Monday, July 18, 2005

Okay, before you tell me I don't understand economics I stipulate to that point. The following is the comment of a typically underinformed American consumer.

A column I read today in the New York Times addresses (allbeit indirectly) a question I've had for a while: Why is it better for me to buy a product (say, a Chevy) made in Korea with the label of an American company than to buy a product (say, a Toyota) made in the US with a foreign label? Doesn't the Toyota support more American workers? I'm totally not interested in contributing to the bloated compensation of American management if my purchase doesn't even put food on the tables of any US workers.

Op-Ed Contributor (excerpt) "America's Truth Deficit"

Published: July 18, 2005


"...on the crucial question of how policy makers define "national interest," Washington stands alone. Western Europe, whatever its problems, manages economic policy to maintain modest trade surpluses. Japan manages to insure far larger surpluses in recessions (its export income subsidizes inefficient domestic employers). China strives to acquire a larger, more advanced industrial base at the expense of worker incomes and bank profits. Germany and Japan, despite vast differences, both manage to keep advanced manufacturing sectors anchored at home and to defend domestic wage levels and social guarantees. When they do disperse production and jobs overseas, as they must, they do so strategically.

By contrast, Washington defines "national interest" primarily in terms of advancing the global reach of our multinational enterprises. Elites are persuaded by the reigning orthodoxy that subsidiary domestic interests will ultimately benefit too. The distinctive power of America's globalized companies is reflected in trade patterns. Nearly half of American exports and imports are not traded in open markets - the price auction idealized by neoclassical economics - but within the companies themselves, moving materials and components back and forth among their far-flung factories. A trade deficit does not show on the company's balance sheet, only on the nation's. In recent years, much of the trade deficit has reflected the value-added production and jobs that companies moved elsewhere...."

So somebody tell me (this is Dorothy again) how I benefit from buying the Chevy....

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Hello Neighbor

Just what is the point of a Neighborhood Association?

I work at a community center for the county I live in. It is in a pretty little semi-rural neighborhood that is readily accessible by main streets and an expressway. The river where the lifeblood of this city flows is nearby, and there are even three or four train lines that go through. Because of the neighborhood's nearness to the center of town and the availability of relatively inexpensive land, there is a lot of industrial activity. In fact, the immediate area is named after a well established brick maker. The brick factory is right across the street from the city's wastewater treatment plant. It is a modern facility and hardly ever makes its presence known by smell.

That's where I work.

I live in an area that is not legally the center of town -- that would be downtown. Because of the city's growth to the north and east, though, my neighborhood on the near northeast side is pretty much the middle. Until a couple of years ago, the only two malls in the city were near my house. (Now there is an even bigger one on the west side.) I am near the expressway and several main streets. Because of traffic, it is a little harder to get around than it is where I work, but we never have to wait for trains. Although we are technically in the inner city, the neighborhood has the appearance and ambiance of a traditional suburb. The yards are fairly large, the houses are built on similar floor plans, and everyone has multiple cars in the driveway. I have found it a friendly neighborhood and a good place to raise my kids, who are now teenagers.

That's where I live.

The Neighborhood Association where I work is involved in some real community activism.

They hold their meetings in the community center, sometimes in my classroom in the evenings after I've gone home. They are currently engaged in negotiations with the state, the county and a cement company that is planning to move in across from the center. The neighborhood's representatives would like the cement company to go elsewhere in the area, not so close to the children's park. They have studied, and are suggesting, other appropriate sites in the neighborhood. Even if they can't get the plant moved, the association members are advising the cement company on traffic patterns and the relative safety and noise issues of different routes in and out of their facility.

The Neighborhood Association where I live just sent out a newsletter advising us to keep our cats in our own yards.

In a way this is good. After watching the other neighborhood in action, I had been feeling a little guilty about not being more involved in my own association. It was formed a few years ago after we had a bunch of cars broken into while they were parked in front of people's houses. During the summer it is still a gamble to park on the street because a certain element tends to drive through after the mall closes. Usually they are just noisy and messy -- they rev their engines and shout, and leave beer cans and broken bottles in the street -- but we have also had cars set on fire and car windows broken. One of the neighborhood association's projects has been to have a neighborhood watch group that patrols on foot with walkie-talkies at night. I think they really help.

So there is a difference between the mewling of the newsletter writer (who doesn't sign his or her work) and some of the real good that our neighborhood association has accomplished.

I mentioned the thing about cats to the president of the other neighborhood's association. She was in my room setting up architectural maps and sector plans for her next meeting. I asked her whether she thought keeping cats in their yards was a neighborhood issue.

She laughed.

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