Washington D.C. and Detroit say ‘No’ to Wal-Mart because they don’t need Jobs or Shelves full of Low-Priced Goods

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The Democrats hate Wal-Mart.  As do unions.  Because Wal-Mart stores do not have union labor.  Unions hate that.  And because Democrats and unions are joined at the hip, Democrats hate what unions hate.  Which is why you won’t find Wal-Mart stores in big Democrat cities.  Because the Democrats do everything they can to keep them out.  Even writing laws specifically targeting Wal-Mart (see Trouble in store: Why Walmart has failed to woo Washington by Rupert Cornwell posted 7/21/2013 on The Independent).

Walmart has been wooing [Washington D.C.] for years, and in 2010 announced plans to open four stores there, a number subsequently raised to six. Everything was going swimmingly, with work already started on three of the sites, until earlier this month, when the council passed its Large Retailer Accountability Act, otherwise known as “Get Walmart”.

Under it, non-unionised stores with a commercial space of 75,000ft or more – ie Walmart – will henceforth have to pay employees at least $12.50 (£8.20) an hour, compared with the city’s existing minimum wage of $8.25, and the national one of just $7.25 an hour. The company retorted by threatening to scrap three of the planned stores at once, and perhaps abandon the three where construction has begun too, causing the loss of up to 1,800 new jobs…

The case for Walmart is strong – that its stores provide working-class Americans (and many wealthier ones too) with good service and a broad selection of goods “at the lowest prices possible”, to use the words of old Sam Walton, who opened his first store in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. And it provides jobs: 1.4 million of them in the US alone…

Nor is Washington DC alone in feeling that way. Five of the country’s other largest cities – San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, Boston and, above all, New York – have also said no. “As long as Walmart’s behaviour remains the same, they’re not welcome in New York City,” says Christine Quinn, the New York City council speaker who may well be the next mayor. “New York isn’t changing. Walmart has to change.”

Not by coincidence all those cities, like DC, are Democratic strongholds where unions are strong. They are liberal, socially “progressive” and, by definition, urban, while Walmart’s genes are southern, conservative and suburban.

Detroit said ‘no’ to Wal-Mart?  The city that just filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history said they don’t need jobs or low prices on food, clothing, pharmacy and household goods?  If you’re looking for the answer to why Detroit is in the mess it is in this is your answer.  The Democrat stronghold in Detroit got so anti-business that it chased all the jobs out of the city.  Once the jobs left the people soon followed.  First the whites.  Accelerating their ‘white-flight’ following the Detroit riots.  While the blacks held on.  But after 20 years (1974 – 1994) of Coleman A. Young they gave up, too.  For they don’t come further left than Coleman A. Young.  And when you’re that far left you’re no friend to business.  So businesses stay away.  As do their jobs.

The black middle class followed the whites out of Detroit.  In pursuit of greener pastures.  And jobs.  Leaving Detroit with half the population it once had.  Impoverished.  And more anti-business than ever.  Which is why they said ‘no’ to Wal-Mart.  Because Wal-Mart isn’t union.  And the two largest employers in the city, the City of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools, are union strongholds.  So they protected their high pay and benefit packages.  By keeping nonunion jobs out of the city.  While thinking nothing of the unemployed masses in the city.  Helping to keep the unemployment rate in Detroit well above the national average.  While the unemployed masses would have loved to see up to six new Wal-Mart stores (or more) opening in the city.  The 1,800 new jobs (or more) that would have came with them.  And shelves full of food, clothing, pharmacy and household goods at low prices that their Wal-Mart paycheck could easily afford.  But no.  Wal-Mart is not union.  So the people of Detroit have to stay unemployed.  And impoverished.

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The Rise and Fall of the American Textile Industry

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 2nd, 2013

History 101

Inventions and Innovation gave the United States a Burgeoning Textile Industry

The American textile industry was founded by businessmen.  And inventors and their inventions.  Not by any labor movement.  For before there could be a labor movement there first had to be industry to employ laborers.  And laborers weren’t creating these industries.  They were just selfishly waiting for others to do this so they could get a job in them one day.

