Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your article "Bordering on Exploitation" (John Dougherty and David Holthouse, July 9). You keep getting better all the time.
Theresa Mac Nevins
"Bordering on Exploitation" was a great article! I loved it. Couldn't put it down. It's the first time I have read an article on the Mexican economy and situation that made me understand what was going on. Kind of makes me want to start a plant in Mexico--don't know if that is good or bad. Keep it up!
R. James Gibson
New Times is to be congratulated for its in-depth series of articles on the maquiladora industries. This should remind readers inured to the McNugget version of reporting just what a good independent voice can provide: compelling, insightful, socially responsible journalism on a subject of major importance. New Times delivered a brave yet balanced treatment of this difficult subject. I would, however, like to offer a few comments.
In his article "Arizona Firms Move South," John Dougherty, using Karsten Manufacturing as a symbol for the decisions facing American industry, wrote: "Like many American companies whose competitors use low-cost, foreign labor, Karsten was faced with a difficult choice: shift jobs out of the country or lose significant sales, possibly endangering the company."
This seems to imply that unless these companies can drastically lower their prices, they will be outmaneuvered by the competition. Yet we seldom see such price reductions. American and foreign companies are both familiar with the price structure of the American market and neither wants to sell products for any less than it has to in order to maximize profits. In my opinion, the difficult decision many companies face has more to do with keeping shareholders happy and profits high than with staying in business. Executives unwilling to cut labor costs--and thereby increase profit margins and stock values--are likely to incur the wrath of greedy shareholders seeking to maximize the return on their investments. Of course, this is singularly unsympathetic to the average worker, so it's much easier to tell people that your company survival is at stake.
With respect to the number of U.S. jobs lost as a result of NAFTA, both the U.S. Labor Department figure of 200,000 and the union figure of 500,000 are likely to seriously understate the problem. The reason is that both of these figures deal with the movement of existing jobs from here to Mexico. Neither one attempts to include losses from what is likely an even larger source: new jobs that are never offered here, either because new plants that would have been built here are instead built there, or because plant expansions that would have been built here are instead implemented there. Remember that even during the economic expansion of the last six years, our manufacturing base (providing some of the best-paying jobs) has been shrinking as a share of our gross domestic product. Nor is Mexico the only foreign market receiving U.S. manufacturing jobs.
I agree, however, that single-minded nationalism is not the solution, and can play into racist hands. I also agree with the writers' conclusion that industrialization is the key to Mexican economic development. The real question is, industrialization for whose benefit and on whose terms?
I am disturbed that American companies are taking advantage of Mexicans. The maquiladora program does not seem to be any better than the Bracero program which allowed undocumented Mexican people to cross the border when it was convenient for us so they could pick our fruit. During this period they lived in substandard housing, worked in deplorable conditions and received pittance wages. With the maquiladora program, the problems are just on a larger scale--while U.S. corporations benefit. It makes me sick that this is tolerated by our government and the Mexican government. I hope your articles, which were very descriptive and concise, are a wake-up call to those in power who are in a position to change things.
You presented a good and a shocking view of what is generally unknown and invisible to most North Americans. I'm shocked to read about the wicked conditions these people live in, and yet, at the same time, relieved to hear and understand that for them, this is actually a "moving up a peg or two," so to speak, an improvement to their former condition or lifestyle in southern Mexico. Your story makes me a little ill-at-ease, and somewhat frustrated that there seems to be no end in sight to these terrible conditions.
I just spent lunch hour reading and being bowled over by your articles. They are award-winners and deserve as wide an audience as possible. I would only add that despite the opening of capital and commodity markets, NAFTA did not provide for an opening of labor markets, too. NAFTA left the U.S. and Mexico free to pursue their own immigration policies, and the U.S. is increasingly militarizing the border and barring immigrants from receiving public benefits. The U.S. form of capitalism--the lowest wages possible, big gap between rich and poor, a large amount of social dysfunction, etc.--has been copied by PRI in Mexico and is the basis of globalization, as the more egalitarian European/Japanese form of capitalism is being pushed aside. U.S. elites want to have their cake and eat it, too--an American free-trade zone but with no movement of labor, which is vigorously suppressed, though migration is encouraged by exactly the kind of development that NAFTA supposedly was intended to promote.
Though the gap between Spain and the rest of Europe wasn't as great as between the U.S. and Mexico, perhaps something could be learned about how Spain was integrated into the European community over the last few decades. The proper framework and ground rules are essential. If the Mexico-U.S. gap isn't improved, there is not much of a future for any of us in Mexico and the Southwest.
It is nigh impossible to get the elites of Phoenix to care about the poorer neighborhoods of Phoenix in a "justice" way, rather than a "charitable" way. It will be even harder to get the elites of Mexico and the U.S. to create more equitable and just border and neighboring societies.
Roland W. James
Armed and Pompous
The raid on Summerville and Associates ("Blazing File Folders," Chris Farnsworth, July 2) highlighted a trend among the competing, media-conscious government entities in Phoenix which compete for airtime and page space with spectacular raids (Department of Insurance), abuse of poor prisoners (Arpaio), mega-prosecutions (Romley), Clinton-like pronunciations (Hull) and crackpot development scams (legislature ad infinitum).
