What happens to workers when jobs leave for good?

WASHINGTON — Over the last year, out-of-work Americans, already down on their luck, have had to endure a barrage of unsympathetic, even mean-spirited, criticism from several of their elected representatives. Many Republicans, especially, have portrayed the jobless as either shiftless deadbeats too lazy to look for work or pompous failures too proud to take a job beneath their social standing.

Neither analysis is an accurate reflection of the desolate landscape in which many American workers find themselves. Surely those Republicans know that the unemployment rate has been stuck near ten percent for a year and a half; there are about five applicants for every job opening.

And, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said recently on “60 Minutes,” we’re unlikely to see a flush economy for several more years. That’s because the recent recession, brought on by Wall Street excesses, isn’t the only culprit.

For decades now, globalization and technology have been grinding away at American jobs, a process which has gained speed of late. And most of those jobs are never coming back.

Take my southern Alabama hometown. Best known as the  setting for Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it was never a prosperous place, but its textile mills and pulpwood plants used to provide a decent living for working-class residents.

The textile company now known as VF Corporation brought factories to Monroeville in the 1930s, providing paychecks to women (mostly) from the white working-class. By the 1970s, black women were also employed at its sewing machines, making Vanity Fair underwear sold in well-known department stores.

By the 1980s, Parsons & Whittemore Enterprises, one of the world’s largest producers of pulp for paper-making, was operating several mills in Monroe County. Its Alabama River Companies became the local standard for good wages. In 2000, Medline, a huge manufacturer and distributor of health care products and hospital scrubs, opened a small facility that seemed to promise a semblance of security.

But times have changed. The sewing mills have largely moved to low wage countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. Medline closed its Monroeville facility, though it has expanded its operations in Mexico and other locales.

For its part, the pulp business has been buffeted by such disparate technology-related trends as the decline of newspapers (a huge consumer of newsprint) and the rise of digital cameras (which circumvent the old print-snapshots-on paper habit). Plants have been shuttered and workers laid off. Some may eventually be re-hired, but many will not find work again that pays as well.

While the state of Alabama has an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, lower than the national average, Monroe County has an unemployment rate of about 16 percent. Its jobless residents can knock on doors, submit applications and spend countless hours in re-training classes at the local community college, but most are unlikely to find work any time soon. If your job experience is limited to cutting and dying at a textile mill, you’ll find it difficult to remake yourself as a nurse or a computer technician.

The prospects for Monroeville’s jobless workers won’t be transformed by the deal that President Obama has struck with Republican leaders, who insisted on maintaining Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans. The owners of textile plants are unlikely to decide that southern Alabama has suddenly become better for business than Brazil. Nor will the hiring plans at Georgia Pacific, which bought Parsons & Whittemore’s Monroe County holdings, change because its executives keep more money in their pockets.

The best news for the unemployed all over the country is that Obama managed to wrest a year-long extension of unemployment benefits out of the deal. For those workers who have nothing else, that’s the difference between eating and going hungry, paying the heating bill and sitting in the cold.

Indeed, Congress — despite its deficit hawks and its compassion-less conservatives — needs to reconsider the old idea that unemployment benefits are a short-term lifeline that is dropped after a recession ends. This was no ordinary recession; it is an earthquake that is destroying the old economy and creating a new one in its wake.

The victims of those tectonic shifts — especially workers too old to learn a new skill or move to a new city – may need long-term, government-funded assistance. It’s not their fault that the ground suddenly shifted beneath their feet.

457 comments Add your comment

Larry

December 8th, 2010
1:28 pm

Let the folks in Monroeville become illegal aliens in the countries where the jobs are. If the jobs moved to Mexico, then they need to move to Mexico. I say this half in jest. One of the issues with the jobless is the unwillingness to pick up and go where the jobs are. There are jobs available, but they are not in Monroeville. Remember the line from the Constitution “…the pursuit of happinees…”. If the jobs aren’t here, go pursue them elsewhere. That is what our forefathers did. Sell your assets, pack the car and head for the big city. Many of our forefathers left their families during the depression to take jobs in far away places and sent what they made home. Why is this generation different? Probably because they have been told someone will take care of you from cradle to grave.

