October 22, 2007

For many months now, I’ve been noticing several reports about domestic and foreign companies investing in the US because it’s as cheap as doing so in what used to be called the “third world”. Take this story in the LA Times about “onshoring”, a trend describing how U.S. & foreign firms are opening production facilities not just at the border, but in places like the deep South, rural areas and suburbs across the country. Common sense and neoliberal economics tell us why: because its as cheap or cheaper than places like India or China for them to do so.

The story goes on to describe how low wages (as in union-unfriendly “right to work” states) and cheap real estate are enticing companies like bomber-builder Northrop Grumman and Accenture to invest in rural areas like Corsicana, Texas and the Umatilla Indian reservation in Oregon. Locating in these parts of the U.S. has become a cost-cutting measure designed to improve their positions vis a vis global competitors.

But even global competitors from countries formerly designated “third world” (refers more to regions than entire countries now) like India, where Bangalore-based Wipro technologies has just outsourced work to Atlanta are taking advantage of the economic decline of the majority in this country. A weak dollar and a fast-strengthening rupee and yuan (China) make it easier for outsourcer countries to reciprocate by outsourcing to the US. This article in PC World magazine and this one in the NYT make the same and other points about the maquilization of large swaths of increasingly cheap U.S. real estate. But, instead of telling us abut the devaluation of our work, property and existence, too many media simply adopt uncriticially the buzz words, the phraseology of corporate PR flaks who define many “trends”.

This “trend” inn particular has as much to do with the anti-Latino, anti-immigrant moment, but neither right-wingers nor most mainstream “immigrant rights advocates” mention it either.

Some of us might want to think about or mention this next time we come across a local Minutemen or other angry, mostly white anti-immigrant workers (see this story I wrote about whites and globalization) abandoned by big capital that once promised them good paying work for a lifetime. Immigrants have little to do with the investment portfolios of global corporations whose decisions determine who does and doesn’t work where and for how cheap. Lou Dobbs Manichean populism (ie; hate trade, blame immigrants) shows that he understands this. Though he does so in a warped, racist way, he does not shy away from talking about the the fact of open borders or the abandonment of US workers.

We, on the other hand, ignore the maquilization of the US economy at our own peril.


  1. richmont1234 Says:

    Very interesting blog, Roberto! Before retiring to Mexico I was involved in offshoring production lines in the electronics industry into Mexico. Your article caught my eye in the Hispanic Tips newsletter. I publish a few blogs and have a Yahoo group under the general category of ‘sin fronteras’, that is without borders. It is my belief that movement of ideas and labor between our border should be as open as possible.

    I took the liberty of publishing your article in my blogs with a link to this blog. The article is great and deserves much wider publication. I hope you don’t mind my using it.
    Ricardo Montoya

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