JIM WRIGHT Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives will be autographing copies of his book “WORTH IT ALL” on Friday, November 12, 1993 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Scholz Garten 1607 San Jacinto Autographed copies are also available by mail Sponsored by CONGRESS AVENUE BOOKSELLERS 716 Congress Avenue Austin, TX 78701 MOLLY IVINS Another Shot at NAFTA New York SOMETIMES I REALIZE I have made a mistake not of fact \(as in, it was Smith not Jones; it was 30 percent, not 20 argument. I did it the other day on the NAFTA treaty; I was so busy trying to make a nuanced argument, to show that I had not arrived at the conclusion that the treaty is a bad deal through some knot-headed xenophobia, that I missed making my point about why I do think it’s a bad deal. With your permission, I’d like to try again. My bottom line is that I think it’s up to the proponents of this treaty to prove that it will not result in lower wages for American workers, and I don’t think they can do it because I think that’s exactly what this deal is about. The deep lobbying money behind the North American Free Trade Agreement is all coming from big corporations that want cheaper labor and bigger markets. So, say the proponents, what’s wrong with that, if it will result in more prosperity for all? What’s good for General Motors is good for America, right? Wrong. Higher corporate profits do not mean more prosperity for all. And I would further argue that it is not safe to assume that bidness necessarily knows what is in its own self-interest. In fact, if there is one striking feature about American corporate thinking today, it is its obsessive focus on short-term profits. The goal is to increase profits for the next quarterly report, period. At business schools all over the country, one case study after another is used to show how this strategy leads to long-term disaster loss of market share and customer loyalty, neglect of research and development, and lost opportunities. One can even make the argument that the famous bean counters pushing for high profit margins are actually destroying businesses. There are two general points about labor and the public weal that need to be considered. One is the widespread and, I think, wrongheaded notion that manufacturing’s search for cheaper labor is both necessary and inevitable. The argument is that those jobs are outta here anyway: If they’re not going to Mexico, they’re going to Taiwan, in fact, they’ve already gone, so forget it. According to this Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. argument, all manufacturing jobs will eventually wind up in Somalia, Ethiopia and Bangladesh with those poor souls working for two cents an hour, and this is some inevitable tendency of capitalism. Look, who are our two biggest rivals in the old economic sweepstakes? Germany and Japan. Germany pays its workers more than we do and provides better social services. Depending on whose study you read, Japan pays either as much or nearly as much to its workers, plus it offers a far higher level of job security. Also note another odd feature of contemporary American capitalism: the gross imbalance between worker and executive compensation. Let’s assume that somewhere at Hospital Corporation of America there’s a supervisory janitor making $25,000 a year; last year, the CEO of that corporation decided he was worth $127 million in salary and stock options. Now, even in Japan, the old rule that no top manager should make more than four times what the lowest-paid worker does has gone by the board. Some of them make eight or 10 times as much. But not 5,080 times as much. These are the managers who are trying to beat the unions back to $8 an hour and saying the price of labor will drive them to Taiwan. That’s greed. And stupidity. The second general point about labor and NAFTA is that at least some of us who oppose it are not trying to keep the buggy whip factory in business. \(Old economic argument: The demand for buggy whips went down dramatically after Mr. Ford began mass-proOf course the labor market is changing; the jobs and opportunities are in entirely new areas, some of which we can barely see on the horizon. On the other hand, not all the Bubbas of this fair land can be turned into systems analysts. Because, for one thing, we don’t educate Bubba worth dog in this country. Bubba is already getting shafted as he says himself, screwed, blued and tattooed. He can’t afford a house; he can barely afford the payments on the pickup. Now you proponents show Bubba how he comes out ahead on this deal go ahead, show him the worker retraining program that’s going to make him a systems analyst., If it exists, if it can be made to work \(and the Labor Department just finished a study that says worker retraining a-worker program. So where’s that money in the NAFTA treaty we negotiated? Come on, show it to us. Think about the social consequences of further damaging an already economically marginalized Bubba. I’ve been knowin’ Bubba a long time. I like him, even if he is a sexist pig, but he also tends to have a short temper and to carry guns in his truck. And all you smart people who cut this deal so you can increase your profit margins and pay yourselves mega -salaries are still going to be living in this country with Bubba when it’s over. I think you’re buyingyourselves more trouble than you’ve ever dreamed of. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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