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
1:29 pm

Nonsense…prove your statement is true. If you can make an unsupported statement and claim that it must be proven untrue, then any unsupported statement in opposition is just as valid. Let me explain it slowly…you dont make the rules no matter how much you whine and whine. Obviously you can’t prove your claim true so you can only defend by demanding more than what you have provided.

Billybob

December 8th, 2010
1:35 pm

“What I learned in law school is that bull crap does not stand up in a real court…and you are full of it.”
KUtGF,
I agree, and what I’ve learned is bull crap from a far left socialist lawyer in the white house does not stand up in the real world….and he is full of s# it. I added a little at the end there. I’m glad we finally agree on something.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
1:36 pm

Kamchak….until the union levels drop to 0% the manufacturing will not return.

And exactly how did you divine this?

Ouija board?
Crystal ball?
Tea leaves?
Magic 8 ball?
Tarot cards?

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
1:37 pm

Billybob… I am glad we agree Nonsense is full of it…. I dont know any far left socialist lawyer in the White House. I dont believe there are any but you are entitled to your delusion.

Billybob

December 8th, 2010
1:40 pm

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt……

George W

December 8th, 2010
1:41 pm

Kamchak….please tell me why you are in favor of unions? Apparently you are NOT a business owner. Minimum wage paying you well eh?

light on policy

December 8th, 2010
1:41 pm

Cynthia

Great column indeed!!

A lot of the negative comments and attacks only underscores how misinformed the American public has become.

Merely looking in terms of the mass exodus of American jobs going to others countries as a Democrat vs. Republican places an unnecessary barrier for those on each side of the political spectrum to look at it for what it truly is, a dollars/cents issue.

Corporations exist solely for the benefit of its shareholders. That’s it. Until, we the people, develop mandates/policies that address the growing economic divide we can’t expect corporations to preserve the American quality of life. This is what our Government is for fellow citizens.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
1:43 pm

Keep Up

So you are still whining.

Thanks for proving me right.

But just for fun, I’ll be glad to present my argument. The question is, let’s see if you can counter.

So where does the money go?

Increased troop deployment. Battle pay goes to our soldiers.

Transportation costs go to American companies who manufacture the airplanes that carry our troops. Most of the fuel is even bought in the US.

Weapons? Manufactured in the US.

New technology? US Technology.

Munitions? US made munitions.

I understand that some money does go offshore, but what percentage is spent right here at home?

And what costs of our military goes up in times of war?

I have simply listed the elements that we use in war that do, in fact bring money back to the US.

Now your assignment is to continue whining or to list enough costs to offset these costs.

Can you do it?

Jimmy Carter

December 8th, 2010
1:45 pm

If all of my policies were implement back in the 70’s, we would not have to worry about this today…because there would not be any American jobs.

granny godzilla

December 8th, 2010
1:48 pm

we must destroy capitalism and embrace socialism if we want to save this nation

Roll Tide!

December 8th, 2010
1:48 pm

Cynthia,
Let me apologize for most of the posters on your blog. Week after week these people, whom I will not name or name call, personally attack you when I am not even sure they are reading your articles. Every week it is the same slams against you. Slams that you are a racist or that you think everyone else is a racist or that you want us to become a Socialist society. Slams that you are a member of the “liberal” media. Blah Blah Blah. These people are not original in their posts or thoughts. This white boy from Alabama, whose grandmother was one of those textile mill workers in a “podunk” south Alabama town hopes you keep up the good work. Some of us enjoy reading your articles and appreciate your insight.

I only included my race so that you know not every white Southern man is a backward racist. Some of us are Southern gentlemen. Some of us think for ourselves and have larger than “pea” brains.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
1:49 pm

Apparently you are NOT a business owner. Minimum wage paying you well eh?

Self employed for nearly thirty years, sport.

snoqualmiefalls

December 8th, 2010
1:50 pm

Excuse me littleBarry, I am merely quoting my conservative, republican, tea party folks days after our President was elected. So this begs the question, if it was alright to use the same language after Mr. Obama was elected, why is it not today? Just asking. I am sure that I will get a reasonable reply…someday.

