Plain Dealer brews up nostalgic, bitter reflections on Mr. Coffee, DiMaggio, & manufacturing in NEO

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 11/15/2004 - 03:13.

The 11/14/04 Cleveland Plain Dealer served up a fascinating contextualization of Northeast Ohio entrepreneurship, our innovation and manufacturing legacy, and its demise under America's Wal-Martized big-box consumer culture. Make note, Americans, Wal-Mart says it is all our fault that our manufacturing jobs have moved to China, as all we want is cheap stuff - "We are a seller of goods, not a producer of goods," (Wal Mart's) Wertz says. "Customers make the choice."

This context was also a subject of the recent "Aesthetics and Consumer Culture" at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where renowned writer and social theorist George Ritzer spoke about "Art,
McDonaldization and the Globalization of Nothing"
. It is very fitting that in this region and state hit so hard by the globalization of nothing we are at last seeing intelligent dialogue on the role of the individual - the consumer - in the fate of our nation's workforce. By shopping in an out-of-town-owned big box store rather than home owned retailer, you chose to send your money to enterprises outside our local economy, and by buying foreign-made products you support other nations' economies over your own. If those are the choices you make, accept responsibility for the current state of our manufacturing sector, and all related factors, as highlighted below:

Lost jobs a bitter brew

Mr. Coffee story illustrates how and why jobs here often end up overseas

In its heyday, more than 1,000 workers in the Cleveland area made 42,000 coffeemakers each day.

Nowadays, Mr. Coffee embodies a less popular trend: transfer of
manufacturing jobs to low- wage developing countries. Its decisions
reflect the tradeoffs that companies make to satisfy bargain-hunting
consumers in a cutthroat global economy.

U.S. Customs records indicate that Mr. Coffee currently makes its wares in China.

Princeton University economist Henry Farber says the percentage of
U.S. workers employed in manufacturing has declined for the past 50
years, as industrial jobs have migrated to low-wage areas. Farber says
the trends aren't the fault of the government or of particular
politicians.

"It is primarily the consumers who benefit from this in the form of
lower prices," says Farber. "But there are so many consumers, and each
benefits so little. The problem is that costs in the U.S. are
disproportionately borne by displaced workers."

"The large companies that are doing this are self-destructing, in
my view," says (former Mr. Coffee owner) Glazer. "If you take away all the jobs, where are you
going to get customers? How are people going to make a living?"

"China is not the enemy," (former Mr. Coffee President) Howell insists. "American demands for
more, cheaper stuff have to change. And it will change naturally.
People won't have any more room for more stuff and they'll want things
that last longer and are better."

Read the entire article before you go shopping for "more stuff" this busy holiday season, and then consider buying local and NEO made - like fine art and crafts, for example.