Things have been mighty contentious in Wisconsin lately. One the plus side, as is the case in most “dust ups,” eventually the dust settles, and, for better or worse, the landscape looks different than it once did. This particular battle between Wisconsin’s new Governor and hundreds of thousands of protesters seems to revolve around creating a fertile climate for the creation of Wisconsin jobs on one hand, and the fate of the current working class on the other.
In order to lure corporations and companies of all sizes away from keeping jobs in Mexico, South America and overseas (and away from Americans), those corporations need incentives. Corporations are like sharks; they’re not big on thoughtfulness, and their brains aren’t large enough to accommodate nuanced ideas like empathy and self-awareness. As Richard Dreyfus said in the movie Jaws: “All they do is swim and eat and make baby sharks.”
Likewise, all corporations care about is profit. If you accept this idea, and choose to negotiate the reality, you can ride this wave like a backdoor surfer pulling into the tube from behind the peak. Or you can fight it and get pummeled into the coral.
And aren’t jobs what we’re demanding? Wasn’t that the message the voters sent? Well, corporations aren’t about to be gracious and give up a portion of their profits just to knock an 8.3% unemployment rate down to 8.2%. Not a chance.
However, they will consider moving their operations to America/Wisconsin/Your Neighborhood if they can get the payroll of Mexico, the regulations of China, and the cheap energy of Venezuela. And that’s where the fight against organizations like labor unions and the EPA begin.
Organized labor says: “We have a couple of demands, the first of which is that you have to pay American workers more than a dollar a day like in Mexico. In fact, we would like for there to be a minimum wage.”
The EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) says: “I’m sorry; you can’t put PCB’s in the rivers, contaminate the ground water, or encroach upon Wetland habitats.”
And the corporations respond with: “Very well, we’ll remain in areas where we can, thank you very much.”
While this makes it possible for Americans to afford cheap merchandise from big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, and fast food from dollar menus which, because American jobs have been shipped elsewhere, is the only alternative for many, and the vicious cycle keeps rolling along.
So, while Governors can’t entice corporations with $1-a-day salaries and consequence-free dumping of industrial byproducts, they can offer tax incentives. It’s happening all over; Wisconsin, Michigan Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee just to name a few. Budgets everywhere include tax breaks for corporations and businesses, but the money has to come from somewhere. In the end, it’s an issue of quantity versus quality. In order for more people to join what passes for the middle class today, the current middle class will have to relinquish some of its “rights,” because the businesses are clearly not going to relinquish “profits.”
I have friends whose ideologies land on both sides of the debate. I have friends that endorse the actions of Governor Walker and his ilk, and friends that whose lives will be negatively impacted by those same actions. I’ve watched the protests, I’ve made my opinion known to my elected representatives, and I write my opinions down here because, dammit, I’m paying for the web hosting.
I’ve also read about proposed boycotts. Don’t support products made by Koch Industries, don’t shop at QuikTrip, don’t keep your money in an M&I bank.
This, of course, is your right as an American citizen and a consumer, but consider this: After deciding where not to spend your disposable income, where do you spend it? Your dollar is, after all, the only direct relationship you have with most corporations. Therefore, I propose the following experiment: If you value the American worker, spend your next $10 of disposable income on something that’s made in America.
I’m not suggesting that you get off the foreign-made grid completely; just the next $10.
If every one of, say, 100,000 protesters that marched on the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin spent their next $10 on something made in America, that’s a $1 million dollar statement that will speak just as loudly to corporations as our votes speak to our elected leaders.
For instance, let’s say your car needs new tires. If you do a little digging (which you now don’t have to because I did it for you), you’ll find that roughly 90% of Cooper tires are still made in the good ol’ U.S.A. (Ohio and Georgia specifically). Now, please know that you’re going to spend a little more for American-made products, but if we want corporations to invest in America, shouldn’t we as consumers be willing to do the same?
Here are a few websites to get you started:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You can march on the capitol and bang on your plastic five-gallon pail in the rotunda all you want, but if that plastic five-gallon pail is made in Sri Lanka and the tag on your Urban Outfitters hoodie says “Hecho en Honduras,” you’ve already told the corporations what you really value.