We may never know which came first.  The chicken or the egg.  But we do know which came first when it comes to industries and laborers.  The mind came first then the muscle.  Rich people with a keen eye to judge a good investment.  Businessmen and entrepreneurs unafraid to take a risk.  And who will throw their body and soul into their business.  Then the non-risk taking people come along.  The laborers.  Who have no skin in the game.  Who wait until the minds come together to create something in which they can apply their labor.  And get a paycheck.

Samuel Slater built cotton mills in New England (1800ish).  Slatersville Rhode Island, the town he established, bears his name.  Francis Cabot Lowell and Paul Moody created a more efficient power loom and a spinning apparatus (early 1800s).  Elias Howe invented the sewing machine (mid 1800s).  And the lock-stitch.  Throw in a few more inventions, some improvements on past inventions and some innovation and you have a burgeoning U.S. textile industry.

The Luddites went about England smashing the Machines of the Mechanized Textile Industry

Cloth-making used to be a labor-intensive activity of highly skilled artisans.  For those who had the money to afford the costly clothing they made.  Many could not.  And made their own clothing in the home.  Women would spin fiber into yarn.  And weave the yarn into cloth.  Which was very labor intensive.  Allowing only a meager production of clothing for the family to wear.  Which meant a lot of darning for worn out clothing.  Hand-sewing patches to cover holes.  Sewing ripped seams back together.  And sewing together rips and tears.  Until the clothing was so worn that it couldn’t be darned anymore.

It is hard to fathom how important this was during early America.  A time of a mini ice age.  In the north the winters were long and they were cold.  This homemade clothing may not have been pretty.  But it could keep you from dying of exposure in those brutally cold winters.  The mechanization of the textile industry changed all of that.  Smart inventors and business owners used machines to automate the cloth-making process.  Allowing less skilled people to operate smart machines.  Producing more clothes for less.  Bringing the cost of clothing down.  So anyone could afford to buy clothing.

Of course, this did not make everyone happy.  As those machines replaced the need for highly skilled artisans.  Who demanded high prices for their craft.  Allowing only the rich to afford their wares.  They didn’t like these machines cutting into their high wages.  And did something about it.  A group of people called ‘Luddites’ went about England smashing the machines of the mechanized textile industry (1811-1817).  Hoping to force a return to the old ways of making clothing.  By skilled artisan.  Where only the rich could afford to buy clothing.

Unions have Exported Entire Industries to Emerging Economies to Escape Soaring Labor and Regulatory Costs

Just as the textile industry was modernizing and mechanizing two seamstresses formed the first all-women’s labor union in 1825.  The United Tailoresses of New York.  Protesting 16-hour workdays.  And the lack of a living wage.  Strikes followed.  The Lowell, Massachusetts, mill women’s strike in 1834.  The Manayunk, Pennsylvania, textile strike in 1834.  The Paterson, New Jersey, textile strike in 1835.  And the Llowell, Massachusetts, mill women’s strike in 1836.  In 1844 women formed and ran the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association.  Then more strikes.  The Cohoes, New York, cotton mill strike in 1882.  The Fall River, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1884.  The Augusta, Georgia, textile strike in 1886.  The Fall River, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1889.  In 1890 New York garment workers won the right to unionize.  Close their shops to nonunion workers.  And fire any nonunion workers on the payroll.  In 1900 the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union was founded.  In 1901 the United Textile Workers was founded.  Then came the New York shirtwaist strike in 1909.  Massachusetts passed the first minimum wage law for women and minors in 1912.  Then came the Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike in 1912.  Giving us the walking picket line.  Then the Paterson, New Jersey, textile strike in 1913.  The Amalgamated Clothing Workers union was founded in 1914.  Then the Fulton bag and cotton mill strike in 1914.  The Passaic, New Jersey, Textile Strike in 1926.  And so on.

