Archive for Manufacturing

May
18

And then there are parasites

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Image via DakkaDakka.

Image via DakkaDakka.

Moses: A city is built of brick, Pharoah. The strong make many, the starving make few. The dead make none.

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer offers up a prescription for boosting the nation’s economy in the American Prospect that you would be wise to read. Hanauer focuses on the low-wage “parasite economy” characterized by firms that derive “record profits on the backs of cheap labor” and from taxpayer subsidies that support their employees. Not so the real economy:

The real economy pays the wages that drive consumer demand, while the parasite economy erodes it. The real economy generates about $5 trillion a year in local, state, and federal tax revenue, while the parasite economy is subsidized by taxes. The real economy provides our children the education and opportunity necessary to grow into the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders, while the parasite economy traps them in a cycle of intergenerational poverty.

“The parasite economy is simply bad for business,” Hanauer writes:

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Categories : Economy, Labor, Manufacturing
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May
15

Give us back the lie

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Huntington, Indiana from the air, looking northeast.

Eli Saslow reports for the Washington Post on the decline of manufacturing in northeast Indiana where the American Dream is proving to be just that. Chris Setser stands to lose his $17/hr production line job at United Technologies Electronic Controls (UTEC) in Huntington. Like Carrier air conditioning plant in Indianapolis before it, the company announced plans to relocate to Mexico. Setser’s philosophy of “We can make it work” and “Life always evens out” is being tested:

All around him an ideological crisis was spreading across Middle America as it continued its long fall into dependency: median wages down across the country, average income down, total wealth down in the past decade by 28 percent. For the first time ever, the vaunted middle class was not the country’s base but a disenfranchised minority, down from 61 percent of the population in the 1970s to just 49 percent as of last year. As a result of that decline, confusion was turning into fear. Fear was giving way to resentment. Resentment was hardening into a sense of outrage that was unhinging the country’s politics and upending a presidential election.

Still, Setser believes in the “‘basic guarantees’ of the working class,” Salow writes. That his basic work ethic and work history will guarantee his home, cars, and annual trip to the lake will remain intact. He’s planning on remarrying. And he’s leaning towards Trump:

“We’re getting to the point where there aren’t really any good options left,” he said. “The system is broken. Maybe its time to blow it up and start from scratch, like Trump’s been saying.”

Krystal [his 16 year-old] rolled her eyes at him. “Come on. You’re a Democrat.”

“I was. But that was before we started turning into a weak country,” he said. “Pretty soon there won’t be anything left. We’ll all be flipping burgers.”

“Fine, but so what?” she said. “We just turn everything over to the guy who yells the loudest?”

Setser leaned into the table and banged it once for emphasis. “They’re throwing our work back in our face,” he said. “China is doing better. Even Mexico is doing better. Don’t you want someone to go kick ass?”

Globalization. Financialization. Greed, one of the deadly sins. Nothing a little ass-whupping won’t fix.

Daniel Engber at Slate has a lengthy but worthwhile examination of the state of psychological research pertaining to success. Angela Duckworth’s notion of “Grit” in particular, but other measures as well. Americans tell themselves hard work and perseverance always win out. It’s just not true. While Duckworth began her research looking at which West Point cadets had the “grit” to survive Beast Week without quitting, the quality appears to have had limited applicability:

Even the task of graduating from West Point itself doesn’t really compare to the trials of Beast. When Duckworth looked at students’ grades and “military performance scores” during their first year at school, she found that grit offered little guidance on how they’d handle the rest of the United States Military Academy curriculum. The whole candidate score—that old-fashioned, talent-based assessment—did much better. Considering that three-quarters of the students who fail to finish at West Point flunk during the post-Beast curriculum, those first seven gritty weeks appear to represent a special case, and one of marginal importance.

That is, Engber writes, “Grit matters, but only in specific situations that require strength of will.” Chris Setser might be “gritty.” He might believe Trump is. But grit alone will neither secure the “basic guarantees” to which Middle America once believed it was entitled, nor will it be enough for Trump. He seems to believe he can bully and bluster his way through any challenge, and actually knowing anything about the basic functions of government won’t matter. Trump, a former private military academy student, might have learned the value of grit, but doesn’t seemed to value other qualities that go into making an effective world leader.

