Jim Hightower | The Redistribution of America’s Wealth to the Few

Several of America’s top high-tech giants are now breaking with conventional thinking on the offshoring of their factories and jobs, asking a heretofore unthinkable question: “Who needs China?”

“Let’s invest in new, state-of-the-art-factories,” they declare excitedly. “We’ll launch a bold new initiative to train tens of thousands of teachers who, in turn, will educate the high-tech workforce of the future, generating a wave of jobs and making our American corporations the most competitive in the world!”

Wow, what vision, what a boost to America’s middle-class possibilities!

Uh … America? Who said anything about the U.S.A.? No, no — the high-tech powerhouses are not decamping from China to reinvest in our country, but to shift their production to Vietnam. It seems that the millionaire chieftains of Silicon Valley now deem the price of low-wage workers in China to be too high, and their wandering eyes have settled on Vietnam, where the per-capita income is less than half that of the Chinese people.

Thus, on Oct. 29, Intel CEO Paul Otellini stood in a packed auditorium in Ho Chi Minh City and hollered out, “Hello, Vietnam.” He was there for the dedication of Intel’s sparkling billion-dollar chip factory, which has a clean room the size of five football fields and employs 4,000 workers. Also, Intel is trying to realign Vietnam’s educational system to be more corporate friendly, pouring money into the training of 87,000 teachers. Imagine the impact here if Intel were to contribute to training 87,000 American teachers.

Hewlett-Packard is another world wanderer moving to Vietnam, having built a facility there for outsourcing its software engineering work from the U.S. of A. How nice. In the name of making its American-branded and American-headquartered corporations “competitive,” these high-tech honchos — who demand and receive generous subsidies, protections, privileges and other advantages from our country — are abandoning Americans. If they won’t repatriate their investment dollars and jobs back home, why should our nation support them?

In these times of low wages, long-term unemployment and middle-class decline, Americans are left to seethe as corporate profits, stock prices and CEO pay keep going up. To stoke your fury to white hot, however, consider this: U.S. corporations actually are increasing their payrolls. But in foreign countries, not in America.

In the latest two-year reporting period, these corporate giants hiked foreign hiring by 729,000 jobs, even as they cut 500,000 jobs here. Hilton hotels, for example, moved a U.S. call center to the Philippines, labelling it a move for “maximizing efficiencies” — which is cold corporate jargon for “chasing cheap labor.”

Likewise, JPMorgan Chase, which hauled in $25 billion from the Wall Street bailout, is moving its telephone banking business from Troy, Mich., to the Philippines. Dell, the computer peddler, has closed its last PC factory here, while creating tens of thousands of PC jobs in China. And get this: Hewlett-Packard (yes, the same Hewlett-Packard mentioned above) has dumped its human resources staff in 10 states, moving the work to Panama.

Hello, human resources is the corporate division that ostensibly helps resolve worker complaints and boost employee morale. So the message here is: “Hey, bud, got a problem? Take it to Panama.”

Bear in mind that replacing American employees with low-wage foreigners does nothing to improve products or even make them cheaper. The savings on wage costs are simply pocketed by corporate executives and Wall Street financiers. It’s a massive redistribution of wealth from the many to the few. And the moneyed elites wonder why workaday Americans are furious?

Yet, a clueless Harvard business professor recently pooh-poohed any concerns about this outflow of American jobs. “When companies succeed abroad,” he asserted, “people at home succeed.” Golly, professor, I can hardly wait for you to enjoy the success of seeing your job offshored to some orangutans in Malaysia.

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

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