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monsoon

CEO says American Workers are Defective

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The CEO of AT&T said this week, essentially, the American worker is defective and there are better skills overseas now. It is documented here in this article. Again it's amazing this isn't being covered in the US press but it is getting wide coverage in the world press. That is the head of a US fortune 500 company saying there are better workers outside the USA now.

Are we truly a country in such decline now? Has the current generation failed all the generations that came before it?

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As referenced in the article, our education system is broken. In certain communities drop out rates are around 50%. This is just plain unacceptable. We need more incentives to keep kids who are in danger of dropping out in school and a complete overhaul of our school system.

It's a shame that wealthier school districts seem to turn out better students while smaller and poorer districts are not getting what the student needs. (That's not saying there are no problem schools in the wealthy districts.)

If this isn't corrected, America won't be contributing anything to technological advancement in the world or manufacturing hardly anything of consequence here. We'll have a country of folks flipping fries, running cash registers, and mowing grass.

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This is the latest domino in a long sequence of events that will eventually be the end of American dominance.

Working backwards in the sequence:

- Given the resources available in this nation, Americans are woefully undereducated. Go to any science or business department at any large university and see how many foreign professors there are... heck, see how many foreign students there are. It's pretty clear that even in our own country, Americans are falling behind the curve. We cover it up by claiming that our universities are a "destination" for students worldwide, yet this does not explain why so many faculty are non-Americans.

- The reason that the trend above is occurring, is due to the lack of quality in American secondary education. Easily half the high schools in this country fail to bring their students to the point of being fully prepared for college. No Child Left Behind attempted to address this problem, but only made it worse with poor planning and even poorer execution. It's pitiful to see high school students attempting to learn (or refusing to learn) what a "noun" is, or the location of France on a map, yet this is a common sight in nearly any inner-city or rural public high school.

- The problems with our public education system don't originate in the schools, they originate in communities. As mentioned above, the failure rate in any given school most likely mirrors the rate of poverty in its community. From broken families to gang crime to a woeful lack of government support, there are entirely too many reasons for an urban or rural child to "wash out" in America. Inequality in schools almost always reflects inequality in the community.

- Inequality in the community is a direct result of incredibly inefficient management of our resources. We have enough wealth to pay athletes a quarter-billion dollars to play baseball, but not enough to provide decent libraries to inner-city communities. We have enough wealth to fight multiple wars simultaneously, and rebuild entire countries along the way, but not enough to provide basic health care for our own poor citizens. Both government and private business have screwed the lower quartile of this nation so many times over the past 30 years that it's difficult to even put the problem into words.

- This kind of behavior is directly connected to Americans' willingness to lay down their rights and best interests to support charismatic political movements. Both the right and the left have been guilty of stringing the public along with hysteria and misinformation; the worst offenders being the Reagan and G.W. Bush administrations. Americans on average are far more concerned with the sexual activity of strangers and the purported "threat" of invisible enemies than with their own well-being. So every 4 years they hand off power to a political party who promptly sells out their constituents and makes existing problems even worse.

- I struggle to go farther back in the sequence, because it reveals some brutal realities that I'd rather not admit. But if we're really looking for truth, we have to face up to the following: America is a nation stocked by uncultured, uneducated outcasts from other nations. From its colonial days, up through the immigration of the 19th century, to the present, we have rarely imported the "upper crust" from other nations. Instead we have inherited people who are outside the power circles in older countries, and who most often are ambitious and crude by nature. Perhaps more importantly, we have inherited a cultural aversion to education. Our current President is the embodiment of this ugly reality: an ill-cultured, poorly-spoken man who gained power by strutting around a ranch wearing a flannel shirt and playing up his poor achievements as a youth in spite of his huge personal advantages... but he's a guy you'd have a beer with, so we put him in power. Other recent Presidents include a philanderer from Arkansas, a cowboy actor, and a peanut farmer. And don't get me started on who we elect to Congress. This, I'm afraid, is the true source of America's problems, and as far as I can tell it's unfixable.

So as far as I can see, we're culturally still halfway between third-world and first-world. In a blue-collar economy we surged to become the most powerful nation in the world; but as a white-collar economy we are showing fatal defects that will eventually play out to an inevitable, and highly uncomfortable, conclusion.

/rant

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It's probably because our university education system is so good here. Foreign countries send their students here for an education, then they go back home and work, taking their newly learned knowledge and skills with them.

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^ Or because foreign students almost invariably work harder and achieve better results. That trend started decades ago, and the gap has only gotten wider with time.

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As referenced in the article, our education system is broken. In certain communities drop out rates are around 50%. This is just plain unacceptable. We need more incentives to keep kids who are in danger of dropping out in school and a complete overhaul of our school system.

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Winston-Salem Journal Article about the disparity in graduation rates between urban/suburban/rural districts

As stated in this article, there is a great disparity in graduation rates between urban/suburban/rural school districts. Detroit has the lowest graduation rate, 24.9%; followed by Indianapolis at 30.5% and Cleveland at 34.1%.

Just as a comparison, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's rate is 59.8%. Baltimore is 34.6% while the suburbs around Baltimore graduate 81.5%.

The national average is around 70% with around 1.2 million students dropping out annually.

This is a travesty that we must address or more of our jobs will continue to go overseas.

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This is a travesty that we must address or more of our jobs will continue to go overseas.

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^ See my post above.

Political ignorance/inaction --> Inequality of resources --> Generational poverty --> Lack of social responsibility --> Lack of concern for education --> Further ignorance/inaction (repeat cycle, with more intense consequences each time around)

Until urban communities are politically informed and mobilized, this problem will never be solved.