One can see dead factory after dead factory stretched out for 75 miles east of here. Some textile facilities, but mostly empty furniture factories. Tens of thousands of Setsers have lost work over the last couple of decades. Hard work and perseverance were not enough to secure their futures. But many may be willing to vote for anyone who will give them back the illusion that they would. The fall elections from the presidency on down may turn on which party makes the better case. Or they might just settle for the guy who promises to kick some nonspecific ass.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Mar
14

The quality of mercy

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King Midas with his daughter - Walter Crane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

King Midas with his daughter – Walter Crane
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

David Atkins comments on a piece from the National Review that displays the nihilist greed of the Midas Cult in the ghastliest terms I have yet seen. Atkins writes:

The establishment Republican ideology prioritizes capital above all else. For them, the market does not exist to serve people: people exist to serve the market. Unregulated capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed by those too lazy, useless and unproductive to serve and profit by it. It is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of its species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security. Worst of all, it blames its victims for its failure to provide solutions to their needs.

Too strong, you think? Consider this excerpt from the NRO piece in which Kevin Williamson condemns Trump’s supporters as apostates from the one, true faith — his (emphasis mine):

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. … They failed themselves.

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Mar
10

Dying from despair

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Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Cooper, Jr. sends a message from Donald Trump’s America, meaning, the last places and people in America the casino and real estate magnate would care to visit. You know, “losers”:

I live in Trump’s America, where working-class whites are dying from despair. They’re dying from alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide, trying to take away the pain of a half century’s economic and cultural decline. In the foothills of Appalachia, Wilkes County, North Carolina, is second in the nation in income lost this century, where the number of manufacturing jobs decreased from 8,548 in the year 2000 to about 4,000 today, according to Stateline.

If the color coding on the Stateline map of income decline appears less dire for Appalachia proper, it is because once at the bottom there is no further down to go. Near-ghost-towns dot southwest Virginia and West Virginia. Small but once prosperous from logging or coal, they hug hillsides along what are barely

secondary roads. And that’s what their people feel like: secondary. Voters have been forgotten in towns where over 20 percent live in poverty and a quarter never finished high school, Cooper explains:

They lost their influence, their dignity and their shot at the American Dream, and now they’re angry. They’re angry at Washington and Wall Street, at big corporations and big government. And they’re voting now for Donald Trump.

My Republican friends are for Trump. My state representative is for Trump. People who haven’t voted in years are for Trump. He’ll win the primary here on March 15 and he will carry this county in the general.

His supporters realize he’s a joke. They do not care. They know he’s authoritarian, nationalist, almost un-American, and they love him anyway, because he disrupts a broken political process and beats establishment candidates who’ve long ignored their interests.

This is the America where the unemployed and underemployed still line up for free health care each year at the fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia and in smaller places. They are “poorer, less educated citizens who are fiscally liberal and socially conservative,” Cooper believes, and both parties have ignored them for years. In part, because they tend not to vote. But they are voting now, now that Trump has given voice to their grievances.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

This year’s primaries are like a real-life exercise in those old Verizon Wireless ads. America’s forgotten working class left behind and discarded by globalization, automation, and deindustrialization has found an unlikely voice in Donald Trump, if not really a champion. Independent Bernie Sanders too is finding traction there, as his Michigan win this week proved. In primary after primary, the American worker is asking party elites, “Can you hear me now?

It is not clear yet that they have.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
12

Can You Blame Them?

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Via Raw Story:

In a video uploaded to YouTube, a gathering of workers at an Indianapolis air conditioning manufacturing plant are stunned and enraged when told they’ll soon be out of work because the company is moving their jobs to Mexico.

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Sep
14

Piece of crap

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In a lead Sunday op-ed, I once slammed local planners for wanting to develop a former factory site into yet another strip mall anchored by big-box stores. Low prices, low wages. Just what the unemployed factory workers need, right? I couldn’t believe the editors allowed it to run with the line about stores selling “cheap, plastic crap from China.”