The Luddites hated the machinery of the modern textile industry.  As they didn’t like the idea of replacing many highly skilled and well-paid artisans with automated machinery operated by fewer low-skilled laborers.  So they tried to smash the automated machinery.  To try and save their jobs.  Which the labor movement was happy to see go away.  For they would rather pack as many low-skilled laborers into those Dickensian factories as possible.  For the more members they had in their unions the more powerful they were.  And the more they could demand from the business owners.  They demanded a lot, too.  Higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions.  So much so that the cost of labor rose while productivity fell.  Throwing the door open to foreign competition.

The big labor movements used their friends in government to protect their generous union contracts.  By passing pro-union legislation.  And placing tariffs on imported textile goods.  Keeping clothing prices high.  So business could earn enough to pay those generous union pay and benefits.  But this left these businesses uncompetitive in the world’s markets.  Which they wanted to sell in.  For it wasn’t only Americans that wore clothes.  Those union contracts increased labor costs so much that businesses found it hard to remain in business let alone remain profitable.  So they started leaving the United States during the 20th century.  Which is why today there is no U.S. textile industry.  Because of the high cost of labor.  And costly regulatory policies.  Where is the textile industry today?  In the emerging economies.  Where labor and regulatory costs are lower than in America.  While the standard of living for those employed in these factories are often higher than their fellow countrymen.  Which is what unions have often done in the United States.  Create good jobs in emerging economies.  By exporting entire industries from the United States to these emerging economies.  Where they can escape soaring labor and regulatory costs.

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Wool, Cotton, Spinning, Yarn, Plying, Loom and Flying Shuttle

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 15th, 2013

Technology 101

Cotton and Wool are two Excellent Fibers that Entrap Air

Some animals migrate.  Some stick it out during the winter.  As the glaciers retreated some animals followed them.  Eating the new flora that grew in the earth once covered by the glaciers.  And man followed these animals.  And stuck around for the winter, too.  Because after eating these animals they wore their skins.  Which kept them from freezing to death during the winter.

What is it about fur that keeps both animal and man warm?  Air.  Air entrapped within the fur fiber provided insulation.  A thick matt of fur provided a lot of entrapped air.  And a lot of insulation.  Which worked better on animals than man.  As fur fully covered an animal while man could only drape animal pelts across parts of his body.  And had to supplement the warming insulation of animal pelts with the warmth of fire.  In time, though, man would figure out how better to cover his body in fur.  And other fibers.

As man thought more he did more.  Developing tools.  Like the plow.  That helped him farm the land.  Growing food.  And cotton.  He also learned how to domesticate and raise animals.  Like sheep.  Which grew wool.  Cotton and wool are two excellent fibers that entrap air.  And became the leading fibers of the Industrial Revolution.  As we took the raw fiber and turned it into clothing.

When Twisting Plies together we Twist them in the Opposite Direction of the Twist of the Singles

Of course, the cotton fiber grown on a plant is not that long.  Neither is the length of wool sheep grow.  Yet after processing this fiber we get long lengths of it.  We can put together these short lengths of fiber to make longer lengths of yarn because they have rough surfaces.  Which makes them bind together when we twist these fibers together.  A process we call spinning.  But before we spin we must first clean any foreign matter from the fiber.  And align the short lengths to run parallel to each other.  (A process we call carding.)  We used to manually comb these fibers.  Then we automated the process.  Such as using Eli Whitney’s hand-cranked cotton gin.  Or machinery in water-powered mills.  To the large mills of today.

After carding we get rovings.  Smooth bundles of slightly twisted fibers.  Which we feed into the spinning machine.  Which started out as a foot-operated spinning wheel in the home that spun hand-combed fiber that looked a little like cotton candy.  Where the ‘women folk’ sat at these machines for hours feeding this fiber into the machine.  Running the fiber through their slightly punched fingers.  Holding it back to let the spinning wheel stretch and twist the fiber into yarn.  The automated spinning mill pulls and twists numerous rovings into yarn at one time.  Filling rows of bobbins with thin yarn.

