I bumped into Rose Sharpey in the Fairview mall yesterday. Rose is one of the few women in our Test Cell. Not that women can’t test jet engines, mind you. But they do suck at driving and know ballocks about car maintenance and expect us men to take care of their cars like it was our dooty. By God, if they weren’t so nice ta hold, I wouldn’t have nothin’ ta do with women.
The Test Cell is where all the action is. We test our engines at full power, sometimes with afterburner. You won’t hear a thing if you’re standing right outside, the cells are so well sound-proofed. You’ll only sense a very faint, high-pitched whine. The doors are eight inch thick wrought steel. Two years back, one of our rig technicians had his ears blown out and a loose screwdriver went into his skull, when an observation port blew out. I lied. Nothing like that happened actually. There are no observation ports. I love reading thrillers.
Rose was with her sister, Annie, from London, Ontario, where they had this large Caterpillar plant which relocated to the US, to save on costs. Annie was a machinist there. It’s now 2 years she hasn’t found a decent job. 50, divorced and childless, she sold her nice semi-detached last month and went to live in a rented one-bedroom apartment in a low-income tenement building with bedbugs and rodents, subsisting on unemployment insurance. A week back, she traded in her BMW and got a small pre-owned compact.
To be fair to Caterpillar, the company had very little choice. When the Caterpillar plant started in London, the Canadian Dollar had been worth half the US Dollar. Today the two currencies are almost on par. It’s another way of saying that, while costs have doubled, the revenues have halved. Then came Obama and his push to bring back American jobs to America. Can’t blame Barry Obs either. He must have made a campaign promise. It was easy to convince those businesses that were struggling to turn a profit, to move back in.
When Caterpillar first came to Canada, it had received a slew of tax rebates and the company had enjoyed them to the full. Then it got a $400 million funding from the Canadian Government, ostensibly for R&D. Caterpillar thoroughly enjoyed that too. The Canadian taxpayer paid for all the street lights, the sewage disposal, air terminals, rail sidings and roads.
The company bosses devoured the $400 mill and flew around for Latin American junkets, in their Gulfstream jets and when it didn’t seem as much fun anymore, they just upped and left. Some of my hard-earned money as a tax payer, has gone into helping Caterpillar senior execs down pina coladas in Acapulco and I am essentially a powerless sucker watching Globalization unzip my pants and jerk me off with rough calloused hands.
Likewise, this time too, Caterpillar signed a deal with the state of Indiana in the US, whereby it wouldn’t have to pay any taxes for the next 10 years and decided to move to some small town that was strategically placed and had skilled labor and a good vendor base available in close proximity. This means that the Indiana tax payer shall foot the bill for all the facilities that a municipality provides to a business, like communication, roads, power, snow clearance, for all of 360 jobs that the company plans to create down there.
Companies nowadays feel the need to be mobile, in order to survive in an increasingly competitive, globalized world. Just like those hunter-gathers did, moving around with their herds, in search of wild corn and grasslands in the Levant, 11000 years ago.
It’s all a kind of cycle of life itself……….
Look for a sucker city willing to give you the tax breaks –> Lobby for Government funding –> Build your plant –> Start business –> Do cosmetic feel-good stuff like tree plantings / maintaining a public garden / blood donation drives –> Show how good a ‘corporate citizen’ you are. It’s easy. The cash for all these expenses comes from the $400 mill you received from those poor m—-er f—ers who shall walk their dogs in the garden you pay to maintain –> Give a crooked business magazine advertising business and force it to write about what you are doing for the community –> Tax breaks end, salaries rise, you become uncompetitive and start feeling the pinch –> Move to the next tax haven with corruptible lawmakers –> Go back to step-1 and start over. Oh, continue the cycle till your Manhattan mansion and yacht are paid off in full and that Cayman Islands bank account is bulging. Lobby for an ambassadorship if you still aren’t done.
Caterpillar contracted one of those highly specialized moving firms who move whole companies from one part of the world to another. Moving large industrial companies has become a booming business sector by itself. They are essentially industrial construction firms which diversified and added moving to their forté. No hassles, just leave your stuff wherever they are and they’ll be taken down, moved and put up at the other end. And as to your machinery, moving firms employ skilled technicians who dismantle bolt by bolt and reassemble at the other end. You just have to have a plan for the shop layout at the other end, ready. Give the mover the layout and they’ll place every bit of equipment exactly where you want it. The mover has specialized electricians who can wire the whole set-up down to the last phone connection and light bulb. You’ll be sitting in your executive suite, wearing out your thumbs twiddling them.
Annie is twiddling her thumbs too. She is down-sizing in every possible way. When her smartphone contract ended, she didn’t renew it and instead, she now uses a cheap handset and a $10 per month pay-as-you-go card. She uses public transport more often these days and says she has begun enjoying the experience.
Sometimes a simpler life can become a happier one. Those Germanic tribes of Morgenland, in 9500BC, were the happiest. They woke, gathered, built a fire, ate, f—ked, slept, ate some more, f–cked some more, burped and farted and moved to the next pasture. Till some schmuck discovered organized farming.
Even Globalization has an upside. It is teaching us to turn hunter-gatherer. Anybody got a spear and some flintstones?