Saturday, August 21, 2004

Class Traitor 

We could be wrong, but didn't we meet this Lou Dobbs cat in the back of a paddy wagon at the protest rally in Seattle? From the transcript of last night's episode of Now with Bill Moyers:
Bill Moyers: This book [Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas] is more than an economic argument, it's a political manifesto. Let me read you the opening paragraph. Quote, "The power of big business over our national life has never been greater. Never have there been fewer business leaders willing to commit to the national interest over the selfish interest for the good of the company over that of the company's they head." Are you saying that these companies are unpatriotic for outsourcing jobs?

Lou Dobbs: I'm saying not that they're unpatriotic but they're absolutely indifferent to the national interest, that they have given other interests primacy over the national interest. They've done so because, in my opinion, of a cultural shift over the last three to four decades in this country. The absence of a countervailing political influence to the power of corporate America. Lobbyists, think tanks, across the board the power of corporate America is unparalleled in Washington, DC.

Moyers: I'm no economist. Made only a B in economics by sitting next to my wife who was very helpful to me. She made an A. But even I know that services are now so much a part of any advanced economy that it seems inevitable that some service jobs will go to where they can be performed more cheaply.

Dobbs: I think that's right. And I think that international trade is a reality of our modern existence. And it should be. I believe however that the idea that our middle class should be forced to compete on a price basis with those workers in an emerging market who are making in many cases cents, while our workers are making $15 to $20 an hour is totally unfair.

We're talking about not an economic judgment but a political judgment, a social judgment. What kind of country do we want? Do we want to destroy the middle class? Because if we do let's continue outsourcing jobs.

Moyers: But libertarian economists like Lew Rockwell, who's been on this show, says it's government that's driving these jobs overseas by their high taxation, by regulation, by the big cost of lawyers.

Dobbs: And I think there's a good case to be made that regulation, tort law, healthcare adds about, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 22 percent to the cost of goods. So what. It's part of the cost of a better life. That's what this society is. We're a democratic free enterprise society. Unparalleled in our success.

Are we to absolutely turn back the clock on every achievement that we've made to improve the lives of our citizens in order for a U.S. multinational to get cheaper labor in Romania or the Philippines or India or China? I don't think so.

Moyers: But isn't it an economic fact that people who's skills are obsolete or who don't seek the requisite education and training will be left behind in the worlds changing markets? A world that Adam Smith and David Ricardo never could imagine.

Dobbs: I think that that is probably a fair statement. But not necessarily relevant to outsourcing. They're not sending those jobs overseas because the labor force in this country is not capable of conducting a business operation of actually doing those job. Not because they have an inferior education.

They're doing so because they, the financial institution, can pay cents on the dollar for labor in India, or the Philippines, or Romania and have to pay a living wage that provides a meaningful improvement in the quality of life for an American employee. And that's – that's damnable to me. Do you remember through the 1980's and the 1990's when you heard corporate leaders and some of the best management consultants in the world talking about the empowerment of the employee. The importance of empowerment to provide the basis for innovation. The importance of having a happy, satisfied, educated, striving, aspirational employee in order to drive the successful corporation. That talk has disappeared . . . .

You have a responsibility not only to your investors, you have a responsibility to the marketplace, you have a responsibility to your customers, to the community in which you work. You have a responsibility to the country that makes your business possible in the first place.

Moyers: Heresy. Are you a traitor to your class?

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