7.26.2005

What Goes Around . . .

This Paul Krugman piece in today's IHT, "Why Jobs Head North", just goes to show you . . . excerpts:
Modern American politics is dominated by the doctrine that government is the problem, not the solution. In practice, this doctrine translates into policies that make low taxes on the rich the highest priority, even if lack of revenue undermines basic public services. You don't have to be a liberal to realize that this is wrong-headed. Corporate leaders understand quite well that good public services are also good for business. But the political environment is so polarized these days that top executives are often afraid to speak up against conservative dogma . . .

There has been fierce competition among states hoping to attract a new Toyota assembly plant. Several Southern states reportedly offered financial incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But last month Toyota decided to put the new plant, which will produce RAV4 mini-SUVs, in Ontario, Canada. Explaining why it passed up financial incentives to choose a U.S. location, the company cited the quality of Ontario's work force.

What made Toyota so sensitive to labor quality issues? Maybe we should discount remarks from the president of the Toronto-based Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, who claimed that the educational level in the Southern United States was so low that trainers for Japanese plants in Alabama had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment.

But there are other reports, some coming from state officials, that confirm his basic point: Japanese auto companies opening plants in the Southern U.S. have been unfavorably surprised by the work force's poor level of training . . .

Funny, isn't it? Pundits tell us that the welfare state is doomed by globalization, that programs like national health insurance have become unsustainable. But Canada's universal health insurance system is handling international competition just fine. It's our own system, which penalizes companies that treat their workers well, that's in trouble.

I'm sure that some readers will respond to everything I've just said by asking why, if the Canadians are so smart, they aren't richer. But I'll have to leave the issue of America's comparative economic performance for another day.

For now, let me just point out that treating people decently is sometimes a competitive advantage. In America, basic health insurance is a privilege; in Canada, it's a right. And in the auto industry, at least, the good jobs are heading north.
Yep . . . stupid is as stupid does.