George W

December 8th, 2010
1:51 pm

Kamchak….Ok so you are unemployed. You still did not tell me what you like about unions?

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
1:52 pm

Keep Up

Just to help you out, here are some of the toys used in the war and the amount of money that goes into American industries.

Current U.S. military purchases include a lot of very expensive stuff. For example;

$10.4 million each for 39 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

$19.7 million each for 15 MH-60S helicopters. These are Blackhawks upgraded for commando operations.

$70 million each for 42 F/A-18 E/F Fighter aircraft. This was the last of the American ?Fourth Generation? warplanes.

$150 million each for 24 F-22 Raptor aircraft. This was the first of the American (or anyone else?s) ?Fifth Generation? warplanes.

$106 million each for 8 Navy V-22 aircraft and $102 million each for 3 Air Force V-22 aircraft. A controversial, and difficult to maintain, replacement for transport helicopters.

$178 million each for 15 C-17 tactical airlift aircraft. The standard heavy air transport.

$70 million each for 11 C-130J airlift aircraft. The latest version of a fifty year old design. Standard ?tactical? air transport.

$68 million each for 3 Global Hawk High Altitude UAVs. The largest and most expensive American UAV.

$14 million each for 13 Predator Medium Altitude UAVs. The latest version of the most successful American UAV. These things aren?t so cheap, at least not the larger ones.

$4.54 million each for 108 Patriot missiles. This is the anti-missile version, which explains its high cost.

$871,000 each for 293 Tactical Tomahawk missiles. The last version of the Tomahawk, to be replaced by a cheaper model.

$1,581,143,000 for one Virginia Class nuclear attack submarine.

$1.1 billion each for 3 DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyers.

$966,559,000 for one LPD-17 Class amphibious ship.

$174 million each 3 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (for putting satellites into space.)

I made the statement that most of the costs stay here. All the items above are made here.

All you have to do is show where more money is being spent overseas and give the reasons for spending it.

One F-22 costs 150 million. Just tell me a single cost that matches the cost of ONE F-22 that isn’t spent here.

jms

December 8th, 2010
1:53 pm

Are you really endorsing welfare as a career path?

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
1:53 pm

Kammy

Collecting welfare and food stamps is usually not considered being self employed.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
1:54 pm

You still did not tell me what you like about unions?

Is that a question?

George W

December 8th, 2010
1:56 pm

Kamchak…I apologize for asking a question that is too difficult for you to answer. I will leave you to your Kool-Aid and Crayons.

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
1:56 pm

Nonsense…you have made a number of claims. Again, without any support reference. You claim US Technology. In fact, the Abrams is protected by armor based on the British-designed Chobham armor, a further development of the British ‘Burlington’ armor. You can find the company listed as a featured supplier at army-technology dotcom. There I have proven your statement that US Technology drives new technology with a simple weapon. Of course, to state that only US has new technology is pure lunacy….technology comes from many many countries other than the US.

Again…Your assignment is to go back and prove your statements not just reguritate a bunch of things you think is true and then to show the economic impact. Again…just stating something does not prove it is true….evidence is the key. Can you do it?

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
1:59 pm

Self-employed is not a business owner? Wow dont let the Republicans find out that.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
2:00 pm

I will leave you to your Kool-Aid and Crayons.

And there was much rejoicing.

Billybob

December 8th, 2010
2:02 pm

Rolltide,
Tucker doesn’t approve of racial profiling, but thanks for showing that anyone can use the race card now-a-days, as long as it’s pointed toward whitey……

gatorman770

December 8th, 2010
2:03 pm

“For decades now, globalization and technology have been grinding away at American jobs, a process which has gained speed of late. And most of those jobs are never coming back.” Cindy your progressive liberal bias made you leave out one of the top two reasons for lost of American jobs – labor unions!

