Recently, during a rather - uh, shall we say - "spirited" discussion with a very conservative family member, the topic of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China came up. I argued that the practice of businesses shipping their manufacturing and service positions overseas in search of cheaper labor, though it boosted short-term profits, was harmful in the long run since it results in the decline of a stable American middle class. This, eventually, will gut the very economic base on which these businesses depend. Or, to put it more simply, who’s going to buy a company’s products if there’s nobody left in America making a decent enough wage to afford them? True, people can run up their credit card debt for awhile, but eventually, that bubble will burst as well.
Henry Ford understood this when, in 1914, he started paying his workers a wage of $5 a day, more than twice the going wage at the time. What is largely forgotten was that Wall Street types and other business owners were apoplectic at Ford’s decision, criticizing it severely. What Ford realized, however, was that paying his workers decent wages would enable those same workers to afford the cars his company was producing. Apparently, the idea worked, since Ford sales skyrocketed after the increase in wages. This bit of history seems lost on today’s capitalists.
Which brings me to the thing that melted my brain. A few days after the discussion during which I heard one conservative defending sending jobs overseas in order to save on labor costs, I heard some other conservatives decrying the Obama administration’s “Cash for Clunkers” program. Their reason? Most of the “clunker” money went to (gasp!) foreign carmakers!
This prompted me to invoke the initials of the Wisconsin Tourist Federation while slapping my face with my palm.
The same political philosophy that lauded sending money overseas when it benefited corporations was suddenly against it when it could possibly help middle and working class auto purchasers?
Hmmm… so I guess if corporations do it, it’s brilliant. If Obama does it, it’s stupid.
Come to think of it, I think I’ve just summed up the conservative philosophy for the past year.
I need an Aspirin.