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Old 10-10-2011, 10:00   #1
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The effects of free trade on national security

This article is based on my personal experiences since the late 1980s.

Think working in a factory is only for stupid people that can not make it in college? Think free trade is good? Think cheap products from china (or anywhere else) is a good thing?

Think again.

Besides economic stability, a strong manufacturing base can be retooled during times of war.

One of the problems with the USA, Canada,,, and the rest of the world, we have forgotten what its like to be in a “real” war. This war in Iraq is not a war where our cities are being bombed. We do not even have to buy war bonds like people did during WW2.

If the US went to war with someone like Russia or china, we have no steel mills, we have only a couple of ship yards spread out through the country to build ships with, most of our steel is made overseas, most of our welding tools are made overseas. The shipyards from the 1940s and 1950s have been demolished. All that remains in some locations is an open field. There “might” be left-overs from the old ships yards, but they are far and few in between.

Closing of the shipyards in the 1980s

When I went to work in 1986, I was working with people who had worked in a shipyard most of their lives. Those men with families to feed, went from making around 13, 14, 16 dollars and hour, to 6, 7 and 8 dollars and hour. Not only was the cut in pay demoralizing to the men, but the reduced income of the families had a negative impact on the local economy.

In Southeast Texas in the early 1980s, close to 10,000 people who worked in various shipyards lost their jobs. As the US started importing more oil from OPEC, we needed less offshore drilling rigs, so the shipyards were close and the people laid off. Not only did the people working in the shipyards lose their jobs, but the companies that kept the workers supplied took a downturn.

By the time the 1990s rolled around the companies realized that there was going to be a labor shortage in the coming decades.

Instead of paying a decent wage and attracting workers that had some sense to them, wages were cut back, and the people that had the smarts started going to college. Why should someone work in a welding shop and make $20,00 a year, when they could go to college and make $40,000 or $50,000 or more a year.

Exporting our jobs overseas

Lose of jobs – over the past 15 – 20 years, maybe even longer exporting our jobs has had widespread effects, as well as long term effects.

As the unemployment rate rose, wages dropped. As wages dropped, people that were smart enough to go to college were smart enough to stay away from the manufacturing field.

Our steel mills have closed. No longer can we produce enough steel to build factories, much less make weapons of war.

For now technology is being developed in the USA, but that will not last forever. Sooner or later some company with a vision of the future will start developing their own products. When those new companies step forward, companies based in the US will be cast to the side.

There will come a point in time when we neither develop or manufacture technology. When that time comes, the US will no longer be a world leader.

By exporting our jobs overseas, we have taken the first step to being a third world country. Third world countries neither develop nor manufacture anything.

Even with the US being in a recession for the past 3 years, our politicians will not even talk about ending free trade. Ask yourself, why don’t the politicians require companies to build factories in the US? And why is that?

Long term effects of free trade

Lose of factories that could have been retooled in times of war.

Continued lose of skilled labor.

Lets say we went to war with a superpower like china, where are most of our welding machines built? Where is most of our steel made, where are our circuit boards built?

To defeat the USA, all a country has to do is cut off our trade routes. After the x-box supplies run out at walmart, people will be begging the US government to surrender. If the majority of people will not even vote, then they do not care about what forum of government makes the laws. As long as people can go to work, go home, eat dinner, and watch some reality TV show, who cares if the government is a republic, socialist, communist,,,. If people cared, they would vote.

If the US were ever cast into a real war, the public would not know how to react. We have no factories that can be retooled, our youth has been told manual labor is for the stupid, we do not have the skilled working class that can build the weapons to defend the US.

The lost generation

Current generations have been told – if you do not go to college you are throwing your life away, which is far from the truth.

Starting with the downfall of the shipbuilding industry in the 1980s, fewer and fewer people went into the welding and metal fabrication line of work. Back in the 1060s, 1970s and early 1980s, high school graduates talked about going to work in the shops and shipyards with their dads.

Fast forward to the 1990s and 2000s, kids talk about going to college, building up massive debt through student loans, and working a part of their life to pay back the banks for their education.

At least with going into a craft or trade, kids could stay debt free. Instead of being in debt to a bank for a college education, kids went into debt for a home and started building wealth from an early age.

From what I am seeing in the news, kids these days are worse off then kids from the 1960s, 1970 and even the early 1990s.

25+ years ago – by learning a trade, a young adult could be making good money within 3 or 4 years and buy a home by the time they are in their early 20s.

Today – kids leave college with massive college debt, live in a spare room in their parents house (or in the basement) for a couple of years, and maybe by the time the person reaches their 30s they “might” be able to buy a home.

