Amazing Trade, how elite the sound

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the efficiency of the Board. They are sampling better vintage now that jobs have been offshored."

By Joyce McGreevy
Published March 22, 2004 8:30PM (EST)

Now let me testify of the day I accepted outsourcing into my heart. From the moment of my baptism by fire -- or as an unbeliever might say, the shipment of my service job to India (which I trained for after my manufacturing job went first to Mexico and then to China) -- I never questioned the truthfulness of the gospel of free trade. As for my relocation from Flint to Austin to Dayton to Silicon Valley to Las Vegas to the curb outside the Wal-Mart in Woonsocket, R.I., I prefer to think of that as the Patriot's Pilgrimage.

From the moment I heard the optimistic teachings of the richly remunerated experts, I knew it had to be true -- free trade had traded a wretch like me for a pearl of great profit. Free trade had freed me, my loved ones, and my brothers and sisters around the globe to enter into the kingdom of the unconditional market. Well, not exactly to enter it, but, you know, to sit right outside the gates where verily, we will look with wonderment at the fine few people floating about inside.

Today has seen a great miracle. It is the rebirth of a world in which even the youngest and the poorest are lifted up to perform dangerous work at less than a living wage in countries where there is little or no need for unions, health benefits or environmental protections. A world where, if the workers are highly educated and skilled, as in India, they will be welcomed into the fold to cast their pearls before swine at 10 percent of the U.S. wage (or 100 percent more than I am currently earning ) -- until the swine decide it profits them even more to take their traveling Big Tent Business revival meeting to the Philippines or elsewhere.

For the profiteer is not without honor except in his own country and whatever country no longer suits his purposes.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the efficiency of the Board. They are sampling better vintage now that jobs have been offshored.

And those who question the Word of the Board shall be called protectionist, isolationist and xenophobic, and they shall be left behind. For few are called to the corporate rapture but, naturally enough, the raptors.

For the alternative lifestyle proposed by the doubting would plunge us into a den of slightly less profitability, a veritable cradle of Krugmania, in which the pursuit of "tougher labor and environmental standards" would marry with "effective job creation measures and a strong domestic social safety net." And that's just unnatural.

But to those who have absolute faith in the promises of the Laissez-Faire-isees, all will be well. All will be exceedingly well.

For it is carved in stone (imported stone, outsourced carvers getting 8 cents an hour) that Deficits Don't Matter. Thus in 1992 George Bush the Elder must merely have been speaking in parables when he said that for every $1 billion in trade, we lose or gain about 18,000 jobs. So what do we care about a trade deficit of $540 billion?

I say unto you, the U.S. dollar will be buried but then it will rise again, and this time it will ascend to the right pockets. And goods will become cheaper (except actually they won't if the dollar continues to lose value) and a weaker dollar makes U.S. exports more globally competitive (except that rising oil prices are undermining this). But at any rate goods will seem cheaper to those who will have disproportionately more dollars to buy them.

For yea, though my family walked through the Valley of Debt when we were urged to keep America "open for business" in the days after Sept. 11 (and meanwhile we sort of counted on continuing to be employed), no evil will we fear but that which we are instructed to fear.

Thus did we bless many corporations with our presidentially sanctioned consumption (which kept us happy while our social services were being slashed) and our highly touted productivity (by which we proved that three sleep-deprived people could do the work of 10 for the pay of one. Oh, wait -- no overtime. Make that .72).

And, OK, so these same corporations now maketh our jobs to fly to greener pastures. But is it not a more glorious thing that we have been made instruments of the eventual good? For having been assured that outsourcing will benefit the nation in the long run, isn't it only fair that we should be sacrificed in the meantime?

For as it is written in the Tao of the Marketplace, "Tough tacos." The comparative advantage works in mysterious ways.

Consider the outsourced in their fields -- they toil not while the experts spin, yet not even Salomon Smith Barney in all its glory could make a raid as rich. Booty is in the eye of the shareholder.

O ye unemployed of little faith. Take no thought, saying, "What shall we eat? Without a car, where shall we live? Are you freakin' serious about reclassifying hamburger flipping as 'manufacturing'?" For the experts know best that the way to save us from adversity is through retraining. And only selfish ingrates would ask, "Retraining for what?"

Come, let us bravely welcome those Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- Cost-cutting Business Practices and Increased Global Competition. (Sorry, they had to downsize the other two horsemen, Regulations and Oversight.)

For have we not been assured between blows that we are a people who can innovate their way out of anything? So let us not stand in the way of efficiency, but when we are hungry or in despair, let us get down on our knees and innovate the hell out of this thing.

How? I'll tell you how -- "somehow"! Once again, I cite the word of the experts, whose ways are mysterious and whose suits are of an expensive cut that looks very impressive on CNN.

My fellow converts, remember, our reward is not in this world. Heck, our pensions are not in this world, but vacationing somewhere in the Caymans with a guy who paid 17 bucks in corporate taxes.

Oh come let us pray for perpetual tax cuts that benefit those who reason not the need. Let us pray for trade agreements that allow us to subsidize the cost of sending our own jobs overseas. Let us bow our heads before the stock market, confident that as long as it goes up, it matters not if many of us fall down.

And if the auto plant in Mexico has no parking lot because the workers there don't earn enough to buy the cars they make -- And if those jobs are just passing through anyway -- And if 26 million public-sector jobs in China have been replaced by low-wage privatization -- And if hundreds of millions in India are left behind by the cut-rate jobs global job fair that makes things cosmetically better for selected cities -- And if many companies are learning to "keep their outsourcing plans quiet" as they weigh offshoring in India against even more affordable "near shoring" in Bulgaria -- Well, then, let us say nothing and ask no questions, lest we discover that we are all pawns in a bigger game.

For many are culled, and few are chosen, and brothers and sisters, the yoke is on us.

Joyce McGreevy

Joyce McGreevy is a writer in Portland, Ore.

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