26.1.06

TWO SYSTEMS OF BELIEF? John at EclectEcon is pleased that it might be easier to have an article accepted by American Economic Review than to land a job in a Chicago-area Wal-Mart. Paul at Electric Commentary has Schadenfreude at Chicago residents heading just across city limits to seek jobs at a store the Chicago City Council essentially banned from the city.
Sure they lost a bunch of tax revenue, and jobs within the city limits, and the store opened just a few blocks away anyway, but it was worth it to stick it to that evil corporation.
But consider the implications of this.

Of 25,000 job applicants, all but 500 listed Chicago addresses, said John Bisio, regional manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart.

"In our typical hiring process, you're pretty successful if you have 3,000 applicants," he said. "They were really crowing about 11,000 in Oakland, Calif., last year. So to get 25,000-plus applications and counting, I think is astonishing."

Magdoff and Magdoff would not be astonished.
However, the presence of a large pool of workers living a precarious existence is nothing new. It is one of the basic characteristics of capitalism, referred to by Marx as the reserve army of labor. More than an underlying attribute of capitalism, the reserve army helps to keep costs down—permitting the market system to function profitably—and serves as a constant and effective weapon against workers.
More on the industrial reserve army here. And go here for a hypothesis.
Ford’s suppliers will no doubt be forced to follow through with their own job cuts and cost reductions. It is estimated that a single job at an auto factory supports seven jobs in the wider economy, which will produce a devastating impact on those areas where plants are shut down. These are working class communities that have already suffered from the general stagnation and decline of wages over the past several years and the attack on social programs and benefits.
Oakland, Chicago, both historically sites of heavy industry. Is it the capitalist quest for surplus value or the politicos quest for the right kind of development, or something else that leads to the large pool of applicants at that Evergreen Park Wal-Mart?

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