I saw two men hitch-hiking in opposite directions on the road between
Kalkaska and Mancelona the other day. It seemed odd because you rarely
see a single hitch-hiker, let alone two within a few miles. And Ive
noticed increasing numbers of people commuting via bicycle this
winter, grinding through heavy slush and snow, sometimes along busy
major roads. I get the feeling that these riders arent devotees of
the bicycling lifestyle, but rather, evidence of Americas declining
standard of living under globalization.
A leap? Perhaps, but with an estimated 25% of Americans currently
under-employed as well as a nosedive in the Consumer Confidence
Index last week, we seem to be riding a teeter-totter of opinion on
the economy: some economists (and local business owners) predict that
the recession is winding down and 2010 will turn out rosy. Others
wonder if were in for a jobless recovery that could string on for
One of the benefits of travel is that you can see for yourself how
poorly America is doing in terms of keeping up with the rest of the
world. For instance, one could confidently eat off the floor in the
spanking new, sparkling clean subway system in Singapore. But a rat
probably wouldnt care to do the same in the filthy El train stations
of Chicago -- and there are certainly lots of rats prowling around
there. Heck, were still arguing as to whether we should commit
federal funds to build high-speed rail systems in America at a time
when Europe and Japan have been traveling 100-120 mph between their
cities for years.
Similarly, a visit to Shanghai or Shenzen in China reveals brand-new
factories stretching for 50 miles past the far horizon outside town.
Contrast that to the rot and ruin of our industrial towns: Detroit,
In his new book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, travel writer Paul
Theroux describes a trip to Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of
India, where thousands of U.S. companies have established a presence
to rely on cheap, highly educated labor.
Thats right -- thousands of U.S. companies in one Indian city alone.
Theroux notes that a call center employee in Bangalore makes on the
average of $50 per week, or a range of $2,500 to $4,000 per year to
answer questions like whats up with the warranty on your lawn mower.
Software support persons might make $6,000 to $7,000 per year, with
software designers earning $10,000. He adds that the people who sew
your clothes in India earn perhaps $1,000 per year.
Thats what were up against in America, even right here in Northern Michigan.
Remember jug-eared patriot H. Ross Perot who ran for president in 1990
on a platform of stopping the flow of U.S. jobs to places like Mexico
and India? He warned of the giant sucking sound of jobs being
vacuumed out of the United States. His slogan was United We Stand,
and the folks who were the predecessors of todays Tea Party were
largely his constituency. Well, as it turns out, the patriotic Texan
has a Perot Systems operation in Bangalore. ...the quacking tycoon
had found that Indians in Bangalore would work for a fraction of what
an American would earn, Theroux writes.
So much for United We Stand.
Maybe we need a new slogan: Hold Their Feet to the Fire.
During his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to
remove tax breaks for U.S. companies that take jobs overseas. This
would be a start toward providing more incentive to employ Americans
whose taxes support the freedom to do business in the first place.