Category: Career & Work

Ending the Great Recession

Take a few minutes to read this New York Times article by Robert B. Reich called, “How to End the Great Recession.

It is an Op-Ed piece for the Times dated September 2, 2010. It is so appropriate for Labor Day weekend this year.

Here is another article by Robert Reich titled, “The Defining Issue: Who Should Get the Tax Cut — The Rich or Everyone Else?

It is from the Wall Street Pit website.

Robert Reich’s website is http://www.robertreich.org

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

A lot of Americans, myself included, complain that everything is made in China today. What would it take to bring some of those jobs back to the United States?

Can a business like Rawlings Sporting Goods and Major League Baseball be shamed into bringing jobs back to the United States?

The baseballs used in Major League Baseball (MLB) games are made in Costa Rica by people being paid $1.60 an hour.
There is a 52 cent bonus for each ball made over the minimum 156 balls per week. Yahoo! Think about that the next time you are watching a MLB game on television. See the March 9, 2010 Reuters article by Leslie Josephs for more details.  Apparently, Rawlings Sporting Goods owns the factory and supplies the baseballs to Major League Baseball.

Imagine that, Americas’ national pastime relying on $1.60 an hour labor to exist. Disgusting. It just seems wrong to me. No wonder they can afford to use so many baseballs in a game. Think about that $1.60 an hour the next time you see an umpire throw the ball out of the game because the pitch was in the dirt and the ball now has a mark on it.  Think about that $1.60 an hour the next time you are forking over $27 to get into the ball park. ($27 is the average price of a ticket to a major league game this season.) Think of that $1.60 an hour the next time you pay $9 for a warm beer at a game.

Is this capitalism at its best or capitalism at its worst?

The average Major League Baseball player salary is $3 million dollars a year. The MLB season is 162 games. If you figure that the average game time, including warm up and practice before the game is 5 hours, MLB players work 810 hours a year. That works out to $3,703 an hour. Not including benefits and perks. Even if you add in the pre-season games, they are still making a boat load of money.

The owners of major league teams can afford to pay their workers $3,703 an hour and still make a spectacular profit, I’m sure.

Would it be too much to ask Major League Baseball to tell Rawlings Sporting Goods to have their baseballs “Made in
America”? Would it kill them to have to pay someone a decent wage to make a product that baseball can’t do without?

I know there are people in this country who could do this work and would be glad to have it.

Can Rawlings Sporting Goods and Major League Baseball be embarrassed into bringing back the manufacture of baseballs to the land where baseball was invented and to where the majority of its fans live and work?

What do you think? Where is Curt Flood when you need him?

Here is a link to a website called The American Chronicle. It has more information about the manufacture of baseballs in Costa Rica.

Here is a link to a website, Baseballs for Haiti, written by a man from Vermont who wants to bring the manufacture of baseballs back to Haiti.

My Northway Commute

What a nightmare. I drove to work on I-87, the Adirondack Northway, last week. I got on at exit 14 in Saratoga Springs and got off at exit 6 near the Albany airport.  I was working at a company on British-American Boulevard off of Route 7 in Latham.

I haven’t had to use the Northway to commute to work in quite a few years. In fact, the last time I used it to get to work was in 2000 when I lived near exit 8 and worked for Verizon at 158 State Street in Albany, across from the State Capitol.

I was amazed at how many cars had only one person in them. In the five days that I drove on the Northway, I only saw one car with two people or more in it on the way to work. Doesn’t anybody carpool? With the price of gasoline so high and the Great Recession gripping the country for the past year, I didn’t expect to find traffic as usual on the Northway. Now, I didn’t look into every car going by. I was too busy keeping an eye on the car in front of me, but in the cars going by that I could see into safely, I only saw one car with more than one person. That just seems pretty ridiculous to me.

I think I saw one bus too. I know that there must be more buses somewhere, but I only saw one. Maybe it was just the time I was commuting. I left my house around 6:55 am to be at work in Latham by 8:00 am.

There has got to be a better way. I still can’t understand how the Northway comes to a complete halt around exits 9, 8A and 8. I know that there are a lot of cars entering the roadway at 9, 8A and 8, but they are entering the right hand lane. Why doesn’t the left lane and center lane keep moving?

I’m assuming that since I am stopped and all the cars that I can see in front of me are stopped, that some car ahead of me that I can’t see and is “leading the pack” down the Northway, has come to a complete stop. Why? How can that be?

There are no traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs, pedestrian crossings, or anything else to cause a car to come to a complete stop. It just doesn’t make sense.

I would love to spend a morning in a helicopter and look down on “the mess.” Maybe then I could get a better understanding of what is happening. I have heard that the twin bridges crossing the Mohawk river present some sort of an optical illusion to some drivers. That could explain some of the slow down. I also know from experience that there is a hill after crossing the Mohawk and that most cars lose speed going up the hill because their drivers fail to accelerate to compensate.