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
2:03 pm

Keep Up

- – In fact, the Abrams is protected by armor based on the British-designed Chobham armor, a further development of the British ‘Burlington’ armor.- -

Yes and all our internal combustion engines is “based” on technology designed by Daimlier-Benz and our jets are “based” on technology developed in Germany, but the costs still go back to the United states.

Once again, you can’t even participate in an honest debate.

I just love the fact that you tried and failed miserably.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
2:06 pm

Kepm Up

Come on, loser.

Just give me a single offset of the 36 billion spent just on the F-22 where our money went anywhere but back here.

You did try, but you failed. Want to try again, or are you giving up so easily?

You will have to overcome that laziness if you ever plan to move out of your Mom’s basement.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
2:07 pm

@gatorman

WRONG. yes unions have played a role, but since Fox or your favorite pundit didn’t tell you, I WILL….. more non union than union jobs have been outsourced in the last 30 yrs

That is FACT….. Go look it up than either come back with valid data to debate with or just keep spouting your false talking pts

Nice try

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
2:10 pm

Nonsense…this is why you are a loser….you stated that New Technology was US Technology….prove absolutely wrong about that you make a statement that the “costs” still go back to the US without proof or even acknowledging that your claim was proven wrong….when you complete your assignment (and you so enjoy trying to give others assignments) then we can discuss but so far you have failed miserably and proof that you have nothing. You may want to change your name to Stupidity is Free…. but really stupid is no way to go through life.

Whine and rant away….. you’re on time out as far as I am concerned. When’s your next meltdown?

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
2:10 pm

Keep Up

I’ll make it easy for you:

Name a single piece of major US weaponry that wasn’t built in the US.

Come on. You can do it.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
2:16 pm

Keep Up

You have stated that the armor being used on the US made M1A1 Abrams was from England. That armor went into use in 1990, hardly new technology. (20 years old, probably older than you)

Still waiting for a single fact from you that means anything other than your insistence that I continue to make a fool of you.

Carlosgvv

December 8th, 2010
2:17 pm

Republicans have shown their number one concern is serving the rich. Corporations, by shipping thousands of jobs overseas, have shown themselves to be totaly unpatriotic and completely lacking in any concern for the American worker. Meanwhile, Republicans and Corporations have used propaganda to fool their puppets into thinking they actually care for them. The only way to explain this is runaway corporate and political greed and a thorough dumbing down of America.

november cant come soon enough

December 8th, 2010
2:18 pm

I do have understanding what the unemployed are going through. I went through the same in 1979 in rustbelt Illinois, where you couldnt get a job pumping gas or waiting tables. Funny, this was when a Democrat was president and both cambers of congress controlled by Democrats. MY union didnt do anything for the thousands of us laid off from John Deere and other manufacturing jobs. I was determined to go down fighting. I signed up for college-my 1st day I was 27. I had graduated near the bottom of my high school out of laziness, not brains. My unemployment was near gone and it was up to me to climb out of the mess. I took whatever I could. I doubt anyone else got through college standing in a hog lot scooping pig poop with a shovel like me or made it through my entire 1st year of college with only 2 books for 8 different classes. I drove a truck and found a man who was willing to let me come to work when I could and leave when I had too. Many days I had to choose between eating or having gas to drive to school and I did go hungry many a day. Bananas were 12 cents a pound and many days 2 pounds of them were my sole food- you can eat on 25 cents a day !
While everyone was partying spring break , I drove to the south in a car with holes so big in the quarter panels that I could crawl through one side into the trunk and out the other with the doors locked. and found a job so when I graduated, I was employed. I now make a six figure living , but that smell of pig poop will be vivid to me for a lifetime. Yes END THE EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. Those of you who want to succeed will and those who want government to pay their way will sit and complain and do nothing.

ronald

December 8th, 2010
2:22 pm

“Republicans have shown their number one concern is serving the rich.”

Wrong. Republicans supported extensions of tax breaks for EVERY AMERICAN.

