Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#453 Slow Boat From China

#453 Slow Boat from China

With apologies to Frank Loesser, who wrote the song "Slow Boat to China," back when China was a romantic, exotic, mysterious land. 1947. No Mao, yet. no Cultural Revolution. A right wing dictatorship, and a great place for (a) the British, (b) missionaries and (c) the upper crust, including some close relatives of a very close relative.

Fast forward to now. China is America's Factory. Except something strange is going on there. Workers who had been gravitating to the extreme south are breaking the sweatshop model of Chinese industry. They're demanding -- and getting -- the equivalent of a living wage. Looks like maybe what was going on in New England a few short decades ago. So what are the factory owners doing? They're doing what any red blooded American would do, they're cheating.

They're putting phony chemicals in baby formula, they're fudging time cards and cutting overtime. They're farming out work to cheaper areas of China (kind of like when the textile business moved from America to the Confederate States of America, only now it's Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and other far eastern slave states.)

But according to the public radio show "Marketplace," while 80% of America's imports came from China only a year or two ago, the current rate is 55%. That's a pretty steep decline. Check your undies. Where were they made? Was it China? Or was it some Asian or African country you never heard of?

When an offspring wanted a guitar back in the day, he found a Fender Squire Stratocaster made in Japan. It's a fine guitar and far as I know, he still has it and uses it. But not too many years later, Japan became too expensive and production moved to Korea. When things became too expensive in Seoul, they moved to Doung Quong, China. Now, things are too expensive in Doung Quong, and production has moved to Cambodia.

Check your Levis. Check your Bratz Doll.

So, is the China boom over? Not on your life.

We're in deep hock to the banks there.

And the government "bailout" is going to help them as much as it's going to help the miscreants on Wall Street and in Washington.

But there is a kernel of good news in all of this.

The workers in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. are no dumber than the workers in Detroit and Pensacola and Charlotte. They're going to start demanding and receiving decent salaries and benefits.

We will pay more for their stuff and to ship it.

But we also will start to make some of that stuff here again.

Bring on the smokestacks.

Welcome back, Barbie.

And welcome back, Frank Loesser.



Shrapnel:

--Note to the bailer-outers of the banking system. It ain't a bailout. In order for it to be a bailout, the ship has still to be floating.

--Note to Henry Paulson. Hank, Babes, you want sole control of how much money to play with and no oversight or possible judicial intervention? What country is this, again?

--Note to Dick Cheney. This "bailout" has your fingerprints all over it. Fool us twice, shame on us.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

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