I have come to the conclusion that it is just incompetent drivers causing the problem. People who, among a lot of other things, won’t keep right and pass left. Some will just sit in the left hand lane, not passing anyone and clogging traffic. People who can’t be bothered to use a turn signal. People who still talk on their cell phones while driving.

Here is a link to the website of the Car Talk guys that you have probably heard on the radio. Their website has a wealth of information about why you should not talk on the phone, hands-free or not, while you are driving a car. It’s incredibly dangerous.

I was also surpised at how fast people were driving.  The speed limit is 65. If you drive 65, even in the right hand lane, people are whizzing by you at 75, 80 or 85 miles an hour. What’s the rush? Seventy is a nice comfortable speed. Your chance of having an accident at 75 and 80 miles per hour is greater and the higher speed makes the results of the accident deadlier. Slow down and live.

I thought by now, near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, that more employers would allow more employees to work from home. If people could work from home two days a week, that would cut down on traffic on the Northway by 40% on any given day.  No more painfully slow, stressful commute.

There would be less stress, less accidents and theoretically, cheaper insurance rates because you are driving your car fewer miles. You would spend a lot less money on gasoline and wear and tear on cars. Even if the price of gasoline is high, you won’t need to buy as much. I drive an old Honda Accord. My commute was 39 miles each way. I burned quite a bit of fuel to get back and forth. The job that I was doing was hands on. I was physically connecting and disconnecting equipment. It wasn’t something that I could do from home.

Many people work on a computer when they get to work. With broadband cable or DSL, inexpensive computers and cheap phone calls, you should be able to do the same job working from home. Everybody wins. If you want, for $50 you can setup a camera on your computer so your boss can actually see and talk to you when it is necessary.

If you are carpooling to work, I would love to hear how you got started.

If you are working from home a few days a week instead of going into an office everyday, I would love to hear about how you got started doing that.

If you are taking the bus, I’d like to hear about your experience too. Maybe your story can inspire someone else to carpool, work from home, or take the bus to work..

Paul Krugman and The Return of Depression Economics

I went to see Paul Krugman speak at the Riley Center for the Arts at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont Saturday night. He was there to promote the softcover release of his book, “The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.” Paul is one of my favorite columnists at the New York Times and I read him religiously (don’t tell Bill Maher). He is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2008 and a Professor of Economics at Princeton University. He also has a blog called, “The Conscience of a Liberal.”

It was the first time I had been to the Riley Center for the Arts. I got there early and parked right out front. There were only a few people there when I arrived. I had purchased my tickets in advance and they were waiting for me when I arrived. The $10 price of admission was also good for $10 off the price of the book, which I thought was a pretty good deal. The cover price is $16.95. Mr. Krugman was going to sign the book after he spoke. I went into the theater to find a seat. It’s a very cozy, comfortable auditorium that holds about 250 people. They are all good seats. I sat four rows back on the center isle. I could see and hear perfectly.

Mr. Krugman was introduced by one of the owners of the Northshire Bookstore who sponsored the event. He gave an interesting talk for 45 minutes or so about the current economic crisis. At times he was funny and at times he was serous. He then invited the audience to ask questions.

One of the more interesting questions was, where are the jobs going to come from for our kids. Paul said that he wasn’t really sure but, green jobs were one possibility. Where are those green jobs anyway? I think the person who asked the question was retired. He may not realize how many people over 50 are looking for work after having been laid off from a job they held for years. In recessions that I remember, it was always assumed that even if you were laid off, you would probably get hired back by the same company when the recession was over. Nobody is assuming that now. A lot of manufacturing jobs are gone and they aren’t coming back, unless by some miracle something changes drastically.

I was listening to the different questions people were asking and trying to think of one of my own. I finally came up with a question about the Glass-Steagall Act but, by then it was too late to ask. I wanted to ask him if he thought the Glass-Steagall Act, that was enacted in 1933 during the Great Depression and repealed in 1999, should be brought back to prevent another financial crisis. It seemed to work pretty well for 70 years or so.

I’m not going to try and tell you everything he said. I don’t remember it all and I didn’t take notes. You can read his column, blog and book if you want to know what he thinks. Having said that, here is a quote from his October 2, 2009 column in the New York Times:

“But while not having another depression is a good thing, all indications are that unless the government does much more than is currently planned to help the economy recover, the job market — a market in which there are currently six times as many people seeking work as there are jobs on offer — will remain terrible for years to come.”

Wow. I don’t think a lot of politicians realize how bad the economy really is. There is far too little being done to create jobs in this country. The politicians  just don’t get it.

