, "cheap labor platforms" and H-1B visas directly into the silk-lined pockets of CEOs and corporate shareholders who decided (Yes, it was a conscious decision.) to deal American workers out of the equation, so they could pay vastly lower wages, charge the same or higher prices for the goods they had produced for them, and put vastly larger amounts of the wealth created by workers into those aforesaid silk-lined CEO and shareholder pockets.

All this is part of "THE PLAN".  The Right has been working on this since before the ink was dry on FDR's signature on the New Deal.  Some of them were so arrogant and greedy, so incensed at FDR's efforts to save his class's - and capitalism's - ass, that they plotted to overthrow the US government in order to prevent the imposition of democracy.  But who among us knows, let alone remembers this?  All the things that American workers fought for since the Gilded Age, through the Red Scares, the Palmer Raids, Haymarket, Homestead and Ludlow have been condemned to the Memory Hole.  Who remembers Woody Guthrie's music, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs, Parson and Spies, Big Bill Haywood, the Joads by-way-of John Steinbeck, et al?  Anyone who advocated American workers having a fair share of the wealth they created by means of their labor was labeled a Red, a commie, a pinko, a traitor.  They were the enemy then, as "terrorists" are now, the enemy of American plutocrats like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, etc., all of whom we still hear about today.  These "American" businessmen who paid to have American workers beaten, shot, blown up and hanged are known as American heroes who made it to the top on their own, who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, not as greedy vultures who picked the bones of the poor clean for a penny and made vast fortunes on their bent and broken backs.

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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).

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One thing is clear.  If US economy sneezes, M... by Margaret Bassett on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 5:59:06 PM
Merci.... by Jennifer Hathaway on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 6:57:26 PM
Thanks for your outstanding piece. I’ve been... by Mark Whittington on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 9:53:56 PM
I needed this.....Speaking truth to power is EMPOW... by LITNUP on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:58:06 PM
Very good piece!  It never ceases to amaze me... by Bryan Emmel on Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 5:31:46 PM
This is a brilliantly presented piece of writing. ... by Robert Arend on Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 8:06:53 PM
Through Outsourcing one can get best possible solu... by tina silvee on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 7:08:00 AM
"It's not until you lose everything that ... by cg on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 11:50:10 AM