Saturday, June 21, 2014

The "Rock" in Americas' Craw

Have you called American Express lately? How about A T & T? Or, Dish Network? It's probable that you guessed that the person on the other end of the line was not local!

More often than not, when we call these companies and others, we find ourselves talking to "Jerry from New Dehli, Jon from Taiwan" or "Pricilla from Manila." They are relatively pleasant people, at least most of the time. In the majority of cases, their English while strained, is good enough to handle rudimentary requests.

Jerry, Jon and Pricilla work cheap. That's why Fortune 500 companies seek out their services. In America, we have a current national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Democrats and moderate Republicans contend that it's too low. Jerry, Jon and Pricilla would be delighted with such a bounty! In fact, they'll do this job for a fraction of it! How much of a fraction? Try $200-300 per month. In some cases, less.

American Express, A T & T and Dish Network contend that "because Jerry, Jon and Pricilla will work for less," we can pass the savings on to our customers. How much is actually passed on is another subject for a different post. But, it might be surprising how much is passed on to the consumer and how much finds it's way to the profit ledger!

Either way, it still saves Americans some money. Question is, "at what price?"

Identity theft is the fast growing crime in the world. Everyone is aware of it. Including the large corporations. But are they really addressing the problem? Let's put it another way! How often are we reliquishing all, or at least part of our social security numbers to Jerry, Jon or Pricilla? If you answered "most if not all of the time," you are correct. Herein lies the problem.

In America, any person who works in banking, insurance, securities, real estate, or any position requiring access to the most private of information, must be properly vetted. In other words, they must be fingerprinted and undergo an F.B.I. background check. Jerry, Jon and Pricilla are not subjected to such analysis.

Why they are not subjected to comparable scrutity? Part of it stems from the absence of reliable providers. Most, however, goes back to the price paid for their services. Can you expect much more for what you are paying them? Never mind that you may be compromising an Americans' privacy! And, lest we forget! Some of the world's finest hackers reside in the Far East.


Proposed in "E" is for English is a moratorium on any offshore outsourcing, requiring all or part of an Americans' social security number. Obviously, this would have a huge impact in America and on the world. The large companies would cry foul!
Their argument would hold credence. Let us briefly evaluate it.

Jerry, Jon and Pricilla are typically paid less than $300 per month. In New Dehli, Kaohsiung or Manila, you can get by on that wage. A manager making $600 per month can live quite well. Benefits are almost never included.

The current American minimum wage of $7.25 is under heavy scrutiny. Democrats and moderate Republicans are insisting that it be raised. Then there are benefits, such as health insurance. A logical suggestion just got more complicated. Two problems stand in the way of further consideration.

1. The unions of these large companies would cast an immediate "thumbs down." As one A T & T representative warned, "The employees union would never allow it."

2. The perception that $7.25 per hour is too low and that nobody would want these jobs.

Examining # 2 first, we find two age groups most likely to be interested.

1. Under 25 workers. $7.25 per hour translates to $290 per week, or $15,080 per year. Not much! But, enough to get out of the house and be on your own, if you have a roommate. Maybe not in New York, Boston or San Francisco. But, in Little Rock, Louisville or Pensacola, it's doable.

2. 62 and older workers. These Americans qualify for early Social Security. But Medicare is still a few years away. $290 per week and enrollment on a group health insurance plan can be a Godsend!

Even at $15,080 per year, the numbers still don't work. And, even if they did, how would proponents confront "gadflies" such as Elizabeth Warren who would certainly scoff at the "hundreds of thousands of low wage jobs" being "dumped" on our shores!

Subject closed? Not hardly. Fact is, Jerry from New Dehli may not be as great of a bargain as originally perceived. 80% of these offshore associates arguably lack the necessary English skills to adequately do these jobs. They can read from a script. But, when the question becomes too much, they will put the English speaking caller on hold and ultimately transfer them. The end result: A lot of wasted time; for the American!

I can speak conversational Russian. At a party, especially if the other person has had a few drinks, my Russian can actually sound pretty good. With a script and sufficient time to rehearse, I can sound like I speak good Russian. Yet, if I were forced to handle an issue on the phone in Russian, with a caller who spoke only Russian, the deficiency would quickly become obvious!

In reality the American is probably worth "three to perhaps five Jerrys!" The numbers are getting better.

True, those in "right to work' states would be the probable beneficiaries of these jobs. But, that's okay! Remember! We have two million less people working full time today as compared to 2008. The current administration has conveniently sidestepped this truism.

The world would probably be outraged! Wasn't it George W. Bush who said that "we live in a global society" and these offshore workers spent money with American companies such as Walmart and McDonalds?

Thomas Friedman described in his book, "The World is Flat," the importance of "leveling the global playing field." In practice, the "unions force the wages up, companies subsequently move the jobs offshore." It rather simple, when you put it into proper perspective! Wouldn't such a proposal be at odds with this objective?

The real "rock in Americas' craw," amounts to the perception that our government no longer places the needs of Americans' first. Privacy? Who cares! It's all about "a buck!"

Most disquieting is the notion that many companies are going offshore in an effort to circumvent American laws. The Debt Recovery Industry in the most prominent perpetrator.

Last week I had an extended conversation with a "thirty-something" Haitian woman who reported that an offshore representative from Midland Credit had threatened to take her nine-year-old daughter away from her, if she did not immediately pay a disputed $5,000 credit card debt. The lady had a green card. But, she was not yet naturalized.
She asked me, "Can they do this?"

Proposing such an identity theft prevention plan and making it a 2016 campaign issue would be risky for any politician. The Fortune 500 companies wouldn't take kindly to it, to put it mildly. Perhaps it is because the question crosses party lines like no other.

It really comes down to adopting the paradigm: "America First." Sounds "nationalistic" doesn't it?

Contrary to popular opinion, nationalism is not synonymous with fasism, racism or bigotry. While probably unfashionable to the globalist elite, a concept aimed at protecting Americans from identity theft could catch on like a West Texas prairie fire in August!

It might be enough to determine an election.

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