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RE: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)

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Maria,
Let me preface by apologizing to everyone who has participated on this
thread. I lean more to the liberal side than conservative on most issues but
jobs. It is not my intention to deny reasonable competition anywhere in the
world.
Your point about cheap labor is well taken, but from our perspective the
labor rate is greatly different from that paid in this country. Conversely,
the standard of living is much higher here - which is the justification for
higher labor rate. I do not mean to imply less than adequate ability - just
a cost of labor that the United States can no reasonably compete with.
As you pointed out "as you must be aware
of, the standards of living can be very different from one country to
another, so that what is considered rock-bottom engineering fees in the
States can be actually pretty good somewhere else and afford you a Cornell
graduate (like me!)."
This is my point. The rate paid goes much farther in the country that you
refer - far enough for you to be able to save enough to attend Cornell and
complete your education based upon higher American rates (which I guess you
even pay a premium for being a foreign student). The difference is that very
few (if any) Americans can maintain the cost of living here and still save
enough for their children to attend Cornell. I would assume that the dollar
goes five to ten times farther in your country than it does in the states.
If I were in your shoes, I would be doing everything I can to promote more
work from the United States.
Give this some thought: What is the poverty level in your country (in annual
dollars). In the United States the poverty level is encroaching upon
$15,000.00 to $18,000.00 per year (the high end of the lower income).
How well would you survive in your country if you earned $15,000.00 per year
from an American Employer?

Let's assume that a family of three or four earns a net $30,000.00 per year
in the United States. The family purchases a home, pays for health benefits
and maintains the family automobile which has either been leased or bought
but has payments left on the loan. In addition, let's assume that it costs
$600.00 to $800.00 a month in food and staples (necessities such as toilet
paper, toothpaste, etc), $1,500.00 a year in property taxes, $2,500.00 in
federal and state taxes (assuming the $30,000.00 is gross income) - plus
cost for education, personal property insurance, automobile insurance,
Automobile registration (about $300 and up in California for a new car per
year) etc.
If this worker loses his job to competition outside of the United States who
could easily work for $10,000 per year less and afford to save $3,000 of it
for their child's college education.
What choices does this family have other than bankruptcy, the need for the
second parent to seek employment to compensate for the lost wages, the need
to liquidate assets and return to renting rather than ownership or finally
to chose a new field and be retrained.

Maria, I am not implying that workers in other countries are any less
capable - only that they offer an unfair competitive advantage that seduces
companies to move their labor forces out of this country. Most of the
companies who lay people off are no longer American owned companies and
therefore no longer loyal to the American workforce.

You state: "Perhaps you should look in a more positive way: if I get more
and better paid work, my economy and thus my spending capacity will improve,
and I'll buy more American clothes, shoes, books, software, etc. so that
YOUR economy improves."

This is the argument used to justify NAFTA and GATT. Consider the
consequences. In a previous paragraph you ask "Could you possibly afford to
buy things produced by American people?  No way. " You're right, but
Americans can afford to by these goods since they earn more.

Your previous argument has two serious flaws for American workers. First, we
must sacrifice our existing standard of living to help yours improve.
Second, Americans might no longer be able to afford products if their income
levels continue to fall and can't be compensated by an already dual income
family. The problem is not the cost of goods, but the cost of labor. The
problem that seems insurmountable is what do we do when our indebtedness
does not fall proportionately with our income? If we take a cut in pay, will
our mortgage lender reduce our principle to be in line with the change in
income, will property take fall, will health coverage be more affordable and
still offer the same services? Will our Doctors be willing to earn less, our
farmers sell food for less just so we can afford to eat?  Of course not -
this is not a proportional food chain we live in. No one wants to earn less
just because engineers and manufacturers decide to profit more by using
cheaper labor. We jeopardize our homes, health care, transportation - all so
your standard of living will increase.

You also state: "It doesn't have to be all negative- if you're designing a
project overseas, say in India or South America, your engineering won't be
cost-competitive
against the locals." Whoa, why not? If I have to take a cut in pay to help
your economy, why is it unreasonable for your country to pay more for
American labor to help our economy?

" But if you merge with a local firm and work together, you can produce a
well engineered product backed with local knowledge, at a competitive price.
Just a thought."

This is a very good point and one that would convince me to support a Global
economic trade. However, you would need to overcome the transition concerns
before you can expect voluntary support. I did not support NAFTA and GATT
since it forces global trade down my throat by Government regulations - and
this was supported by many Republicans and Democrats alike. However, in this
example, we would be competing apples for apples based upon local ability
that might require a foreign firm to absorb some of the higher cost of
American labor.

I object to doing local work (within the United States) and using foreign
labor just so I can profit more.

Maria, put the shoe on the other foot. Assume that at some time in the
future Americans are earning a fair wage of $1.00 per hour. Your fair wage
is $6.00 per hour. Would you take a project in your home town and refuse to
hire local help in order to hire an American at $1.00 per hour just to place
the additional $5.00 per hour in your pocket? Personally I believe this to
be motivated by greed rather than competitive necessity.

We are an imperfect society where corporations are bound by loyalty to the
stock-holders and greed rules over the responsibility of our workers. I
understand this from a realistic position and believe that it is simply a
"Catch-22" that we have created. We build a workers standard of living to a
point where he can afford and purchases the "American Dream" and he becomes
indebted in the process to cover his cost of necessities. He believes that
his well being is considered by his employer who then lays him off while
hiring lower cost and equally competent labor. In the process, our society
condemns him for not being responsible and defaulting on  his debt. Even if
he recovers, he is marked for seven to ten years by bad credit ratings and
may not be able to rebuild what he lost.
Today, I heard about three or four companies who are laying off another
7-10,000 employees (sales people) during the Christmas season in order to
meet the stock-holders profit potential. Explain this to the families of
these people as they approach Christmas.

I hope you will understand my position. If we competed on a level playing
field for ability, timing, economics of design or slight variations in labor
rates - I would be supporting your statements. But as imperfect as we are,
there are those who abuse the system (and these are the CEO's who must
answer to their shareholders for the most part) and who do not want
government intervention to protect American workers.
I expect other countries with predominately higher cost of living have the
same concerns - Japan, Germany, England et.al.

I thank you for your comments and hope you do not believe me to be un-just
or closed minded. I will admit I am wrong when American workers feel secure
in their jobs despite unfair International competition.

Respectfully,
Dennis Wish PE