Monday, October 20, 2003

The Boston Globe reports today that Bush is a uniter, not a divider, in the maufacturing city of Rockford, Illinois (soon, apparently, to be the former manufacturing city) -- he's united management and labor in disgust and outrage:

At Rockford's Dial Machine Inc., general manager Eric Anderberg is intense: Since the recession ended in November 2001, he has laid off 35 of his 75 machinists, cut their work week to 32 hours, and contemplates shutting down all production. He blames foreign competition, particularly from China, for drying up demand for Dial's precision tools.

"There's been no recovery for us," said Anderberg, whose plant 85 miles northwest of Chicago is in an industrial park dotted with "For Sale" signs. A conservative Republican, Anderberg does not think the White House is doing enough to help small business owners, who he says cannot compete with Chinese factories that use cheap labor and an undervalued yuan to undercut US prices for manufactured products.

...Acme Grinding, Inc., has been in Rockford for 57 years, but this might be its last, said owner Judy Pike. She already has laid off 33 of her 40 employees and did about 35 percent of her business with Textron's fastening plants.

"We've had other recessions, and you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn't like the jobs weren't coming back," said Pike, who has joined with 85 women in Rockford manufacturing to boycott Christmas gifts with a "Made in China" label. "This time, the lights are going off."

...Edward Smith, 37, didn't vote for president in 2000. He says he will cast a ballot next year, but not for Bush. In 2002, he was laid off after nine years when his employer, a manufacturer of hydraulic cylinders, moved operations to Ohio and Mexico. He prays that he will find a job, but has dropped home remodeling projects, canceled cable service, and thinks about leaving Rockford and moving to Wisconsin.

"President Bush is requesting billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq, but I don't hear so much about rebuilding our economy and creating jobs here," Smith said. "I'm wondering what his focus is."

By no means do I wish to let Democrats off the hook for this -- far too many Dems in recent years have taken the job losses associated with globalization far too lightly (yes, that includes you, Bill Clinton).

I know this will seem like heresy to most of the readers of this blog, but there are times when I think the strongest Democratic presidential candidate for '04 would be Richard Gephardt -- not the Gephardt who so often wimps out when confronted with an angry GOP, but the Gephardt we see only once in a while, the one who quite passionately preaches the old-school pro-labor Democratic gospel. Maybe Democrats wouldn't have to run around desperately trying to figure out how to appeal to Middle American guys (do a quail-hunting photo op? sponsor a NASCAR car?) if they just recognized the obvious fact that Middle American guys are workers, and would like their status as workers to be a lot less insecure.

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