Robert Lynn Green
- I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
America the Consumer Colony
Recently, I viewed a documentary on the life and work of Mohandas Gandhi. I got one big feeling of deja vu from a remark made by one man who was reminiscing on how Great Britain exploited India while India was a part of the British Empire. The discussion was on how Great Britain stripped India of its natural resources and denied Indians the capacity to manufacture their own goods. The remark was made, "We didn't even have the capacity to manufacture a safety pin."
That remark caused me to reflect that in America, we export more and more of our manufacturing base to countries where labor is cheap. The American work force employed in manufacturing has fallen to 11 percent from 30 percent in the mid-1960's.
Foreign countries, in turn, sell us finished products: clothing, electronics, computers, cars and so forth causing our trade deficits with these countries to rise and our dependency on them to increase. Corporations are, in effect, treating us much the same way in economic matters that Indians were treated by the British prior to Gandhi's non-violent revolution. We have become a consumer colony and a corporation cash cow.
How long this can continue, is uncertain. We cannot keep up the practice of exporting high paying jobs manufacturing while creating a country made up of the few well paid professions and the many low paid service sector employees. As Louis Uchitelle points out in his essay "Factories Move Abroad, as Does U.S. Power" (NY Times, August 17, 2003) "Too many products are no longer manufactured here. . . and the skill to make them has disappeared. Resurrecting that skill is difficult. . . . Nor [is] it easily woo back American companies that have invested huge sums in large, modern facilities abroad."
We need to demand that our economic policy reflect the high cost of cheap imported goods.