BW

December 8th, 2010
2:23 pm

I see you kids have been busy…national defense is welfare by another name…it’s a self fulfilling prophecy that allows your local congressman to say “look how well I spent your tax dollars today”. Other than by sneak attack, who else are we really concerned about? No one that has massed an army against us where we were allowed to engage them has ever beaten us. If an army actually massed against us it would probably wind up like Saddam’s army in 1991.

Nothing Is Free

The only thing I can come up with are new rifles specially designed for Special Forces…of course those haven’t been officially adopted. I think it’s neck and neck between us and the Germans on precision rifles at this point.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
2:23 pm

@november

Good for you and the work you did to make it. With that said, since you mentioned a period in time you were down is when Democrats were in control, would you like to see the stats of the last 100 yrs in terms of GDP growth, overall job creation, wage increases, Stock market increases and who was in the WH? I will be glad to generalize like yourself and slice and dice up the stats with you

Using your general statement, I must assume that you meant the Dems were the problem. I guess for you they were, but the “big picture’ over the last 100 yrs tells a much different story for the population as a whole.

Once again, good for you and the efforts you made.

BW

December 8th, 2010
2:25 pm

Carlosgvv

Unfortunately there are alot of Democrats that are also beholden to corporations so in fact they are as culpable as the Republicans in that arena. I don’t even think anyone can spell out what constitutes the core beliefs of the Democratic party at this point.

ronald

December 8th, 2010
2:25 pm

“Corporations, by shipping thousands of jobs overseas, have shown themselves to be totaly unpatriotic and completely lacking in any concern for the American worker.”

Wrong again. You don’t understand how corporations operate. Businesses aren’t created to be “patriotic”, the are created to make money. Corporations have 1 goal- To create value for shareholders. If its cheaper to send a job overseas, they will do it every single time. Again, there purpose is make money. What the American gov’t should do is create a business-friendly environment in the US so that American corporations aren’t financially incentivized to send jobs elsewhere.

BW

December 8th, 2010
2:26 pm

@ November

The only difference between now and then is that politicians used to have a little shame for theft and now they don’t.

BW

December 8th, 2010
2:30 pm

@ ronald

Exactly…any business is created to make a profit first and foremost. Hiring is the cost of business. With that being said I don’t think they will hire one more person that is needed to supply the existing demand….let me dump chemicals into the aquifer again, put the 12 year olds back in the factories and reduce all corporate taxes to zero and I bet money that unemployment gauge does not move without an increase in demand.

Keep up the good fight!

December 8th, 2010
2:30 pm

Nonsense or should I refer to you as Stupidity is Free..

Again you duck, you weave and still the punch lands…. ummm. the F22 you so mention as part of new technology was originally designed by RFPs in 1986 and then contract awarded in 1991. That would make it approximately 10 years old by your game playing.

gator24

December 8th, 2010
2:33 pm

Where do these insane ideas come from concerning Jobs and Taxes. When companies moved their Mfg operations overseas it doesn’t help with America Jobs when products are shipped here and sold in American Stores. This idea of not paying taxes is ludicrous, no one was talking about taxing poor people or those making less than 250,000 dollars a year. This idea of taxing the wealthy at a lower rate produces jobs is a myth that long has been proven wrong

GT/MIT

December 8th, 2010
2:33 pm

They Both suck

In terms to the left/right thing, the fact that I am neither Democrat nor Republican might come as a surprise to you. I am a staunch fiscal conservative and my loyalties are to fiscal conservatives no matter their party affiliation. Having said that, there are few conservatives of any sort remaining in the Democrat camp, hopefully they will make a resurgence amongst the Republicans.

Now back to your assertion that, ” the union argument is a red herring. It DOES not account for most of the outsourcing”, is of course incorrect. While industry tries to maintain profit margins that make investment lucrative as well as attractive to their stock holders and potential investors, the unions demands for greater profit sharing, cradle to grave medical coverage, and ever higher wages, make that an increasingly difficult task. Ergo find a cheaper place to do business, out source, if you will.

As an example of unionisms choke hold take a look at the auto industry. The average hourly cost to, say Ford Motor Co. is much higher than that to Toyota, why? UAW. Therein is the reason we must levy our import tax. Sad!

