Cargo ship in China
The first and most important step toward real and lasting economic growth in America is undoing the damage done over the last 30 years by outsourcing. Every manufacturing job that goes overseas costs 15 jobs outside the factory, the support system for those working families: the supply chain, information technology, shipping, packaging, telecommunications, water, electricity, other utilities, research and development, sales and marketing, janitorial, maintenance, restaurants, shopping, police, firemen, schoolteachers, and so on.
Not only does outsourcing hurt American workers and their families, it hurts the factory workers overseas who are not protected by labor laws, and who often work over sixty hours per week for starvation wages. America outlawed slavery 150 years ago and yet our largest and most profitable companies now accumulate wealth using that very same business model outside our borders. Each year America imports over 2 million shipping containers filled with goods made by foreign workers who are compensated in paltry quantities of rice. This is a dark stain on our moral fabric, and we are complicit in spreading it further every time we buy imported consumer goods from Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Sears, K-Mart, and other major retailers. We cannot be free people if our lives are sustained by the subjugation of other human beings.
Another downside is the cost of shipping. A single container ship burns $100,000 per day (83,000 gallons) of bunker fuel, a petroleum product basically one grade in quality above asphault, which is then exhausted under the ship to hide the damage it does to our environment. 16 of these ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world, and there are 90,000 cargo ships moving cheap plastic junk to our shores right now. That’s almost 300 million barrels of oil being burned, and 5,600 times more pollution than all the cars in the world being created, every single day, so that a few CEOs can use slave labor to put Americans out of work. By contrast, global daily oil consumption on terra firma is around 90 million barrels per day.
My humble recommendation to the newly elected government is this. We are by far the most ravenous consumers of everything in the world, and unscrupulous corporations are happy to destroy the earth to maximize their profits on our consumption habits. Let’s put a carbon tarriff on all containers that come into our country by land or sea. If the goods in the container came from China or anywhere else, they spewed death and destruction on the way, and devoured our increasingly expensive supply of fossil fuel to do it, and they caused incalculable human suffering both at home and abroad. Let’s put those costs in terms that corporations understand, US dollars. As Warren Buffett would say, we need to get the “incentives in the right place.” When it is no longer profitable to export jobs by creating huge carbon footprints, this madness will take care of itself.