3 Stooges Rerun On TV Last Night

[Note: This commentary was written in August 2003 or thereabouts]

Last night the C-Span viewers were treated to a rerun of the John Snow, Treasury Secretary; Don Evans, Commerce Secretary; and Elaine Chao, Labor Secretary bus tour to promote President Bush's ‘Jobs and Growth Economic Plan’.  It was a treat indeed because C-Span rarely provides programs that are pure entertainment. There were so many fun moments that I could write pages, but I won't.  I'll just stick to the highlights.


It is helpful to know that manufacturing represents only about 13% of our economy and we are losing more of it every year.  Some economists estimate that there will be no manufacturing in the US by 2015 if the current rates of exodus continue.


First stop on the trip for Larry, Curly and Moe was in Wauwatosa, WI.  Why there?  That is where the Harley-Davidson Company is located.  Harley-Davidson is one of the few - maybe the only at this point - All American companies with an All American loyal customer base.   Harley is unique among the manufacturers today.  If they had gone to just about any other manufacturing company in the US, they would have had to answer questions like, Why is this factory being closed and sent to Mexico or China?  Where am I supposed to get a job now?


The trio really only answered questions at the Harley plant.  The rest of the trip was basically the arrivals and departures.  One reporter asked John Snow if this wasn't just a 'feel good' trip.  No, he insisted, it was a 'Dialogue Tour'.  That's funny, there were no stops at an unemployment office to dialogue with the jobless.  There were jobless demonstrators conveniently located across the street that REALLY wanted some dialogue but all they got was the image of the backsides of the stooges as they were running away.  


Harley was prepared for the visit.  Their employees and suppliers were there to ask questions - and they were good questions.


To Elaine Chao - regarding the new overtime rules.  The Harley employee: the overtime rules cause the employer to hire more employees rather than over working the employees they have.  The comp time rules work at the employer's discretion.  So how are your proposed rule changes going to help workers?  Her response - Oh - these rules are simply status changes and ONLY affect white collar workers.  They are intended to 'protect' low wage workers.  [Since when did white collar workers become low wage workers?].  I found it very interesting that her example of a low wage worker was somebody making $8,000 a year.  I calculated this out and a person would have to be making an hourly wage of about $4.15 an hour to have an annual income of $8,000.   Did Secretary Chao slip up and reveal the next 'worker protection' proposal?  A drop in the minimum wage to put more people to work?


To Don Evans - This question was asked by a Harley supplier.  He states that trading for US manufacturers is unfair.  Our markets are totally open, but the markets of all other countries that we trade with have trade barriers that protect their markets.  The response by Don Evans was classic.  "We are beginning to start to look at monitoring the situation". 


To Snow - This question was asked by another Harley supplier.  Large OEM (original equipment manufacturers) are pressuring the small ones to move offshore (to China).  He told Snow, "we need fair trade - not free trade".  Snow's response was rather confusing - but he said that China is using the currency that they have from the trade surplus (about $130 billion dollars a year) to buy US securities rather than on domestic spending for the people of China.  This sounds to me like China has basically bought our large manufacturers and they are trying to either get the small manufacturers to move voluntarily or they will put them out of business.  I could be wrong on that, that is just my understanding - but it does seem to fit what is occurring.


Next question - This question was asked by another Harley supplier.  I think that Don Evans responded to it, but I I'm not sure.  The supplier states that we have a $500 billion trade deficit, $130 billion of that to China.  Our exports to China are only raw materials.  China does not buy any 'value added' goods - meaning manufactured goods.  How is this helping jobs and growth?  Good question I'd say. The answer that I have in my notes is that the tax cut will stimulate the economy - when people spend, it ripples through the economy.  Hmmm… in my simplistic little way of thinking, I don't see any new jobs there. I see an exacerbation of the problem, but no new jobs.  Don Evans wrapped up this discussion by saying, “the President is 'very concerned about jobs'.  He wants to make sure that everybody that wants a job can have a job”.  I had to leave the room at this point due to overwhelming nausea.


To Elaine Chao - from another Harley employee.  He said that he is doing ok because he is working, but a lot of his friends have been layed off and don't have jobs. His questions - What kind of jobs are you creating?  Her response - something about the military return to work laws - totally a non sequitur.  Then she said "the question really should be, how do we find them?  [indeed]. Then she said that last year 49 million people lost their jobs but 50 million people found jobs. This response was extremely interesting but it would take some major research to adequately cover it.  At that point, with a kind of panicky look on her face, she says "aren't we about done here - shouldn't we be wrapping up now?"   It was too funny.  Unspoken, "Help me for God's sake... I have no answer for this question - GET ME OUTTA HERE".


Just a couple more highlights:  They talked to people on the manufacturing floors.  These people according to Don Evans were really happy.  They just wanted to thank the President for their tax cuts.  Why wouldn't they be happy?  They have a job. 


According to John Snow, joblessness is due to productivity.  Hmmm..  we are so productive that manufacturers are moving to Mexico and China to escape from all that productivity.  Does anybody see a disconnect here?


According to Elaine Chao - We have a skills gap in this country.  Hmmmm again I say.  Our country spends BILLIONS of dollars on training and education.  In what area do we have a skills gap?  Oh yeah, I know.  Living in poverty.  That's what we need to learn - how to live in poverty because the Congress and the President are allowing the job market for American Citizens to be destroyed.  In the process, they are destroying the tax base.  They are supposed to be Americans working for the American People - but I sure as hell don't see any signs of that. 


When they got to Wausau, they visited Culver's Frozen Custard Restaurant.  This is where the stooges got to informally mingle with the serfs.  Elaine Chao held center stage at this 'event'.  She sat at a table with an average American family.  My heart was warmed. Then it got interesting.  I know we've all had this experience in which we've just met somebody and they segway into a topic area that sets off the alarms - Uh Oh, this person is a salesman and they aren't just making small talk. Those alarms were set off when Elaine Chao asked if anybody had seen the movie "Sea Biscuit".  This movie is about a nearly broke millionaire, an old broken down nag and an overweight, blind jockey.  Together they overcome all the odds to win the Triple Crown.  This is a rather transparent metaphor for the US economy.  It's funny because just the other day, a couple of us on the forum were talking about the government's use of propaganda films in times of trouble. They are used to focus the mindset of people in such a way that they don't realize they are being manipulated.   Sea Biscuit is a prime example of that type of film.


The fraud of this trip is that they went to manufacturing plants.  Most manufacturing left this country long ago.  What remains are just remnants of our once great industrial base.  The biggest part of our economy is in the services sector.  Each month 10’s of thousands of white collar jobs are leaving the country through outsourcing.  This throws white collar workers out of their jobs. 


Instead of stemming the tide of the job losses and corresponding losses to the tax base, the President and Congress are opening the doors of the US to foreign workers to come in and take the remaining jobs.   This of course, drives wages down.  Allowing unlimited importation of foreign labor puts American Workers out of business in the same way that American manufacturers have been put out of business by unlimited importation of cheap goods.


After viewing the spectacle of this trip, I’ve come to believe that the tax cut was merely a way to buy time until the next election.  After the next election, the economic house of cards that has been built will crumble and the truth will be exposed to the American People.  Their country has been sold out from under them.  They are no longer the Captains of their Ship and the Masters of Their Destiny.