Will America’s Tombstone Say “Made in China?”

Posted on Tuesday, 20th September 2011 @ 07:04 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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                    by David Sirota/Truthout

Many economic Nostradamuses have long predicted that the epitaph on
America’s tombstone will ultimately read, “Made In China.” But casual
observers probably didn’t think the funeral procession would happen this
fast. In the last year, though, most have wised up. Thanks to a spate
of mind-blowing headlines, we are learning that the Chinese invasion
isn’t just a distant possibility — it’s happening right now.

First, in February, ABC News reported that almost every
Americana-themed trinket sold in the Smithsonian Institute is made in
China. Then news hit that San Francisco is importing its new bay bridge
from China. Then came the New York Times dispatch about the Big Apple
awarding Chinese state-subsidized firms huge taxpayer-funded contracts
to “renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge
over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near
Yankee Stadium.”

Astounding as all of that is, it was quickly topped by news last week
reminding us that the new Martin Luther King monument in Washington was
designed by a Chinese government sculptor and assembled by low-wage
Chinese workers.

The trend is enough to trouble any American. After all, when a
memorial for a civil rights leader who deplored “starvation wages” and
died supporting a sanitation union’s strike is built by non-union serfs
from China, it’s a good sign there’s a big problem.

But then, what exactly is that problem?

Xenophobes will say China’s ascendance threatens America’s global
cultural hegemony and promises to create a dystopia forcing us all to
endure the supposed horrors of speaking Mandarin and using chopsticks.

Such misguided and bigoted demagoguery, though, distracts from the
real crisis staring at us in our own mirror — a crisis not of other,
but of self. Indeed, for all the fears of external assault, the Chinese
invasion tells us the true problem is that America is no longer willing
or able to invest in its own future.

This problem is most obvious — and shocking — in our government. As
opposed to multinational corporations, which care only about maximizing
shareholder profit, our public-policy arena is supposed to be focused
on building America. But in this golden age of big-money politics, with
multinational corporations buying off our lawmakers, we get the opposite
— even during an unemployment crisis.

Today, municipalities outsource public works projects, congresses
water down “Buy America” laws, and presidents champion trade deals that
encourage companies to send jobs overseas. That trickles down to give us
American iconography made in Chinese factories, American real estate
owned by Chinese companies, and American civil rights memorials
constructed with Chinese slave labor.

The public excuse from our corrupt politicians is that Americans
don’t really want the jobs that could be created if lawmakers
prioritized domestic investment. Last week, for instance, the White
House’s U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, said we shouldn’t be
concerned with jobs that are about “making things that, frankly, we
don’t want to make in America — you know, cheaper products, low-skill
jobs.” It was a reprise of 2006, when Sen. John McCain told union
members the same thing.

The truth, of course, is the opposite — millions of jobless
Americans are desperate for some shred of economic patriotism that would
put them back to work. But our political system isn’t about patriotism
anymore. It’s about the deception embodied in Kirk’s talking points.

Thanks to that, the idea of successfully legislating a domestic
investment agenda seems not like mere wishful thinking. It seems as
wholly inconceivable as walking into a big-box store and finding lots of
products that are still made in the USA.

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