Now this from the WaPo: The Postal Service is losing millions a year to help you buy cheap stuff from China

Via an arcane treaty mechanism, the U.S. Postal Service delivers small packages from Chinese merchants to destinations in the U.S. at below its cost. The inspector general’s office estimated that foreign “ePacket” treaty mail cost the USPS $79 million in 2013 and another $5 billion last year.

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Apr
08

High Five, Asheville Open Thread

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A River Arts District renaissance, fueled by beer, is on Asheville’s horizon, observers say
River Arts District sees big benefits from New Belgium

As the politicians and business development associations line up for their photo-ops and back-slapping, I wanted to give props to the real progenitors of Asheville’s newest industry. In all the New Belgium and Sierra Nevada coverage, enough credit has not been given to the role that Asheville’s oft-maligned, scruffy, bicycle-riding, living-wage, sustainability, “know nothing about business” hippie types played in making Asheville Beer City, USA. Without the spade work done by the local brewers, beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and hand-to-mouth civic boosters, there’s no photo-op for the politicians and business development associations.

Here is a grossly incomplete, off-the-cuff list of the under-sung who helped make Asheville Beer City, USA, the kind of place where New Belgium and Sierra Nevada feel right at home:

Please. Add to the list below. You know who the heroes are.

It’s their vibe, their civic pride, and their pride in each other that make Asheville a fun place to live, not just to drop in for a presidential weekend at the Grove Park Inn. It’s a testimony to the good taste of Asheville’s beer drinkers.

Now, get out there and Keep Asheville Weird.

UPDATE FROM GORDON: I’m not asking Tom if I can do this. Just rolling in strong and adding a picture of the tag that New Belgium put on bottles of Fat Tire at the announcement event. After the jump:

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Categories : Economy, Local, Manufacturing
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Apr
05

Business Development Open Thread

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“Victory has a thousand fathers”, said John F. Kennedy, and this week has made it plain that, in Asheville’s economic development, this couldn’t be more true.

Linamar, based in Canada but with 39 factories based in 11 countries, opened their plant yesterday in south Asheville. By the end of the year they’ll be employing 140 local workers in family-wage, career track manufacturing jobs. It took an enormous network of partners to make this happen from the NC Department of Commerce to the Asheville City Council. The Economic Development Coalition of Buncombe County wooed them, and the Buncombe County Commissioners, along with the state and city, came on board with a competitive incentive package. Volvo and Caterpillar signed contracts with Linamar for products, and suppliers made sure they got what they needed. Linamar is going to invest a minimum of $125 million in the plant over the next five years and employ 400 people. At yesterday’s Grand Opening, executives were already discussing expansion of the plant in the near future.

Today there’s going to be a big announcement, too. Come down to the Chamber of Commerce at 4pm if you’d like a front row seat. Ride your bike if you can, because the matter at hand will have permanent effects on our multimodal transportation network in addition to our employment universe. As with Linamar, it’s taken an enormous amount of team play to coax the group to Asheville. Private and public entities have focused like an effervescent laser beam. More details later, but suffice to say there will be jobs and an historic investment. Any economic incentives offered will have to be disclosed and voted upon in open meetings of public bodies.

Lots of folks have differing opinions about tax incentives, which these days most often take the form of tax abatements, but everyone’s got the same opinion about good jobs. We like ’em.

This is your thread. Opine wildly.

Mar
23

Party Green

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(Click the pic to embiggen)

If you want to rub elbows with the people in this community who are working their green hind-ends off to create a more sustainable future, then you’ll want to bring your green self down to Pack Place on Wednesday night for this event.

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Jan
19

This Chinese Life

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A couple of weeks ago, “This American Life” aired a story titled “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” about life in the Chinese factory that makes the iPhone and other consumer electronics. Apparently, others took notice. “The Daily Show,” for example.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

I wonder if the dormitories in the clip are the ones they show to the press?

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