Sunday, November 19, 2006

A look at the real end result of globalization.

Entry for October 14, 2006

First the article, then the commentary:

Robber gets wish: 3 years in prison
Thursday, October 12, 2006
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Timothy Bowers handed his landlady the keys to his apartment and mailbox and the laundry room and told her he probably wouldn’t be back.

At 62, he hadn’t had steady work for almost three years. He’d been a cabdriver and worked for Encyclopedia Britannica, but he could find only odd jobs after the drug wholesaler he made deliveries for closed in 2003.

So he walked to the Speedway gas station around the corner and ate a couple of hot dogs on the "Two for $2" special.

Bowers then walked a couple of blocks to the Fifth Third Bank at 5055 W. Broad St. He handed a teller a note that said this was a robbery and to put loose cash in an envelope.

The teller put four $20 bills and a dye pack in the envelope and handed it to him. She pushed the silent-alarm button.

Bowers turned and walked to the security guard standing in the lobby. He handed the guard the envelope and told him that this day, May 1, was his day to be a hero.

Then Bowers waited for the police to come. He was handcuffed and seated in the back of a cruiser. The envelope also was placed in the cruiser, where the explosive-triggered dye pack — used to stain stolen money and the thief — burst open.

Yesterday, Bowers was in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, and his attorney, Jeremy W. Dodgion, was in the uncomfortable position of representing his wishes.

Bowers, who had graduated from South High School, served in the Navy and had a scrape with the law in 1966, wanted to go to prison. For three years.

He pleaded guilty to robbery and, in a quiet but clear voice, explained: "At my age, the jobs that are available to me are minimum-wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there."

Judge Angela White asked if he truly wanted to spend the next three years in prison.

"That would suit me fine," Bowers said. "At age 66, I would receive full Social Security benefits," which he can collect as soon as he gets out of prison.

The prosecutor’s office considered arguing against locking up Bowers at taxpayer expense, Assistant County Prosecutor Dan Cable said. But the possibility that Bowers, if freed, might do something more reckless to get into prison was a larger concern. Cable didn’t oppose or support the sentence request.

A court-ordered psychological exam concluded that Bowers is competent.

"It’s unfortunate you feel this is the only way to deal with the situation," White told him.

Bowers will turn 63 on Oct. 29. "I’m going to give you your birthday present," the judge said, sentencing him to three years in prison.

kmayhood@dispatch.com

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It's sad that this type of thing has to happen, but in reality, people in their 50's and 60's have absolutely no prospect whatsoever of finding a job that will support them and their families if the company they work for goes under, or they are laid off or fired. Adding another senior citizen to a small company's health insurance is impossible. Big companies have strict hiring policies that discriminate against older workers and their criteria for higher is weighed heavily in favor of college degrees, regardless of how useless the degree might be. Older workers often started work and worked their way up by experience, not with college degrees, and therefore can't compete resume-wise with younger workers, even with thirty or forty years of experience. A guy with a college degree in basket weaving is awarded more "points" than a guy with 30+ years of actual experience in the industry. And anyone who thinks someone in this age bracket can just quit their job, move to a new area and start again is seriously reality-impaired. It's not possible. Throwing away years of seniority and position experience is stupid in the extreme, especially for people who are legally married and won't lie to the government to receive welfare benefits improperly. And unemployment benefits are only available if you are fired or laid off, not if you quit voluntarily.

And if you are fired or laid off, or your company goes out of business, unemployment benefits don't last forever. They certainly don't last until you reach retirement age, and that is a serious problem for people like the man in this story. The US government needs to stop pretending that the job landscape is a level playing field, and admit that workers in their 50's and 60's need unemployment benefits to continue longer, possibly even until they reach the legal age for social security. It is shameful in a country as wealthy as this one that there are so many workers who would like to work, but the market simply won't tolerate them. That's reality. It is even more shameful that so many of those who have dropped off the unemployment list have done so not because they found jobs, but because their benefits expired and no one would hire them because they are senior citizens. The unemployment figures released every month don't include these men - because it would make the numbers look bad if they did include them.

In real life, other than being a perpetual drain on any relatives they might have, prison may be the only real option some of these men have. Woe to the man with no relatives, or none whose financial situation is better than a bleak prospect of endless wally-world level jobs. This is what happens when industries are allowed to just pack up an go to third world countries. Sadly, the only thing that is going to stop these manufacturers from leaving is stopping the charade in the current laws. These businesses should not be considered "American" for purposes of import/export - they should be considered foreign and all their goods taxed appropriately at the border. Only when the government starts punishing companies for locating outside the US will the practice stop, and I don't see that happening.

People claim globalism brings the lowest cost goods and does people a big favor. They don't explain how the minimum wage service jobs left for the average worker enables them to actually afford any of those goods. And they certainly don't admit that globalization not only lowers costs to the lowest common denominator, but it also lowers wages to the lowest common denominator. So unless you're willing to work for $1.50 an hour like the guys in third world nations, for 18 hours a day locked into factory sweatshops, you can forget any of those jobs coming back here, class. They have left the country so they can put billions of dollars in profit in their pockets, without worrying about the environment, living wages, safety or worker's rights. They are the modern robber barons. And as long as the third world countries are so desperate for jobs that they will allow themselves to be raped in the process, nothing will change.

And I sincerely hope that when all the people in favor of globalization turn 50, they all get laid off from their nice, cushy jobs and get to try and support their families on a minimum wage department store job. Then you'll see some howling about it. But not until.

Is it really so hard to see the future? No, it isn't. It's only hard to take responsibility for causing it. That's what the robber barons won't do. That's why our government is supposed to protect us, by providing unemployment benefits and structuring the tax and tariff codes to stop the flow of jobs out of this country. But don't hold your breath, class. After all, it isn't just factories that are bought and paid for.


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