Monday, April 6, 2009

It's all interconnected...


So, recently I was reading a blog that asked the question who's to blame, when it comes to the product issues that have been experienced recently with goods coming out of China: China, The U.S. or both. To me it's both & more. China has been making cheep goods for the U.S. (& other countries), for a long time, because there's a demand for them. This is where it is our fault. Our current economic problems are linked to this issue. Companies, like Walmart, for instance, go to manufacturers & say we want you to make/sell this product to us, for sale in our stores, so far so good. The problem comes in where they say 'this is what we'll pay, if you don't agree, we'll go elsewhere & your products won't be sold in our (major retailer with a huge consumer following) stores. In order to meet the cost demands, manufacturers go outside the country, where they do not have to pay as much for supplies, equipment & workers. We lose jobs in our countries (& the economy tanks) & in the countries where the jobs (raw goods suppliers...) end up, workers are paid less than subsistence wages (& their economy tanks) & goods are not made to the same quality or standards (to cut costs). Other countries, like China, do not really help themselves by accepting these manufacturers into their country. This is where it is their fault, however well intentioned the act might be. The companies themselves do not take the money & put it back into the country. They buy their equipment elsewhere. Those that run the companies have been known to take their money to other countries. Their workers are not paid a subsistence wage & so have no money to put back into their economy. It's a no win situation & the global economy reflects this. It becomes a downward spiral when, we don't have jobs or the jobs we do have pay less (because employers can't afford to pay as much to the workers that they haven't laid off), offer fewer hours (another cost cutting measure) or are in lower paying fields (because we've be laid off & fewer jobs are available). We can't afford homes, cars (even the repair of the ones we already have), doctors, dentists, etc. & the providers of these things go out of business. We have to make the most of the money we do have coming in, so we shop where the prices are lower, the retailer who has outsourced the jobs that we have lost. Do you see how this is leading 'down the rabbit hole?' It starts here, at least a portion of the problem, starts here & echoes outward, in a never ending spiral. We need to halt the spiral & head on a different path, get out of the rabbit hole. Some of our world leaders are heading in the right direction. Sometimes we 'can't see the forest for the trees' when we look at their plans, it's that complex, the plans have multiple layers or steps. We can't just look at one step & dismiss the whole plan. It's truly a global issue, something we have to solve together, on many levels before it will be over. We can, on an individual level, buy local, buy handmade & live simpler lives (as most of us have been forced to do, want to or not). The happy side effect is that these measures help the environment, in the long run! What kinds of things do you think that we can do to help ourselves, our economy & since it's all interconnected, ultimately help our world?

4 comments:

Pattie said...

Tell it like it is!!!
And thank you for visiting my blog and following :) it means a lot to me :)

Pattie said...

Happy Easter!!

iHeartDimSum said...

Well said piece on this complex issue! The only thing I think you've glossed over a bit is the fact that the factories overseas that are making these cheap goods and paying their workers what we would call less than subsistence wages play a very important role in the economies of those countries. While we compare the wages paid there to our 'average' wages, we neglect to factor in the huge differential between our cost of living and theirs. Example, to buy a decent Suit (jacket and pants) here, one can spend upwards of a couple hundred dollars. I was in China several years ago, and a man in a small kiosk was hand tailoring suits in an hour for the equivalent of less than 20 bucks. To us, that's dirt cheap. But from their scale, that's a lot of money earned that could be spent on food and other goods.

And sorry, I don't want to bog down your comments section so I'll keep this devil's advocate point short - one low paying job is better than none at all. There are many factories that employ thousands of low paid labourers to produce goods for our market. Without our market, these labourers do not have jobs. It's certainly not fair in terms of wealth distribution because all the profits from the ridiculous brand name markups go to the corporations, but you also can't deny the fact that thousands of people are employed and able to at least sustain their families (albeit on a very poor scale). In an ideal situation, these people would be paid a 'fair' wage based on a percentage of the profit margins, but we all know that if something like that were instituted, the corporations would outsource to someplace cheaper.

I hope I don't sound like some neo-con Reaganomics type - I'm actually about as far left leaning as you can get. I just think that we need to consider all facets of any issue...

samsstuff said...

Also very important issues. I don't know what the solution is, it seems like we should be able to do better. Sadly, these are the jobs available to the people & they are not getting paid subsistence wages, even in their own terms. Many laborers in the US do not get paid subsistence wages & end up taking more than one job, when they can find them, until the factories close down & the businesses that depend on the factories shut down as well & then we can't feed our families. It's a very complicated issue, with many intertwined facets. We need jobs here & they are going elsewhere. Others need jobs & are often forced to count on foreigners for their jobs/economies. It's a bad situation, all around. Something needs to change, our economies are collapsing around us. Maybe our governments could stand up for us, whatever country we might live in, create jobs/subsistence for their people (& spread the wealth a little better), companies wouldn't be able to go somewhere cheaper (legally, anyway) & we could lead simpler lives? Na, what kind of Utopian talk is that?
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, I agree that all sides of an issue should be considered. This is an incredibly complex issue & it doesn't have any simple solutions. I value opinions of all kinds, so thank you for commenting! SAM