I will give you this, of late many high tech companies have found it necessary to go abroad to find needed expertise for their endeavor. Might we rather that pay folks to be out of work, use to money to train them for the high tech jobs. Naw!

As you have said we shall agree to disagree and part as friends. Anyway, I have been retired much to long to worry about it.

mala cori

December 8th, 2010
2:37 pm

Willie lynch..I agree that the banks and brokers were somewhat dirty…I guess I don’t understand why one would borrow against their home to buy a car or to take a vacation. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t value material things as I was never tempted to take on an equity line on my home to upgrade my 10 yr old honda. As a result I survied a job loss and major pay decreases. I can only speak from personal experience andhope my stories encouage or help someone stuck in a terrible job fair line. I hate for anyone to be there and encourage them to keep trying. It took a year but I found a job after 8 to 10 hrs of hunting.

Carlosgvv

December 8th, 2010
2:39 pm

Ronald

You should have been born in the 1800’s and entered the workforce in 1885. The 12 hour days, six day workweeks, child labor, no vacations, no insurance and no sick leaves would have definitely been your cup of tea.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
2:43 pm

@GT/MT

I am correct. Unions play a role, but many more non union jobs have went overseas.

Companies who have NEVER had unions have been outsourcing IT, customer service and engineering jobs for years now. It is just a fact. Not saying that is not their right to outsource but the numbers are what they are.

When you say you are not either D or R? How many times have you not voted R in the last 20 yrs? I lean left but never vote a straight ticket. I can always find a few Rs that are better than the Ds, whether it be local, state or national.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
2:48 pm

@GT/MT

No offense but if you do vote all Rs and claim not to be one, that’s sort of like Oreilly saying he is a “traditionalist” and Hanitty saying he is a “Reagan conservative”…. If you vote all one way, it is your prerogative, but how you classify yourself in the end means nothing.

If you do vote for others besides Rs than please accept my apology for making that assumptions

DawgDad

December 8th, 2010
2:48 pm

I work in IT for a major corporation. My career path has been disrupted and truncated numerous times in the past 30+ years. Whole technologies have come and gone, and whole industries that used to be near exclusive American are now overseas or in the tank. I can tell you unemployment compensation for anyone above the poverty line is a joke, not even worth the time and effort of filling out the application. People need to embrace change and make tough choices to survive. If you live in a small town in Georgia or Alabama where there are no jobs – MOVE! Many, many people before you have done so. How many families do you see today on 40-acre farms? Virtually none. Whole rural counties in my native Missouri have virtually emptied out.

The Democrats are PROPONENTS of the new world order; with Nixon’s help they made it happen. If their constituents can’t adapt and don’t support this they shouldn’t be supporting the Democratic Party.

Take a look at the current list of exclusions for Obamacare. The SEIU, many other unions and insurance programs. I predict that before Obamacare goes into full effect there will be more people excluded from some provision or another than there were uninsured to start with. Now there’s a report Reid might try to push on-line gambling into the tax bill. What a joke these politicians are playing on us.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
2:49 pm

Dimacrats have a short memory, the corporations OWN the dimacrat party yet they “claim” that the republicans are beholden to corporate America. Let’s look at the facts, Obozo hired more lobbyist that any other president in history. He also has 95% rating of cabinet positions that have NEVER worked in corporate America, kind of strange isn’t it? Remember “I will not hire any lobbyist”, what a lie, “I will not sign bills laden with earmarks”; the first bill he signed had over 9,000 earmarks. Another lie, how about “I will NOT raise taxes on anybody making $250,000 a year” due to the changes in the Obozocare bill he raised taxes on EVERYBODY. Before you libs get all excited this is how it works, the evil corporations are not allowed to right off the portion of healthcare that the contribute to an employee. So that money, by law, is added to the worker’s salary, so in reality you will not bring home one more penny but the average couple making a combined income of $100,000 pays $6,000 more in taxes… So one more liberal lie, why do liberals have short term memory loss… very odd…

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
2:53 pm

The Democrats are PROPONENTS of the new world order…

Looks like someone has lost their Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie.