The word for today is “hypocrisy.” Let’s be sure to spell it with a capital “H.”
That’s a good word to keep in mind whenever you hear national elected officials talking about their commitment to “job creation.”
I saw a transcript of the president’s speech on Thursday night, but I’m not sure if it was more notable for what he said or for what he didn’t say.
Fact is, most politicians’ verbal commitments to creating employment for U.S. citizens aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Their “urgency” to create jobs seems to pale in comparison to their overwhelming and ongoing efforts to continue the flow of inappropriate profit levels to their corporate campaign contributors.
Can I prove it? I think so.
Let’s start by looking back about a year ago to a very lightly-publicized Senate bill that was voted down by Republican senators, four Democrats and one Independent (good old Joe Lieberman). It was called the “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act” and it would have done three important things. First, it would have eliminated the ability that companies now have to defer tax payments on income generated on their overseas plants until that income is transferred into the U.S.
Secondly, it would eliminate subsidies currently being paid by the U.S. government to firms that move their facilities overseas.
Finally, it would have provided payroll tax credits to companies that had previously “offshored” but had subsequently decided to bring those jobs back home to the United States.
In the whole scheme of job creation and historically high unemployment levels, one might ask, how important is this whole “offshoring of jobs thing,” anyway?
Well, let me tell you… it’s huge.
Even the clearly business-friendly Wall Street Journal has pointed out that some of the nation’s largest companies — including names such as Microsoft, Walmart, Cisco, General Electric, Merck, Intel and Oracle — recently slashed their U.S. workforces by 2.9 million people while at the same time hiring 2.4 million people overseas.
So, when you hear the reports of record-high corporate profits on the daily news reports, please understand that a significant reason for those profits is that the companies are cutting expenses by “dis-employing” U.S. workers and sending their jobs overseas.
At high-tech Cisco Systems, the percent of its overseas workforce has increased from 26 percent to 46 percent over the past decade. In the accounting profession, PwC, the CPA formerly known as Price Waterhouse Cooper, recently laid off 125 mid-level support staff workers and sent the jobs to Uruguay.
Closer to home, Hershey Foods Corporation, after years of gradual downsizing of its domestic workforce in Pennsylvania, finally closed its headquarters plant, eliminated 600 jobs in Hershey and moved its manufacturing operation for its “all-American” sweets — such as Hershey Kisses, York Peppermint Patties and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — to Mexico.
According to a 2009 report by Duke University entitled “Working America,” 60 percent of the firms that participated in offshoring in 2008 said they intended to do more of it over the period ending in December 2011.
Want one more high-profile example of a well-known American brand that has all but deserted American workers? Ever heard of International Business Machines (IBM)? At the end of 2009, only 105, 000 of IBM’s 400,000 employees resided in the United States. The company now has more employees in India (125,000) than in the U.S., and is currently ranked as India’s second-largest employer.
Here’s where contract shifts lead to job elimination: When the contracts let by larger corporations continue to be sent overseas and stop being made available to U.S.-based firms, then smaller businesses and micro-businesses eventually, also, face bankruptcy.
Not surprisingly, late last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out that the number of self-employed people in this country had declined from 16.6 million people to 14.5 million people since December 2006.
It’s important to know that the category of “self-employed people” is especially significant for Black folks, given that 95 percent of our 1.9 million businesses have no employees. That’s right, “self-employment are us.”
But, with jobs and contracts being shipped overseas at a breakneck pace by corporate America, who in their right mind will now leap at the opportunity to start a new business?
Not too long ago, it was logical to assume that when layoffs were occurring in large businesses, it was a smart thing to do to employ oneself — and even to hire others into a vibrant, small business.
It’s clear now, however, that once the 2012 Economic Census is finally completed, we’ll learn that the “smart people” began to shy away from the extraordinarily greater risk of entrepreneurship with the onset of offshoring and the current recession. Indeed, the 2011 midyear report from the National Small Business Association disclosed that “more than half” of self-employed individuals and 36 percent of small business owners have an overall lack of confidence in the future of their businesses.
But, if the alarmingly negative impact of offshoring is so obvious to you and me, how is it that so many U.S. senators decided to vote against the “anti-offshoring bill” last year?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying group of immense influence, accepted full responsibility to protect the ability of companies such as IBM, Cisco and Apple to continue to eliminate domestic jobs and move them overseas.
The U.S. Chamber went so far as to send a letter to all U.S. senators, advising them that if any one of them decided to vote to eliminate offshoring, the Chamber would consider such a vote an indication that the senator was not “business-friendly.” Furthermore, the Chamber would note that vote on its annual scorecard, which is used to determine which elected officials are deserving of campaign contributions.
In a CNN interview, Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber, wrote off the potential impact of offshoring by saying it would only impact “maybe three million jobs, maybe four.”
Of course, for those of us who just learned that the U.S. economy produced absolutely no net new jobs — none at all — in the entire month of August, “three, maybe four” million unemployed people still sounds like a big deal.
In any event, the Chamber’s bullying and the cover provided by a largely disengaged national media were enough to ensure that the bill never made it out of the Senate.
Despite all of that political “sleight of hand,” it’s a rare day, now, that we don’t see one of the senators who voted down the bill crying “crocodile tears” on FOX News or CNN about the nation’s dire need to create new jobs.
That’s usually the part of the newscast when those hypocrites start blaming the White House, the unions, the Black Caucus and everybody but their own family members for the country’s runaway unemployment levels.
With all that being the case, I wonder why the president didn’t make mention of the impact of offshoring on U.S. joblessness while he was standing up there at the microphone?
Did he get one of those infamous, threatening U.S. Chamber letters right before he took the podium at the joint session of Congress on Thursday?
Other than that glaring omission — and his plan to allocate only $5 billion of the total $447 billion (1.1 percent) for “work opportunities for low-income individuals,” and his total failure to mention the historically high level of Black unemployment — I thought the speech was as much as we might expect from a politician with the president’s recent track record.
No matter, all we can do now is pray that some of his plan — no matter how spotty — actually gets done, and that millions of Americans — Black, white, red or yellow — are finally returned to the workforce.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.