What The Candidates Can’t Say About Slavery in China

Jobs, jobs, jobs.  That was the theme of last night’s Presidential debate.  But what neither candidate would dare to say was that the America doesn’t export jobs to China; it exports a form of slavery.

Slavery is a harsh word but the conditions that Chinese factory workers endure have all the attributes of slavery.

Look at how Foxconn manages its work force in the factories that  build iPhones for Apple Computer. 

1. Workers are called by their first name only. 

2.  Workers are isolated from friends and family.

3. Workers sleep eight to a room in company dormatories.

4. Workers need a pass to travel and are only allowed to leave for short periods of time.

5. Workers earn on average $1.62 per hour on a 10-hour shift, 6 days per week. The 40 hour work week equivalent in the US would be $260 per month or $3,110 per year.

6. Workers who become too well-liked and might influence other workers are sacked.

7.  Workers get no paid time off and are forced to work on national holidays.

It is reported that its takes 24 hours of human labor to build a single iPhone.  If that labor were paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the labor cost component of an iPhone would increase from about $40.00 to $175.00 per unit.  Labor cost would increase from 10% of the price of a mid-range iPhone to 35%.  An across-the-board wage hike to US levels would either cut Apple profit margin in half [ and destroy $300 billion of paper wealth on the stock exchange] or cause the price of an iPhone to increase by $400 which would put it out of reach of most Americans — especially the 40% of American teens who reportedly have one. 

So Mitt Romney getting tough on China for currency manipulation and dumping is not creditable, if not downright stupid, if not playing a race card, as Republican are known to do.  Most Americans know that they are getting the better of the deal with Chinese, especially his constituents in the 1%.   

The bargain that America has struck with China is that the Chinese work hard and get underpaid while American upper,  middle and underclasses benefit through cheap manufactured goods and a materially higher standard of living.    Without goods produced by Chinese ‘slave’ labor, the underclasses who shop at Walmart would be discontent and there would be social upheaval led by middle class intellectuals. 

The elites of both parties understand the math.  President Obama has coined the euphemism that America does not want the jobs in China because they are "low wage and low skill".  In fact they are so low wage that it doesn’t pay to automate the mindless, repetitive work and bring it back to ‘lights out’ robotic factories in the US. [One lady in the Foxconn factory does the same weld thousands of times per ten hour shift.]

Keeping the whole system of exploitation together, of course, is the friendly Chinese Communist Party.    American leaders know that the Chinese Communist Party can be trusted to maintain labor peace because a one-party state cannot be maintained if the populace is idle and comfortable   Workers need to be keep in a state of exhaustion, fear and dispair or they might rise up and demand their rights. In such an upheaval, the current Chinese elite has everything to lose — its wealth, power and mistresses.

So if Americans politicians want to get real about China they should favor increased ‘currency manipulation’.  Push Chinese wages down so Americans can buy even cheaper goods.  No one in America would work for such wages or under such conditions, so why pretend that it is a possiblity.

Finally, if the Chinese are willing to lend us the money to keep the perpetual motion machine going — and fund Big Bird and Planned Parenthood — , so be it.  They will never be able to collect on the debt.