Tuesday, October 20, 2009

rags to riches to rags

have you seen this new documentary on hbo?

A cautionary story of labor and greed, Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags follows the decline of the once-robust apparel manufacturing industry in the U.S., while chronicling the industry's relationship with unions and government. From the "Garmento" to the seamstress, from the designer to the marketing maven, from the small businessman to the financier, Schmatta offers a firsthand account of how the industry helped generations of Americans march out of poverty and right into the golden age of the American middle class. But while Schmatta reminds us of the early days of the garment industry and its heyday, it also probes its troubling decline, which has occurred largely within the last 30 years. In 1965, 95% of American clothing was made in the U.S.A.; by 2009, only 5% is manufactured here.

The moral the $5 t-shirt made in china has put americans out of work and will continue to be a part of the erosion of the middle class. america doesn't produce anything anymore. part of this whole bank collapse and the fancy mortgage backed securities had to do with china's insatiable thirst for investments, and people in america looking for ways fill their wants. all the money china had to invest came from us buying things made from there.

it really seems that to make any real change we're going to have to start being willing to spend more on things made here.

and i watched this about the shriver report today on the today show. super moms. . . . doing it all. while working 86% of mom's are still responsible for house and child care. . . yup


Elisabeth said...

Re: the detrimental effects of buying the $5 t-shirt... it's true, and I think many of us know it, but it's hard to resist. I go through phases where I make a resolution to stop buying those products, but then... alternatives are hard to find, and the cheap stuff is hard to resist. A few years ago I wanted to take it further too... I was gung ho against giving all my money to big corporations and wanted to support only mom & pops... that's darned near impossible with clothing. It's frustrating.

The problem extends further in the tech industry. The tech companies face the same dilemma we face with shopping. If they go get cheap workers in other countries, they'll save money, but it's killing the economy to do that. They, unlike us with the lack of choices for products, have PLENTY of options locally.

It's pure luck that George got a job now. It's a former boss (that used to love working with him) that hired him. If not for that boss... I've no doubt that we would be facing some really scary realities very soon. Meanwhile, these companies keep hiring & manufacturing overseas and shooting themselves in both feet. (George lost his previous job for both reasons -- hiring and manufacturing overseas. When they moved the manufacturing overseas, the product quality went way down, and they were so under by then, they had to give the whole thing up.)

abby jane said...

ya it's really hard, i'm very guilty of it. for some reason though that documentary really put in perspective how much it effects our middle class and far from giving other countries a new middle class, because they are not earning a living wage. it hurts everyone!