Skilled Craftsmen

In the previous decades we had skilled craftsmen that could work metal, weld, use a cutting torch, assemble an engine and knew the difference between a socket and a ratchet.

These days, we have people that know more about playing videos games then doing physical labor.

Conclusion

The USA has grown fat and lazy. No longer do we value hard work. Instead of respecting people that do physical labor, we look down upon those that make a living by the sweat of their brow.

Wars do not have to be fought on the battle field, some wars are economic, and through trade. Once a nation is dependent on imports, that nation is at the mercy of the people doing the manufacturing.

The USA is at the mercy of the countries that make our clothes, make our shoes, make our computers, make the engines for our cars.

Unlike in world War II where the USA had factories that could be retooled to build weapons of war, we do not even have steel mills to build the factories, much less retool.

Not only have we given away our economic future, we have given away our childrens, and our childrens children security.
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Old 10-10-2011, 11:00   #2
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Question

Originally Posted by Kevin View Post

Today – kids leave college with massive college debt, live in a spare room in their parents house (or in the basement) for a couple of years, and maybe by the time the person reaches their 30s they “might” be able to buy a home.

...

The USA has grown fat and lazy. No longer do we value hard work. Instead of respecting people that do physical labor, we look down upon those that make a living by the sweat of their brow.

One problem, with out the college grads who become scientists, doctors, engineers, and designers, the labourers would have nothing to build. America has grown weak because we are not generating enought science degrees.

I look down on people who do "physical labour" because many of them belong in labour unions. IMHO the unions are the ones who are crippling the US manufacturers. They had to move overseas because the unions made it difficult to turn a profit. When I see 20 or 30 people striking a company i think where would we be if they would just stay at their job and quit whining.

Not to read between the lines but it amost sounds as if you are supporting a communist system of government, where the government requires companies to stay in the US even if it will have negitive results for the company.
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Old 10-10-2011, 11:14   #3
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Originally Posted by fermi91 View Post
Not to read between the lines but it amost sounds as if you are supporting a communist system of government, where the government requires companies to stay in the US even if it will have negitive results for the company.
I support protecting our economy, our national security, and our jobs, regardless of the form of government
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Old 10-10-2011, 12:22   #4
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I think where we disagree is that free trade in and of itself is not the problem that is driving businesses overseas but, excessive government regulations that impede free trade. Basically the term "free trade" is an oxymoron. There is no free trade in the US. We now have the highest corporate tax code in the world. It is only natural that businesses want to go somewhere that is more friendly to the needs of business. Add to that the fact that the labor unions, who are being supported by that same restrictive government, are driving labor cost so high in the US that corporations can't afford to do business here.
I also don't agree that we lack the skilled craftsmen or skilled labor needed to reopen these businesses if and when the government and their union cronies get out of the way so that they can do so.
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Old 10-10-2011, 13:05   #5
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The OP is right on. Except that what used to be referred to as third world countries do quite a lot of manufacturing now. As we are told we can once again, if only we submit to the wage, safety and environmental demands of the plutocracy, that is, third world standards. In the so-called "free trade" system, we ultimately have to compete for jobs with those working under the worst conditions, for the least pay, and the pressure is only downwards.

I have a better idea. Let's do manufacturing the right way. We are the world leader - or should be - after all.

Unfortunately, the plutocracy of this country largely created the so-called "free trade" system that now so devastatingly weakened us. That makes it hard to turn around. But that's no reason to deny what's happening and pretend things will be alright if only we continue to give multinational banks and corporations even more free reign. They think they've got us over a barrel, all but threatening to collapse the economy if we don't do their bidding. There is a word for that: Extortion.

There are solutions to this problem, but first we have to admit to ourselves what the problem is.
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Old 10-10-2011, 13:39   #6
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I suppose next you are going to tell me that the government creates jobs and not the corporations both large and small that you so derisively call a "plutocracy"? Why don't you get out your dictionary there software thief, I don't think you even understand the word plutocracy. You are a perfect example of what much of the problem is with this country. You want to gain from someone else's hard work without having to pay for it. Your "user name" proves just that. Why don't you just go out and buy your own software?
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Old 10-10-2011, 13:53   #7
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P.S., woodstock: Software thief? That's just one more example of how misinformed you are.
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Old 10-10-2011, 13:58   #8
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So you have proved that some woman knows how to make a sign? Means nothing. Why don't you show us a graph comparing the average football player's salary to that of the guy selling popcorn in the stands. Has just about as much meaning.
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Old 10-10-2011, 14:09   #9
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The government is not the solution, it's the problem.

Steel mills have closed due to the EPA, high taxes, and high costs of energy.

