What’s the No. 1 thing that threatens the future of the U.S.? You might guess a lot of things, but I think it comes down pretty much to one thing: The things that are good for America are not necessarily the same things that are good for big business, and big corporations are more concerned about making profits than in making America strong.
What’s the No. 1 thing that threatens the future of the U.S.?
You might guess radical Islamists, Sarah Palin or President Barack Obama, depending on your personal politics.
Or you might say it’s our lack of rigorous education that is, despite federal meddling, leaving many children behind. Or the festering national debt.
You might guess a lot of things, but I think it comes down pretty much to one thing: The things that are good for America are not necessarily the same things that are good for big business, and big corporations are more concerned about making profits than in making America strong.
Corporations have one reason for being. One. And that is to make money. Period. And if outsourcing to China or anywhere else is more profitable, that is just what they will do — even if it badly hurts our nation.
I’ve got nothing against making money. But while a real person, such as your local shop owner, will make decisions based on a number of factors, including not just profits but well-being of employees and personal morality, the artificial person we call a corporation must, by its charter, consider only profitability.
Obama addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday. An Associated Press story quoted him as saying: “As we work with you to make America a better place to do business, ask yourselves what you can do for America. Ask yourselves what you can do to hire American workers, to support the American economy and to invest in this nation.”
He was wasting his breath.
Big business is making big bucks and just had a particularly awesome fourth quarter, but those bucks are not trickling down to workers. You would think as big business make big bucks, that they’d also have a need to hire more workers. You would think wrong. That just isn’t happening.
In the words of musician Jarvis Cocker, “Now the working classes are obsolete/ They are surplus to society’s needs/ So let ‘em all kill each other/ And get it made overseas.” (Warning to those who might Google this song: It contains some rather explicit lyrics.)
Once, our workers weren’t obsolete. They were a big part of what made America great. Some countries still understand that.
My son, who was home from college this weekend, asked why Germany — such a relatively small country compared to the U.S. — was such an economic powerhouse.
We have no economists in our house, but we do have my husband, who grew up just minutes from the German border. He said when you’re in Germany, you don’t see many non-German cars on the roads. Germans buy German goods. Workers have strong unions and enjoy good wages and benefits. They take their nice salaries and spend their euros on German goods ... which enriches German companies ... which are then profitable enough to hire more Germans ... who then buy more German goods ... kind of like how it used to work in the U.S.
Do you remember when U.S. companies hired U.S. workers instead of outsourcing work overseas? Do you remember when U.S. residents purchased U.S. goods?
We can’t have it both ways, folks. We can keep buying cheap stuff from China and save a few bucks. But how will you have enough money even to purchase cheap stuff when your job is outsourced?
Of course, if your job has already been outsourced, or you’re stuck trying to support your family on a low-wage service job, it’s going to be difficult to convince you to pay extra to get a U.S.-made item.
So this request goes out to those who are lucky enough to still have a decent job: Buy American-made products whenever you can — while you still can. It might be one of the more patriotic things you can do.
Hey, it works for Germany.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.