There was a time in America when it was easy to find laborers who had a specific function and a passion for their work. Accomplishment and pride in one’s work could be fully realized because there was personal interest in every step of the process.
Our industries were driven by laborers who created products and performed services for other Americans. These laborers were compensated for their efforts and purchased products from other Americans. Though it was an intricate economic system, there was something remarkably simple about it — a feeling of a universal, national purpose. America was built for Americans, by Americans.
Long gone are the days of consumer loyalty and passionate work ethics. Corporate interests are now focused primarily on profit and shareholder responsibility rather than the driving force of any good business, the employees.
The working class hero has been overlooked, not only by consequence of globalization, but by the public’s obsession with frugality. As consumers, we buy and sell America’s economic success and failure. The basic goal of purchasing is to obtain the product or service that meets the needs of the consumer and costs the least amount of money. It’s impossible to blame consumers for making smart purchases. However, a quick trip to Wal-Mart reveals that nearly the only local industry strenghtened by shopping there is retail.
Unfortunately for the job market, the country has drifted far from pre-World War II non-interventionism and self-reliance. The American dream of hard-working individualism hasn’t translated well to the global economy or the U.S.’ reliance on foreign trade.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, dealings between China and the U.S. from 1997-2006 might have cost America approximately 2,000,000 jobs because of trade deficits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in October, non-farm unemployment rose from 6.1 percent to 6.5 percent — a total of 240,000 more unemployed workers. Worse yet, the number of those without a job for 27 weeks or more rose to 2.3 million. So, why is it that the U.S. continues down the path of job loss and financial insecurity?
Most would assume that it’s by necessity — that in a global economy it is paramount for a nation to foster good trade relations to succeed. This may have some credence when it comes to multinational corporations, but settling for detrimental effects to American industry and employment so that multinationals might be more competitive globally doesn’t seem to be a fair trade for the average citizen. Large corporations are a boon in the sense that they buy domestic products and employ people here at home, but a burden in the sense that most business models don’t include keeping jobs in America.
Enacting harsh penalties for companies that ship jobs overseas is one of the cornerstones of President-elect Barack Obama’s fiscal policy. Some see this as a restriction of businesses’ freedoms. I, however, view it as a pragmatic approach to not only bolster the economy, but to renew a trust in America’s infrastructure. After all, the corporate freedoms being restricted are a far cry from the freedoms lost by millions of workers because of large trade deficits. The privilege to provide for oneself and one’s family by virtue of employment is a freedom that America must provide to every able and willing citizen.
Daniel Dunn is a junior majoring in philosophy.