Jobless America: Outsourcing Prosperity!

Baltimore, MD – Stanley Aronowitz’s timing was impeccable! The activist, author and educator arrived in town, on Friday, May 13, 2005, to talk about a continuing economic crisis. He labeled it as “The Paradox of the Jobless Recovery,” which is also part of the title of his latest book. [1] On the same day that he arrived, General Motors’ sprawling Broening Highway plant, which had been in operation for over 70 years, closed its doors forever. It is located on the east side of the city. Over 1,100 of its workers were permanently put out of their jobs through no fault of their own. The GM plant’s demise, as a manufacturing colossus, follows hard on the heels of the collapse of the once-mighty Bethlehem Steel, and its Sparrows Point plant, and the earlier loss, also on the east side, of the Western Electric facility.

“There are about 121 millions jobs in this country for wages and salaries,” Aronowitz began, “in both the public and private sector. A small percentage of the jobs in the private sector, however – very small – are tied to the domestic economy. The rest in the private sector are connected to the global economy. As a result of that connection, we have lost about 10 million jobs, industrial jobs, the very best paying jobs, in recent years. Today, we have an estimated 11.5 million factory jobs left. In the steel industry, back in the late 50s, there were 600,000 steel workers. Today, we only have 175,000 jobs left. We have lost almost 2/3 of the good paying steel-working jobs that we once had in this country,” he lamented.

Aronowitz emphasized that this is all part of “the bleeding that is going on in the U.S.” Referring to the GM plant closure in Baltimore and a recent plant closing in New Jersey, he added, “Plants shut down and plants stay open, and the working class, understandably, gets jittery about what is going on. What is going to happen next? Of course, outsourcing is one of the main things that is going on.” Over the decades, under Democrats and Republicans, Aronowitz found, as he details in his latest tome, that economic growth had become “delinked” from job creation and that the rich have received “financial windfalls” at the expense of most other Americans as a result of that unfair, deindustrialization process.

To reinforce Aronowitz’s argument, the local paper, the Baltimore Sun related earlier today, what is happening out in Iowa. It’s a state that voted for the “Bush-Cheney Gang,” in the 2004 election. Maytag, an American institution, appears ready to leave the city of its birth, Newton, Iowa. A maker of popular appliances, Maytag affirmed reports that it will be closing “the company’s flagship factory in this central Iowa town and moving the jobs overseas.” Its CEO, a character by the name of Ralph F. Hake, confessed at a meeting of its shareholders: “Moving jobs to Mexico and out sourcing agreements with Asian companies are part of the company’s strategy to compete with low cost imported appliances…The issue is earnings, margins and profitability,” he pathetically whined. Magtag’s main plant employs about 1,200 workers. [2] Their future is, indeed, looking grim.

(Ironically, Iowa, like many other states, is big on pushing those highly touted “family values” and sounding “patriotic.” It’s hard to see, however, how its workers losing their jobs to outsourcing promotes those goals. When corporations are allowed to force unemployment, is that a “family value?” Are these same greedy corporations who abandon the U.S. and their workers for a foreign base, acting “patriotic?” Four of Iowa’s five congressmen are Republicans, as is one of its U.S. senators. By the year 2015, experts estimate, “3.3 million U.S. jobs and $136 billion in wages could be moved to such countries as India, China and Russia.” They added that the offshoring trend “is huge.” [3] It should be getting clearer now to more and more folks that when the Bush-Cheney Gang blabs on about “A Prosperous America,” it has only an elite few in mind.

Aronowitz then made a stunning point. He said that many of wheeler dealers in America’s key industries, like in automobile, textiles, coal, oil and steel, have only themselves to blame for the present predicament that they, and their workers, find themselves in. In fact, an entire chapter in his book is devoted to this subject. It’s entitled, “It’s the Technology, Stupid!” He argued that the CEOs “screwed up, royally!” They didn’t keep up with the technology and they sold away things, such as the patents on a hybrid car, to Europeans and to the Japanese. American industries, Aronowitz insisted, “fell 20 years behind the times! The Japanese came out with a hybrid car in 2003, while the Americans won’t have one ready until 2009. I think it is the beginning of the end of the U.S.-based car-producing industry,” Aronowitz predicted.

The setting for Aronowitz’s talk was Red Emma’s bookstore and coffeehouse, which was also the sponsor of the event. Red Emma’s is located in the historic Mt. Vernon area of Baltimore, not far from the first monument erected in this country to George Washington. A cooperative effort of activists, Red Emma’s has been a success story. It’s a really nifty place to have a good cup of coffee, enjoy lively conversation, check out the latest radical literature, go online, and to also hear from very interesting speakers, like Aronowitz, who are generally marginalized by the Establishment. [4]

A native of the Bronx, NY, the 71-year-old Aronowitz, has played a lot of different roles in his lifetime, primarily as an opponent of “Vulture Capitalism.” He was once suspended from high school for leading a sit-down strike. An ex-steelworker, he has also been a union organizer, a political and cultural critic and an author of 18 books. He has been, too, a strong advocate for the cause of Labor and working class people. In 2002, he was the Green Party’s unsuccessful candidate for governor of New York. Presently, Aronowitz is the Distinguished Professor of Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center and the editor of Temple U. Press’s “Labor in Crisis” series.

“There have been some job growths in the health and education sectors, while manufacturing continues to decline, rapidly,” Aronowitz said. “Another growth area,” he continued, “has been in the retail industry, where the average worker, like at Wal-Mart, is pulling in $17,000 a year, with jobs that pay around $9.00 an hour.” Unemployment and underemployment are a permanent part of our national economy. And, the Labor Department’s counting of the unemployment numbers “can’t be relied on,” whether it’s a Democrat or Republican in the White House, a Clinton or a Bush. He said the country desperately needs a genuine “jobs and income program.” Aronowitz recalling a recent protest action in New York City involving bicycle enthusiasts, who wanted cars banned from the cities streets, added, “When in doubt ‘organize’ and remember that the best defense is an offense. Go on the offensive!”

Finally, the battle to recover the soul of America is being fought out on different political, cultural and spiritual fronts; including the movement against the unjust Iraqi War. It is activists, like Aronowitz, however, who have been spearheading that fight in the economic arena, going back, at least, to the regime of Richard Nixon. It is a tough battle against powerful forces that are spending billions of dollars to brainwash the working class and the poor, also, to vote against their own interests. [5] Nevertheless, the goal of having a nation where prosperity is spread out to the many and not just a select few, is worthy of the best efforts of all of those, like Aronowitz, who are standing up for the “Real America” against the Plutocrats.


[1]. “Just Around the Corner: The Paradox of the Jobless Recovery,” by Stanley Aronowitz, (2005), Temple U . Press.

[2]. A.P., Baltimore Sun, 05/13/05.



[5]. “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” by George Lakoff.