Made in the USA used to stand for quality and pride. It meant buying high quality products made by American workers earning good wages and benefits. Products made in the USA aren’t as common anymore, especially as more American jobs get outsourced to places like China or Bangladesh. But when something says “Made in the USA” today, is it still a positive thing?
Jobs outsourced to boost profit
Once companies started outsourcing more and more of our jobs, this label became more of a rarity. Companies liked paying foreign workers ten cents a day with no benefits and no liability for injured workers. They claimed to pass down savings (but what’s up with the $50 t-shirts?!) to us; but mostly they kept the extra profit to make the CEO and shareholders richer.
Bringing jobs back to America?
If you see “Made in the USA” in stores today, you might think it’s a good thing. You might think “Finally, they’ve brought back some jobs and put Americans back to work, boosting our crappy economy. Kudos to that noble company!” Sometimes. But this isn’t the case much of the time.
They found cheaper American “employees”?
Wait, if companies benefit from paying extremely low wages to foreigners and charging high product prices to Americans, why did they bring back jobs to the US?
These aren’t the same American workers from 30 years ago, working in humane factories making decent wages. Their wages aren’t even close to minimum wage, and there’s definitely no benefits. Unless you count living in a tiny prison cell with round the clock security a benefit. But those “benefits” aren’t even paid for by the company “employing” them—they’re paid by you, the taxpayer.
You subsidize cheap prison labor = record profits for companies
Even if you dislike prisoners and think they deserve punishment, you should care that these companies are abusing your tax dollars to make dirt cheap products and record profits (Note: No, they’re not kind enough to pass the savings on to us).
You’re the one forced to subsidize these prisoners’ living expenses, making these captive employees’ cheap labor possible.
There are millions of Americans out of work, underemployed, or collecting welfare. Not only are your tax dollars paying for their benefits already.
But now you’re also subsidizing cheap prison labor—which prevents some Americans on social welfare programs from getting jobs. Meaning more of your tax dollars spent to support them. Double slap.
As for quality? Forget about it. These prisoners are forced to work, and would rather not work than make a few cents an hour. So they’re bitter and unafraid to lose their “jobs.” They’re probably thinking of ways to get out of the work or sabotage the company. So don’t be surprised when your new hat smells like pee or you see brown smudge marks on your new license plate. And don’t count on quality control, because remember, they are the quality control.
How do they get away with it?
The corporations have lobbyists who bribe politicians to vote for laws in their favor. Although it’s a serious problem, no surprise there.
What can we do about it?
Call or email your state senator or congressman that you know what’s going on, and you don’t want your tax dollars supporting this abuse of the system. Tell them your tax dollars can be better spent than subsidizing these companies’ profits.
What if you believe prisoners should work? Are there better options for prisoners? I’ll talk about that next time.
Photo via Flickr user USDAgov