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Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. Sadly, our country's people seem to have lost the ability to think critically. This is a gross generalization, but I'm convinced that we'll take whatever message that is spoon-fed to us from our TVs without any critical thought. The fact that Americans are now more commonly referred to as consumers rather than citizens is not lost on critical thinkers.

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^Exactly what about the CEO's comments do you think he really didn't mean? The fact of the matter is that he is using this as an excuse to keep jobs in India seems to be at least disingenuous at best.

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I think his message is genuine. The subtext being: why would you pay higher labor cost here, when the labor costs are lower in India and the quality is as good or better?

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One of the main problems in our country is our welfare system. By giving handouts with nothing expected in return, it is teaching generation after generation that if you don't want to work, you don't have to, just let the tax payers support you. I know people who have went out and had a child just for the tax deduction. Our welfare system needs to require people to find and hold jobs in order to receive any assistance. As Bill Gates once said, "Burger flipping is not below your dignity, its what you grandparents would call "opportunity."" Another problem we have here are many people have ZERO fiscal responsibility. It baffles me as to why schools do not teach such a critical life skill. Being in control of your finances is just as important these days as science and math. We have slowly became a nation of spoiled brats (not everyone of course) that wants, wants, wants but acts as if you are trying to kill them when you ask something in return.

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^ While I completely agree, I also think there is a bit of deception going on with the idea that any job is an "opportunity". Perhaps 50 years ago there was some chance of success in burger flipping, but today if you are working in a menial job you will probably be doing it 30 years from now as well. There is virtually no concept of 'working your way up the ladder' in corporate America because human resources functions are impersonal and usually outsourced. Telling a Burger King worker that he might own the company someday is like telling a paraplegic that he can be an Olympian if he just works hard and believes in himself. A nice sentiment, but that's about it.

This isn't our grandparents' America.

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^ While I completely agree, I also think there is a bit of deception going on with the idea that any job is an "opportunity". Perhaps 50 years ago there was some chance of success in burger flipping, but today if you are working in a menial job you will probably be doing it 30 years from now as well. There is virtually no concept of 'working your way up the ladder' in corporate America because human resources functions are impersonal and usually outsourced. Telling a Burger King worker that he might own the company someday is like telling a paraplegic that he can be an Olympian if he just works hard and believes in himself. A nice sentiment, but that's about it.

This isn't our grandparents' America.

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^Where in this country can a worker even come close to supporting himself in a minimum wage job like burger flipping? Millions of hard-working Americans who hold jobs that pay well above minimum wage would starve without that check from the government, and millions more are living one paycheck away from such a condition. The problem gets worse every quarter that stagnant wages don't keep up with runaway inflation.

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One of the main problems in our country is our welfare system. By giving handouts with nothing expected in return, it is teaching generation after generation that if you don't want to work, you don't have to, just let the tax payers support you. I know people who have went out and had a child just for the tax deduction. ......

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^Where in this country can a worker even come close to supporting himself in a minimum wage job like burger flipping? Millions of hard-working Americans who hold jobs that pay well above minimum wage would starve without that check from the government, and millions more are living one paycheck away from such a condition. The problem gets worse every quarter that stagnant wages don't keep up with runaway inflation.

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The reason burger flipping is an opportunity is that from there you can move up with hard work. Managers at fast food restaurants make a decent wage, by getting managerial experience you can move on to a better job opportunity. It's all about showing drive and determination that gets you noticed and ahead in life. I'm not saying you can become wealthy, but you can certainly make a comfortable living for yourself. Too many people today don't realize this and take their job for granted. There has to be a cultural shift, but I'm at a loss for how to achieve it other than encouraging those around me.

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I would be interested to know how many McDonalds (or any other chain) employees graduate from basic food-service work to a rank higher than shift manager. Judging purely by my own perceptions, it doesn't appear to happen very often. It's hard to convince a 16-year-old burger flipper that he can make something of himself through this job, if as a point of fact the company avoids hiring people like himself into management positions.

This is of course not really about burger flippers but low-level workers in all fields -- as we have discussed in the college thread, on-the-job experience counts for almost nothing compared to education and personal connections.

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I'm not talking about some 16 year old working an after school job. I have a friend who worked his way up to managing an Arby's just from starting out as a cashier. He could have put that on his resume and moved on to manage a restaurant like an Olive Garden, or he could have taken some management courses at the local community college. From there he could have moved on to something greater. It doesn't happen over night or without hard work. Unfortunately too many Americans have forgotten this or were never taught it in the first place. A negative attitude won't get you there.

Your connections come from people who you work under that see what kind of worker you are. Nobody is going to just give you a job because they feel sorry for you. If you don't show drive and ambition, if you don't go above and beyond your basic duties, then no one is going to even think about giving you more responsibilities. That's whether you are working at McDonalds flipping burgers or McDonnell Douglas interning as an engineer. There are a number of great chefs who started out washing dishes at some small restaurant. They didn't move up because they were great at washing dishes. They moved up because someone saw something else in them. There is a reason why people from other countries come here with nothing and end up making something of themselves. There is a fire in them to climb up the ladder. Just going to work and going through the motions won't get you anywhere.

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^This is an interesting anecdote and diversion but it really has nothing to do with CEOs, who are getting personally rich by moving jobs from the USA because they can get it at slave labor rates in 3rd world countries. Countries that maintain large populations of destitute people by design. Even more disgusting are the CEOs, who are making fortunes they could never spend, are justifying this by somehow blaming Americans who don't want to live in the same conditions as this class of people in India and China or Mexico.

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