American Culture

American Exceptionalism: It’s the economy, stupid


Image courtesy of Pew Research

My grandfather was a union-buster at Hanes Dye and Finishing Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He got his degree on the GI bill after World War Two and worked his way up through the company, all the way to executive vice-president. He was one promotion away from the presidency. He could have made Hanes Dye the best chemical company in the world. Instead they made him the straw boss.

This is the story of American manufacturing. A decision was made in the 1970s to outsource manufacturing to third world countries where wage slaves would perform the same work for pennies on the dollar. It was cheaper to build a new factory and ship the product halfway around the world than to pay a living wage in the USA. As a result, companies refused to bargain with labor, tendering counter-offers that were insulting, like severe pay reduction and no benefits.

Some unions caved, realizing their position to be hopeless, leaving members in the lurch. They continued to collect union dues, but their promises became increasingly vague as workers’ rights were chiseled away to nothing. At Hanes Dye and Finishing Company, the union fought back, sabotaging machines and slowing down production. My grandfather was a soldier. He spied out the leaders, prosecuted them, fired their accomplices, and demoted anyone who knew about it. Harsh but fair. It never happened again.

And so the great jobs exodus was perpetrated, pitting the best and brightest against their own brethren for the sake of the stockholders. The company ate itself, again and again, until no one in the United States produced anything. The intelligent were siphoned off into management, and everyone else became a known variable. They gave us their time. We gave them our money, which they spent at the company store, with prices adjusted to reabsorb the maximum percentage, leaving them with nothing.

We honed it down to a science. We pay them the same amount of money we paid them in 1964. The economy has grown, yet they have made no progress in 50 years. This is what we mean by a consumer economy. Most Americans produce nothing. We see this as a victory. Because we have taken away their meaningful work and replaced it with busy-work, we owe them nothing. We do not kill them because it is distasteful to us, but they are our inferiors. They get what they deserve.

I propose that this consumer economy is unsustainable, an economic bubble doomed to burst, which we can either mitigate, or ride to our complete destruction. Other economies are insulated from this phenomenon, namely China. The world will keep on turning without America. It is up to us to return to the Keynesian economics of the postwar boom, right now, or face the consequences. This requires thinking of our economy as a long term investment. If we want it to be strong, we must give it the resources to grow. Our habit of harvesting every three months is unhealthy.

We must invest in jobs that make things. No more service industry jobs. No more retail jobs. No more consultants. Software is good. Starbucks is bad. When a significant portion of the labor force is engaged in making coffee for the rest of the labor force, which is something they could easily do themselves, if Keurig had not already automated it, that is very bad. Not only is it economic nonsense, but the labor force involved is deprived of meaningful work, which makes them prone to revolution. That is very, very bad.

I believe we must start again, in an orderly fashion. We must grow our own food, locally. The labor surplus should be tending neighborhood gardens. We must rebuild our infrastructure. The unemployed youth should be creating the cities of tomorrow. We must accept that, in order to be a great nation, we must forge great human beings in the fires of meaningful work. I recognize that, for the investing class, it’s cheaper and less work to make other nations great. They have already succeeded with China.

Europe seems to be taking care of its own. I hope that we are in some way fundamentally different from oligarchic Russia, that our captains of industry feel some desire to make America great. I know that Governor Mark Dayton has made Minnesota great. I believe that his success could be repeated nationwide. That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. I want to make America great again. No other candidate wants to do that. Not even Donald Trump. He just wants to declare bankruptcy before it’s too late.

1 reply »

  1. Your approach is doomed to failure because your entire premise is based on ‘well paying jobs’.

    In 15 years there will be no jobs. Everything will be automated. We will be robotized out of any need for a human to be involved beyond a basic technical level. One human will do the work of 10,000 in an automated society.

    You are correct that capitalism is doomed at its current rate. But the entire premise is based on ‘consumption’ which is what corporations do, they consume human and earth resources and turn it into intangible data bits called “profit”.

    I wish someone would do the math and figure out how long until only two corporations exist, having consumed their competitors the point of only needing two to maintain an illusion of ‘choice’.

    I suggest you look into the emerging Living Wage concept as a viable way for humans to transcend from worker drones to productive and creative beings.