Look closely for the press conferences that follow success and built-in, plausible deniability when things go wrong.
Do those people involved in bursting into Summerville and Associates and sticking guns into the faces of workers actually believe that not one single reader or listener of the events will swallow the explanation that ". . . no one knows . . ." who ordered the gunplay?
The individuals and groups within the ruling cabals appear to be interested in little more than programs, prosecutions or raids that play out well in the media, with no thought of the cost nor care if anything actually works.
Some people--there are some left--enter government service with inspirations and dreams of useful service, but the new breed of publicity and development-crazed pols has entered the limelight for more undefined, base reasons, hoping to parlay into more and more, by whatever means.
Guess whose money they plan on using.
A thousand thanks for your great public service in making the BOMEX site available to the public. It has been most informative and quite an eye-opener. Gotta give you credit for going out there and getting the goods.
Editor's note: The database on Arizona doctors can be found at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1998/050798/bomex.html
The Pastry Heros' Horn Rim Fury EP is a breezy, beautiful thing, and its superlative review in New Times is well-deserved (Recordings, June 18). That said, I wonder what's the point of Brendan Kelley's offering that other Valley pop groups are either "pretentious" or "talentless." That sort of tossed-off nastiness not only has nothing to do with the merits of The Pastry Heros' disc, it's also way wrong.
The Valley has more than its share of fine pop songwriters, and some of them are nothing short of extraordinary. "Talentless?" I'm often moved, amazed, and sometimes inspired by the songwriting and performing talent of Brian Smith and the Beat Angels, Vic Masters, Bob Hoag and Pollen, Adrian Smith (ex-Autumn Teen Sound/Sugar High), James Miles and Propelher, Peter Forbes--that's all pop, it's really good (at least), and it's not even a complete list of artists I respect and admire.
It's clear that the Valley's best pop artists don't sit right with Kelley's indie-elitist sensibilities. I don't sit right with being called or categorized as "pretentious" or "talentless." So, in short, fuck you.
"Sheriff's officials estimate the cost of the new badges at about $13,000" ("Shield of Dreams," Amy Silverman and Paul Rubin, July 9). Hmm, perhaps the leaders at the Sheriff's Office should look at their own spending habits, particularly the pay raises that they so freely give to Arpaio loyalists like "acting Chief Deputy" David Hendershott. As I recall, the last pay raise that Arpaio awarded Hendershott would just about cover the entire cost of badges for the entire County Attorney investigative staff. And, if you factor in all of the other raises that Arpaio has given to his top brass since last December, Romley could easily afford luxury cars for all of his investigators as well.
Arpaio and Hendershott would do well in minding their own finances. Judging from the Sheriff's Office over the past several years, they have no business accusing anyone else of mismanagement.
Lieutenant Kelley Waldrip (Retired)
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
John McCain should bow his head in shame and apologize to Chelsea Clinton (Flashes, June 25). Take a look at himself and see a weak man--a mean person. But let's not forget the inexcusable doings with Charles Keating, who took all the heat. McCain went free like his buddy Symington. Stop crying, McCain.
Name withheld by request
It's obvious that letter writer Gary Kahland (Letters, July 2) has blinders on, like most Valley residents. The heart of Phoenix is leaning not toward L.A. East, as some think, but has been a blue-collar-dumb transplanted Houston or Chicago for many years now. Kind of a windless city since reformer Barry Goldwater left town for D.C.; there are plenty of cozy big-business/lawyer-toothed/political beds for the elite and rich families to jump into, and if they get in trouble--voila--there are plenty of hungry lawyers to get them out: Witness Fife and Charlie Keating, Ev and Kemper Marley. It's like, doesn't anyone go to jail and stay there if they make enough money or belong to the right country club?
Guess not. Going by Kahland's thinking, jail is just for "drunken, left-leaning" blue-collar columnists like Barry Graham.
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And how much I wish a young Barry Goldwater were around to throw the corrupt bastards out of power again. Barry had a built-in shit detector. He refused to spout the bull that any reform-minded person must be a leftie. Me--I'm kind of a greenatarian. Yeah, I wish there was less government; but that public monies went toward national and state parks and local land conservation, and job retraining, election reforms and mass transit, for instance. Aren't there a few more indie thinkers left in the land of the free, the brave and adventurous Arizona pioneer? I mean, can't people look more at principles than the myth of progress, or refuse to vote the party line just because the latest, charismatic candidate backs their rights over someone else's rights?
I do cry for you, Arizona. But am too busy laughing, often, at the fly-on-wall Flash, the antics of John Dowd finally losing a case, the obviously self-serving coverage and editorials in your downtown competition--or Barry Graham's latest column--to stay sad for long.
A story in the July 9 edition, "Shield of Dreams," noted that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is upset with County Attorney Rick Romley for allowing prosecutors and office investigators to bear identification badges that proclaim them as "POLICE." Only the investigators--who are sworn peace officers--have new badges, not prosecutors.