To thicken up these yarns for weaving into cloth to make warm clothing (more entrapped air) we twist these single yarns (singles) with other singles.  When twisting these plies together we twist them in the opposite direction of the twist of the singles.  To balance the twist.  Instead of tightening the original twist in the singles.  When we twist two strands together we call it 2-ply.  When we twist three strands together we call it 3-ply.  And so on.    The end product of this plying is what we use to weave into cloth.  On looms originally operated by the ‘men folk’.  Due to the strength requirements to operate a hand loom.

The Flying Shuttle removed the Width Limitation of the Woven Cloth

We weave on a loom.  Which basically holds threads of yarn in one direction.  With a lifting device to lift every other thread (or some other combination of threads).  We then pass another thread (on a shuttle) between the lifted and un-lifted threads.  Tap it down (or batten it).  Lower the lifted threads.  And lift the adjacent threads.  Then pass the shuttle back the other way between the lifted and un-lifted threads.  Then repeat.  Again and again.  A man’s reach to feed the shuttle into the loom from either side limited the width of the woven cloth.  The addition of an apprentice allowed wider cloth.  But the added cost of an apprentice made the cloth more expensive.  Then came the flying shuttle.

The flying shuttle was a ‘hands-free’ shuttle.  It flew back and forth between two boxes.  A tug on a cord triggered the mechanism in one box to propel the shuttle across the loom.  Another tug on a cord triggered the mechanism in the other box.  Propelling the shuttle back the other way.  The flying shuttle removed the width limitation of the woven cloth.  Consumed so much yarn that a shortage of yarn sparked the mechanization of the spinning industry.  Eliminated the need of an apprentice.  And allowed the mechanization of the loom.  Introducing the power loom.  That unskilled women could operate.  They mass produced cloth which lowered the price for the garment industry.  But it also eliminated the need of skilled and muscular hand-weavers.  Throwing a lot of men out of work.  Leading to the anti-technology rebellion of the Luddite movement (1811-1817) in the textile capital of the world.  England.  Where people went around smashing these new textile machines.

But the Luddites could not stop the march of progress.  The spinning and weaving industries became more mechanized.  Technology not only made better machines but it introduced new synthetic fibers.  Like nylon.  And polyester.  Which may not have felt as good as natural fiber.  But it offered certain benefits natural fiber didn’t.  It was stronger.  It didn’t wrinkle as much.  It held its color better.  And it was more wind and water resistant than natural fiber.  Some of these benefits were so advantageous that we blended them with natural fiber during the spinning process.  Allowing us not only to entrap air.  But protect us from the elements.  Just like the animal pelts early man draped over his body.  Only better.

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Food Surplus, Artisan, Guilds, Industrial Revolution, Mechanized Looms and Luddites

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 14th, 2013

History 101

As the Middle Class grew Artisans joined Guilds to Restrict Entry into their Trade

For most of our existence on this planet we were hunters and gatherers.  Like the animals in the wild.  Dependent on our environment for our food.  Which was often scarce.  Leaving our distant relatives with a chronic gnawing hunger in their bellies.  Sometimes the environment provided so little food that there wasn’t enough for everyone.  So a great many went hungry.  And a great many eventually died from that hunger.  Such was life for hunters and gatherers dependent on their environment for food.  Then we started thinking.  And figured out how to farm.

As farmers we took control of our environment.  Instead of eating only what the environment gave us we grew what we needed.  And grew even more to have a food surplus.  To get us through times when the environment did not provide a good growing season.  Having control over our food turned that chronic gnawing hunger into a rare and infrequent occurrence.  Which established us at the top of the food chain.  And made us master of the planet.  Where we shaped it to serve our needs.  Instead of living at its mercy.