This is seen as good by the EcoFreaks.

Take it a few steps further, and you can clearly see that building most things is bad for the environment. Thus, the EcoFreaks have opposed any factory, building, business or activity they think harms nature. (Even if they just think the products harm nature.)

When the put the two very powerful forces of EcoFeaks and power hungry leaders together, you get the current Progressive/Liberal and yes, even some RINO's we have in DC and state government.

Add the 30+ years of mis-education to this, and you have a population problem. The population thinks the EcoFreaks are the good guys, and that Socialism is much better than Capitalism.

The 60's hippies have done a very good job of changing the world via our kids. While the parents of the 50's worked and planned for retirement, their kids were taught that the parents were evil polluters who support evil capitalism.

By the time we reach our current crop of 20 somethings, we have few who will work, and many who are angry at the lack of opportunities to get an easy job that pays 50k per year, working at the latest .com with a free bagel bar and gym.

My brother in law who is a EE was laid off last month. I have friends at HP who have lost jobs, very good jobs, also as experienced EE's and programers. The era of easy jobs, and amazing pay is OVER folks. The insurance industry that I work in has progressively fired off all the expensive talent, and replaced it with folks making 1/2 the pay. Customer service is preached, but ignored once past their lips, and it's all about how few people can process the most claims.

Why do things face to face, when you can save money and have a call center? Why build stuff here, when you can save money and build it in a low cost labor country? Or with no EPA? Lower taxes? Etc.

WE have screwed ourselves folks. It's organized by folks like Obama, who as community organizers, have pushed government to re-distribute the wealth, and give the poor a hand up.... While that action pulls everyone down, levels the playing field at a lower level, and kills individuals drive to better themselves in many cases.

The solution is lower taxes, less regulation and trade deals that promote the USA, not cripple it.

I do not like Tariffs. I think they backfire bigtime. But, to say that if you want to sell things here, you should build a certain amount of that stuff here is a great idea.

Want to sell cars here? Sure, build 40% of your production here and you are good to go. (Countries all over the world do it every day.) Same goes with appliances, TV's and other durable goods.

Will it raise the price of these goods? Absolutely. Will it result in millions of jobs in the USA? Absolutely.

Is the trade off worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

The USA should be a net exporter of steel and raw materials. We should welcome investment into our economy by those global companies that want to sell us stuff.

Again, no tariff's, but just have that 40% rule, that 40% of the goods/products sold here, are made here.

Combine that with Herman Cain's 9-9-9 changes, lower taxes and less regulation, and this country would be doing so well, employment would be a non-issue.
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Old 10-10-2011, 14:22   #10
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I have worked in skilled trades for over 35 years now (and I have NEVER belonged to a union) and most young people have no desire to do any kind of work that might get them dirty. I have watched guys come and go in my department (maintenance) at work. We have 14 people and in the last 5 years we have replaced 12. 2 retired, 2 died, 2 were fired, and the rest quit. The young people that we are getting out of trade schools know very little and are motivated even less.

I was taught back in the day to troubleshoot down to a component level; now they just teach them to replace circuit boards until it works. The problem with that is circuit boards cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Do you fix your car by just replacing parts until it runs? That gets very expensive!

The craftsman is a dying breed; as is the the man who is not afraid to roll his sleeves up and get dirty; as is the man who is willing to give an honest days work for an honest days wages. Yes, we are in trouble as a nation!
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Old 10-10-2011, 14:43   #11
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Yep, I'm with you Parnelli!

Before I left Progressive, I was teaching the new hires how to adjust vehicle losses.

They were fresh out of college, first job for many, and it was incredible at times the things they would say and do. Book smart, and beyond that, complete idiots.

What's worse, is the managers who herd them around, are not much better in many cases.

I taught an advanced course on mechanical and suspension, and had nothing but praise and referals from those who attended the courses.

My own boss? He could not stay off his own laptop, took calls in the class, and then told me he did not see any value in this course! LOL A course that the office level managers were promoting, and saying nothing but good things about, since they sent reps to me, and got back better claims handlers, who could actually talk to customers, and shops about doing repairs.

In my case, the corporate training folks did not like the field training folks, as we had different agendas. Corporate wanted to push numbers of people through the training, and I actually wanted to train adjusters with real world examples, role play and things that they used every day.

It's the same in any skilled trade too. The people doing the job, know how to do the job the best, but they are not often asked to pass that along. Indeed, they are told not to pass that along, but to follow the approved training material, even when they know it was flawed when it was produced, it's the legal approved version....

I had a few kids from trade schools, and while most were better than the college grads, even they had been mis-informed on reality of repairs.

