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Monday, February 16, 2009

Buy American

60 Minutes 02/15/09: Lesley Stahl examines the "Buy American" clause in the stimulus package.

I felt the confrontational attitude towards the steel company CEO was inappropriate - reflecting the views of the "World Trade Order" brokers more than the suffering public who watch this program. To me, it sounded like thinly veiled agitprop being force-fed to the weary viewing audience.

If the US economy, and not just a thimbleful of companies like CAT (who vehemently oppose the Buy American clause), are so dependant on foreign trade that we cannot even consider "Buying American", why do we sport such monstrous trade deficits? Sure doesn’t look like China's buying much of anything from us, yet we are by far their largest consumer. Worse, according to the stats I've read, American owned factories account for 70% of the manufacturing base in China. American CEOs, en masse, have uprooted entire industries and barged them overseas where workers will work for a fraction of what US workers are paid. In return, our shores are saturated with imported products which are sold at the same price as previously US made goods, yet are of substantially poorer quality and represent nothing to the US economy save an ever increasing drain on jobs, erosion of the working class, and landfills full of broken crap. Then of course there are the higher, yet unsustainable, profit margins for the idiot Barons of Industry and their slobbering stockholders.

It's not as if potential buyers of heavy equipment will suddenly abandoned CAT in lieu of, oh say, Malaysian bulldozers. It's a fairly unique market with a handful of potential players. The world buys CAT equipment because of its reputation of serviceability - no country or world business leader is going to embrace an inferior product as retaliation - it's not good for the bottom line. And if "Free Trade" is all important, why did the departing Bush administration impart a 300% tariff increase on French Roquefort Cheese - other than as a petulant middle-digit extended towards the French over Iraq and their wholly justified desire to eat hormone free beef.

This exchange instilled a curiosity as to the attitude. A quick scan of the InterTubes with teh Googles revealed what I expected. My questions were: During CATs foreign trade "boom years", how much of its overseas sales were associated with "rebuilding Iraq" and other war efforts, and what is the political affiliation of CATs CEO. Inquiring minds and all…

FWIW, Here are two old D7s in Ramadi, Iraq.

The D9 is apparently more highly revered, at a cool million each - before battle upgrades.

Military D9 Applications

I'd be interested in seeing a breakdown of Chinese purchases vs. Iraq/Israel/et al. as well as how much CAT equipment ended up in burn pits along side SUVs and computer/office equipment due to fraudulent cost-plus contracts with GOP aligned firms such as Halliburton/KBR and Caterpillar.

CAT’s CEO James W. Owens, as I suspected:

Member of the Board of IBM (2006-)
Manufacturing Council
Bush-Cheney ‘04
George W. Bush for President
The Business Council
Business Roundtable
Council on Foreign Relations
Institute for International Economics
The Conference Board Global Advisory Council
John McCain 2008
National Republican Senatorial Committee
World Resources Institute
Not exactly antithetical to the drooling sycophants of the Rush Limbaugh party.

I could be wrong, but I believe I've just expended more effort into investigating the backgrounds of these media players than the administration did in vetting potential appointees.

But now you know the rest of the story…

Funny, yet depressingly accurate: Big Box Mart - JibJab
Listen carefully to the lyrics - if you dare.


Blogger David McEldowney said...

Management hires cheap foreign labor because the government has put too many restrictions on the businesses. This coupled with worker unions has driven industry out of the country. If you want to fix the problem, lower corporate tax rate, give incentives to build companies in-country, and let the damned businesses work. This will fix everything.

Tue Feb 17, 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Know said...

And here I thought the Unfettered Free Market mantra had finally drawn its last breath while the Limbaugh-Reagan-Greenspan crowd was left gasping for air.

I hate to be the one to point this out and dispel the callow belief system, but corporate business HAS been deregulated increasingly for the past 8+ years. And in return we have reaped record debts, massive banking and investor fraud, war profiteering, consumer poisonings, industrial egress, and near societal upheaval. The current members of the Republican Party are lying to you and employ a world-class propaganda machine to promote their demented agendas. They would shiv the American Public in the ribs from behind and steal their collective wallets given half a chance. Oops, too late. I know because they've done it to me - a lowly working class business owner.

They recognize no authority but their own - the judicial circuit is but a bought and paid for annoyance and the laws are only for the commoners. And regardless of the promises they proffer, you will never be one of them - it's a tightly closed and guarded club to which the price of admission is your honor and soul.

Business moves overseas because of cheap labor - Period. Too many restrictions? Like promising not to poison the food and water; not to bribe government officials; not to collude, price fix and gouge; to contribute to the society they live in and enjoy the benefits of?

Please! Are you really naive enought to believe that American workers are EVER going to compete with $1.25 a day workers? Or prison sweatshops? Joe six-pack over there in dust bowl Kansas has to pay upwards of $20,000 a year just to survive. He can't live in a mud and grass shack alongside a mercury laden river in Taiyuan. These policies (or lack thereof) are feeding the same pink-handed money-changers that your beloved Jesus ran out of the temples 2000 years ago.