This March 28, 2009 Newsweek story about Paul is interesting. The title of the story is, “Obama’s Nobel Headache” and it refers to Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize not President Obama’s.  Apparently Paul and I have some things in common. We are both the same age (56) and we both came home from school once with a bloody nose. The article implies that it was from a punch in the nose. Mine was too and it was well worth it. Based on the picture that goes with the article, he needs a bigger umbrella too.

After he spoke Mr. Krugman signed copies of his book. I was lucky enough to be one of the first in line. When it was my turn, there was a young man standing next to him talking to him as he was signing. I always thought that when an author was signing his book for you, that you should be able to have a quick converstation. I leaned over the table a little bit and got his attention by saying that I enjoyed his column in the New York Times and that I enjoyed his speech tonight. He looked at me and said thank you.

It was nice to get to meet someone that I read all the time and see on television. It only lasted a few seconds, but by the time I left, the young man was gone too.

As I was leaving the building, I noticed a woman next to me wearing a very interesting “peace button.” I told her that I liked it and she offered to give me one. She ended up giving me three buttons. Twice I offered to pay her for them, but she would not take any money. She said she had been making them since 2001 and giving them away. She never accepted payment. She gave me a business card and said that I should email her and explain how we met and she would send me another button. I am going to contact her today and find out the “rest of the story.”

Bob Herbert and The New York Times

Bob Herbert is my favorite columnist. You can read him every Tuesday and Saturday in The New York Times. Or should I say “on” The New York Times? His column today is called, “Does Obama Get It?”  The column is about the huge unemployment problem in the United States.

After I read the column I commented the following: Bob, Thanks for another great column. It seems extremely stupid to me that they don’t count unemployed people who are so discouraged that they stop looking for work. When an individual becomes unemployed, they are no longer making deposits into their Social Security account. That is what should be tracked.

Unless the person has retired, and that should be easy enough to figure out based on their age and whether or not they are collecting unemployment from a state, they should be counted in the unemployment figure. I’m sure that computers could track that quite easily.

The federal government bailed out Wall Street and the banks. They didn’t help the average citizen. Another jobless recovery in this country is going to be very ugly for a lot of people.

Where are the green jobs and when are we going to start rebuilding our infrastructure? Perhaps the president should read, “Freedom From Fear” by David M. Kennedy. (end of my comment) We need to bring counting the unemployed into the twenty first century.

Freedom From Fear, The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945″ was published in 1999 by the Oxford University Press.

Bob Herbert’s September 15, 2009 column is titled, “A World of Hurt.” In it he says, “This recession, a full-blown economic horror, has left a gaping hole in the heart of working America that is unlikely to heal for years, if not decades.” It is another great column that is well worth reading.

If you click on his name under the title of the column, you will see a brief biography and a list of the columns he has written over the past several years.

If you haven’t discovered Bob Herbert yet, I’m glad that I can introduce you to him.

GlobalFoundries Chip Plant in Saratoga County, New York

The Luther Forest signGlobalFoundries is building a new $4.2 billion computer chip plant about 15 miles from my house. It will be the most modern chip plant in the world when it is completed in 2012. It will be built in the Luther Forest Technology Campus (LFTC) located on 1,414 acres in Malta and Stillwater New York. It will be just a mile or two from Saratoga Lake and a few more miles from the city of Saratoga Springs.

GlobalFoundries, based in Sunnyvale, California, is a new company created by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi. AMD creates and designs computer chips for personal computers and servers. While Intel is AMD’s largest competitor, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation is GlobalFoundries biggest competitor. GlobalFoundries has an existing chip plant in Dresden, Germany. If you click on the link, it will show you a picture of the chip plant in Dresden. The new chip plant will look similar to the one in Germany.

ATIC is a company created by the government of Abu Dhabi. ATIC will own 56.6% and AMD will own 44.4% of the new company.

Luther Forest is just off exit 12 of the Adirondack Northway (I-87). The part of I-87 that runs from Albany, New York to the Canadian border near Montreal is known as the Adirondack Northway. I drove around Luther Forest the other day and I was surprised to see how many private homes were in the area and how close it was to Saratoga Lake. I am not complaining though. This area can use some good, high paying technical jobs. GlobalFoundries says that it will create 1,465 jobs at the chip plant when it is fully operational and that over 5000 other jobs will be created by outside vendors to service and support the chip plant. It should help the economy of this area for years to come.

A chip plant is also known as a Fab, short for fabrication plant. The new plant in Malta, NY will be known as Fab 2. The Dresden, Germany plant is Fab 1.

Hector Ruiz, the new chairman of GlobalFoundries said that the new chip plant is “by far the most significant high-tech investment made in this country in decades.”

I plan to write more about the building of the chip plant and its impact on the area in future posts.

Do you have a specific question about the chip plant that wasn’t answered here? Leave a comment and I will see if I can find the answer. I appreciate your comments.

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