Every industry, and service is going through this now. The skilled people are either being cut as they make more, or they are getting older, and have retired.

In the collision repair industry, it's a HUGE problem. Nobody knows how to do sheetmetal repair work anymore. It's a dying art/skill, and as mentioned, most guys out of trade school can only bolt off, and bolt on a panel anymore. What's worse, is if you try and show them how to be faster, or do it better, they do not listen, and refuse to learn.

The upside is that anyone who will learn, and works hard? Should make a killing in the next 30 years.
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Old 10-10-2011, 14:55   #12
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"The upside is that anyone who will learn, and works hard? Should make a killing in the next 30 years. "

Absolutely! the upper level management were I work has seen the writing on the wall and they treat me very well. Oddly enough I was having a conversation with the Human Resources Manager and I asked her what she thought my most valuable asset was. She replied well, you weld, machine, design, fabricate, and are excellent at electronincs; I suppose that your skill set is your most valuable asset. I said well, that is true to a point, but I also have communication and teaching skills, and I believe that my most valuable asset is my ability to reproduce myself in others. She thought that was a great point and I suggested that they take advantage of it before I retire. That was over 2 years ago, and my boss basically shows no interest in the training of his people.

Sad really. On the other hand some of the younger guys I work with already know everything, and it is not possible to add to a cup that is full.
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Old 10-10-2011, 16:11   #13
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Parnelli, Adjuster, I agree with both of you. I spent a number of years in the automotive industry after I got out of the military and have seen what both of you speak of and I agree that we are in trouble. I do not agree that any of this has anything to do with free trade and/or it's effects on National Security or corporate greed or the so called plutocracy. I think it has to do with the "dumbing down" of our countries youth, which was and is being perpetrated by the liberal elites who preside over 99% of all class rooms in every aspect of education in this country.
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Old 10-10-2011, 16:44   #14
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The "Corporate" trainers at Progressive, and the "Field" trainers used to be two very different groups, but have been combined in the last few years to "streamline" the system...

The takeover was hostile, in that all the local business units were informed that corporate would be taking over, and all their trainers worked for them.

Some managers saw this as a good move, as our pay was calculated out of corporate money, and not local business units.. And our expenses too were moved to another account, so it was sold as a cost savings to the locals...

Well, inside of a year, we watced as Corporate laid off 300 highly skilled people in middle management.

This scared the crap out of everyone with any tenure, and making a living. Why? Well, because corporate can train 60 in a class, and cut costs to them by having the folks travel to Cleveland for the training. They cut the middle, as things were being moved to call centers, and out of the field... (A Progressive trademark was our face to face, immediate service, ah, screw that, the economy allows us to cut folks, and customers will stay with who's cheapest...)

As a field trainer, I might only work with 5 to 10 people, and I travel to them, work close with them for a week, and then move on to the next group. (Did this for about 8 years, 43 weeks per year on the road.)

Results? I could see in a day or less, what the opportunities were for the people that I was with. I concentrated on that, and communicated with their leaders, and the folks themselves on what the goals for the week were. Great results, great feedback, and I'm dang good at face to face, interpersonal training as as result of all those years working with just about everyone in my 14 states.

So, how does that fit into a Corporate spreadsheet? Well, it shows that trainer, and all those like him who are in the field, have a very high cost per student trained!

BTW, I pointed this out at our big meetings when they told us we were becoming one group, and many others joined in, but interestingly, most of us no longer work for Progressive! LOL

So, next, what did Corporate do? They wanted all class materials! The excuse was legal needed them to make sure were consistant across the country... Sure, that's a good excuse, and so we all presented what we taught...

The classes were re-designed by folks with zero claims or repair experience, but PHD's in "instructional design" who had for years done the Corporate training...

See where this is going? Well, as they "streamlined" the training material, they dumbed it down to where anyone could read it, and teach it. (Really, why go, when you can read the material, and it's the same thing? Most of the hands on training is gone, as people do not want to get dirty, or they might get scratched, or offended by the shop's calendars...)

So, 2 years after they let 300 go, another round of folks were let loose. Expensive and highly effective folks.

Last time I talked to those still left, they are on the road more than ever, the managers want the same kind of results they used to get, but don't have the people, or material to get it in place anymore...

I never expected more than this at a company called Progressive. What's sad, is they used to be at the point of the spear, true innovators, and now they are just, well another large insurance company.

The USA is going to be just another large failed country if we do not keep our point. Keep our innovation, and the society that drives and inspires people to do more, become more and dream of more than just ways to scam the system, or protest for jobs that pay more equally for everyone, regardless of skill, talent or what your work product is worth.
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