I have an incentive for businesses to build in-county. You want to hawk your crap in the world's largest, richest marketplace? Play by the rules. Don't like the rules? Get the hell out of the US and hawk your crap in China - see ya in the unemployment line. You cannot continue to deplete jobs en masse and ever hope to retain a working middle class customer base - Do the Math.

I'm plenty old enough to have seen 12+ presidents come and go, and allow me to edify you as to one universal truth. Greed runs the world - unchecked greed destroys great civilizations, and we are now on our knees. Lazy, self-entitled investors, con-men, and vulture capitalists have destroyed much of what made this country offer the highest standard of living in the world. It's gone - into their already deep pockets.

The current (and past) crop of NeoCons (with perhaps several private exceptions) are traitorous, thieving, lying, hypocritical, self-serving low-lives, and the last decent conservative president was Eisenhower. Everything since has been a corporate tool. And the opposing side hasn't done all that well either.

Tue Feb 17, 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Know, I doubt Conservadave made it past your first paragraph. Dittoheads don't read.

Wed Feb 18, 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Know said...

Yeah, I know, Buck. Probably never came back. Just flying monkeys flinging poo.

About time you showed up. ;-)

Thu Feb 19, 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Fran said...

My kid had an assignment in middle school: Look at 10 different electronic things in your home & write down where they were made.

Pretty much none of it was made here in the USA.
Yes the computer I am typing on was "assembled in China" too.

Even US made cars-- pretty much full of *foreign parts*.

Buy America is very limiting & probably not going to happen.

Some companies dodge that issue with labels like Made in the USA, and or other places, maybe.

Thu Feb 19, 02:21:00 AM  
Blogger Fran said...

Oh! The big box mart jingle is painfully funny.

Thu Feb 19, 02:25:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Know said...

Actually, Fran, in 1976 there were over 7 distinct major brands of televisions manufactured in this country. Sylvania, Philco, Magnavox, Zenith, RCA, GE, and Motorola/Quasar. I was 18 years old, worked for myself, and did warranty repair work for half of them. I also made upwards of $20 an hour in a good week. My mortgage was $196 including PITI.

In 1980 these companies started to consolidate and sell out to foreign interests. Sylvania and Philco were bought by Magnavox which was then absorbed by North American Philips. RCA bought GE which was then bought by Thompson. Zenith sold to Daewoo, and Motorola orphaned Quasar which was bought by Panasonic. By 1990 there were only two factories in this country which "Assembled In USA" boxes of foreign assembled circuit boards into US made cabinets, plus Mitsubishi, which had a new plant in Brazelton, GA. It closed, as did all the others.

When I got into the computer business in the 1980s, computers were made in this country, albeit of some foreign ICs. By 1990, half, by 1995, none. Computers now have the shelf life of a tomato. All those companies you see, Dell, HP, etc. are not made in the US, they are put into boxes in this country and labeled Assembled in USA (of foreign components).

We can't and don't do shit anymore, except pump out useless lawyers, elect pandering, whining politicians who would sell your soul for a buck, and prop up Wall Street firms which skim the profits from any and every publicly traded enterprise which attempts to exist in this hostile country. Republicans are evil traitors, as are most idiot Democrats.

What does it mean? We're fucked - we are a nation of idiot drones. There is no next new revolution coming, as was electronics manufacturing and computers. There will a minor idea or two, and each will be quickly ramped into production by MonoCorp using labor from the poorest countries in the world. Our standard of living will equalize with China and Japan, Maylay, and Taiwan. Hope everyone enjoys that stupid iPod while living in a storage warehouse bay for $200 a month. We're not going to sell anything to anyone - as we make NOTHING they want or cannot duplicate cheaper. That is why we have multi-trillion dollar trade deficits - on credit. The Asians send their kids to school to learn math, science, and engineering - we teach ours creationism, football, and Wall Street fraud.

When you are skinning your customers you should leave some skin on to grow again so that you can skin them again. - Nikita Khrushchev

Thu Feb 19, 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Kulkuri said...

Your replies to Conservadave and Fran are right on.
The Chinese are buying stuff from us. They are buying our garbage and recycling it and selling it back to us, only not so much at this time because the Neo-Conjobs have run the economy into the ground.

Thu Feb 19, 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Fran said...

Sadly the few great things that were introduced in this country- like the EV1 electric car, were crushed by mega corp big oil.

You'd think GM would wake up & realize they are no longer in bed w big oil.

They don;t even have to come up with new engineering plans- they already produced the cars & people loved them.

Have you seen the film *Who killed the electric car?*


Anyway, yep all the mfg & jobs went to cheap labor in Asia.

Thu Feb 19, 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Know said...

Thanks, Kulkuri. And you are correct, I was remiss in allowing the scrap to slip by.

Fran, the few people out west that actually "owned" the first e-cars reputedly didn't want to give them back, but I believe they were leases only. Even the battery packs lasted longer that originally expected.

But always remember that these things are "remote emission" vehicles - they still generate pollution, only at the power plant rather than a tailpipe. I've not seen that exact movie, but I read a lot, and Sigma Xi, and various science mags have covered much of the issues. I've been reading about energy, homebuilding, cars, and conservation since the 70s. Yet nothing has changed except the adoption of electrical fuel delivery and ignition systems. Change is slow...

Thu Feb 19, 05:59:00 PM  

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