The Hightower Report

The NAM's mess; and a quiet victory over hucksterism


THE NAM'S MESS

If you create a mess, you don't then get to complain about there being a mess.

Apparently, the National Association of Manufacturers missed this lesson in kindergarten – probably too busy bullying other kids. The NAM recently issued a report deploring the widening gap between the number of highly skilled workers in America and the industry's need for such workers. Eighty-one percent of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage of technically skilled workers, wails the report.

Hello ... NAM ... might you have had a big hand in this mess? Let's talk taxes, for example. The NAM has been a prominent proponent and lobbyist behind George W.'s massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. One result of this is that funding for job training and other educational programs has been slashed, at a time it should've been dramatically increased. Also, notice that when member corporations of NAM build or expand factories, they routinely demand that local school districts exempt them from the property taxes that fund technical education.

And who is it that has been leading the charge to bust labor unions? Why, it's been the NAM and its members doing this! Yes, they gain a lower-wage, more compliant workforce by ousting unions – but they lose something important to them and to our country: a partner in job training. It receives very little notice in the establishment media, but a chief advantage offered by unions is highly skilled workers who not only go through the unions' top-notch apprentice programs, but also are constantly updating their skills through ongoing union training sessions.

To say that America lacks a deep pool of skilled workers is to blame workers for a mess that those in power – including the NAM – have made. Rather than whine, the NAM should press Congress and states to launch a fully funded crash program to create a nationwide system of training academies that will tap into that pool of talent that now is stuck in dead-end jobs at McDonald's or Wal-Mart, giving them the skills to move up.


A QUIET VICTORY OVER HUCKSTERISM

Shhhhh. What's that sound?

Nothing. It's silence you hear – blessed silence. That's probably because your home telephone is no longer ringing ceaselessly with a barrage of infuriating telemarketing solicitations, most of which came as you were sitting down to dinner or doing anything more enjoyable than trying to fend off some huckster on the phone.

The welcome change from intrusive commercial cacophony to a soothing quietude in your own home has come in only two years' time – and it came because ordinary folks like you demanded it. In 2003, hawkers of everything from credit cards to aluminum siding were making 104 million calls every day into our homes.

Fed up, millions of Americans shrieked in unison: Stop it! The opposition was so broad and so intense that even Washington couldn't ignore it (plus, Congress critters were also getting the irritating calls at their homes, so they could identify with the public instead of the industry for a change). The result was the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry.

By going to www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888/382-1222, you can put your phone number on the registry and essentially ban telemarketers from calling you. Since 2003, when the registry opened for business, 109 million Americans have added their phone numbers to it – thus, the refreshing sound all across the country of phones not ringing.

The ban is not total – for example, any company from which you've bought something can use the "established business relationship" loophole to call you. But you can tell them to put you on their own do-not-call list, and they must stop calling. Another power you have is simply to refuse to give out your phone number when store checkout clerks ask for it.

To keep saying no to telemarketers, who're constantly seeking cracks in the do-not-call system, contact the Electronic Privacy Information Center: 202/483-1140.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

National Association of Manufacturers, Bush administration, organized labor, unskilled workforce, telemarketers, National Do Not Call registry, Electronic Privacy Information Center

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