With a stable food supply we were able to do something else.  Something other than grow food.  We could build things.  And an artisan class grew.  Potters.  Shoemakers.  Blacksmiths.  As time passed the artisan class grew.  Creating a middle class.  Markets where people met to trade their goods grew into cities.  The economy grew more complex.  The cities grew more crowded.  And the artisans became protective of their trades.  Joining guilds that restricted entry into their trade.  By maintaining a maximum number of artisans in each trade.  For though there was more food than ever the fear of hunger never went away.

In Medieval Europe Cloth Production was Second only to Food Production

Artisans joined guilds for one reason.  So they wouldn’t starve to death.  Basically.  By restricting entry into their trade they limited competition.  This allowed them to charge higher prices for their goods or services.  And that healthy income allowed them to buy all the food they desired.  Whereas if other artisans were allowed to set up shop in town they could offer their goods or services for less.  Forcing other artisans to lower their prices.  Which is good for the masses.  Allowing them to pay less for the artisans’ goods or services.  Helping them to push off hunger themselves.  But not good for the limited few who saw their wages fall with more artisans entering their trade.  Hence the guilds.

But artisans had more to fear than just people trying to take food off of their tables.  There was something else that was a far greater risk.  Technology.  Which led to increases in productivity.  That is, producing more with fewer people.  Replacing some highly-skilled artisans with lower-skilled and lower-paid people operating machines.  And without a job it was difficult to put food on the table.  With the specter of hunger haunting them some artisans did something about that new technology putting them out of a job.  They fought back against the machines.

Besides food there was another basic necessity the people needed.  Especially in England.  Where it got pretty cold during the winter.  To live in the northern climes you needed to wear clothes.  Or die of exposure.  In Medieval Europe food production was the number one occupation.  The number two occupation was cloth production.  To make the clothing people needed to wear to keep from dying of exposure.  Highly skilled weavers filled factories as they manually worked their looms.  Making the cloth that others would turn into clothing.

The most Infamous Neo-Luddite was the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski

Their meager production rate kept clothing prices high.  Then came the Industrial Revolution.  First they mechanized spinning.  Creating more thread than a weaver could ever use.  Then they mechanized weaving.  Turning that thread into cloth at an incredible rate.  Turning cloth-making from a skilled trade into an automated process.  Producing more with fewer people.  Lowering the price of clothing.  And reducing the need for skilled artisans.  Making the people happy.  For they could buy more clothing.  And still be able to afford enough food to ward off that gnawing hunger.  Everyone was happy except, of course, those artisans put out of a job thanks to those new machines.

Britain was at War with Napoleon’s France in 1811.  During war the home economy typically suffers.  And machines replacing people didn’t help.  Highly skilled weavers either lost their jobs.  Or had to take steep pay cuts to compete with other unskilled laborers working the new mechanized looms.  Lower incomes made it difficult to buy food when prices were rising.  As they typically do during war.  Pushing some people to the breaking point.  And some people rebelled against the machines.  Smashing them.  And burning them.  These people were Luddites.  Their rebellion against technology was so great that at times more British Red Coats were in England putting down their rebellion than were fighting Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

But in the end the Luddites loss their struggle.  By 1817 the British had put down the rebellion.  And the Industrial Revolution carried on.  Making life better for the masses.  The modern economy flooding us with new must-have products at reasonable prices.  And creating scores of new jobs the Luddites never could have imagined.  Still, their anti-technology philosophy lives on.  Perhaps the most infamous neo-Luddite being Theodore Kaczynski.  The Unabomber.  Who fought against technology by planting or mailing bombs.  Killing three.  And hurting 23 others.  Who they finally found holed up in a primitive cabin in the Montana wilderness.  Where he rejected all technology.  Living without any of the creature comforts technology gives us.  Like electricity, fresh water or personal hygiene.  Being a Luddite to the extreme.

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