Notes On The Road to Perdition

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When most people think of the Dutch they conjure up images of young boys on paint cans with thumbs ready to plug a leaking levee. Yet it was a Dutchman, one Johan Cruyff who coined the phrase “Coincidence is logical”(1).

Today I note the coincidence between news stories. The first is that McDermott International is mothballing its Morgan City manufacturing facility and heading for the green, profitable waters of Mexico. The second heralds the arrival of a new Panera Bread store in Baton Rouge(3).

McDermott manufactured hardware for the oil & gas industry and employed 350 people. The latter will employ mostly part-time workers baking designer breads, enlarging the waistlines of Baton Rouge’s partially employed, and return profits to a company based in another state.

Now I have no quarrel with bread stores or fashionable franchises opening in Louisiana, but there is another point to be made here. McDermott, which would supply wages to an army of bread consumers, has decided to manufacture oil & gas production hardware in Mexico that is to principally be sold in Asia(4). Translation: because of our own government’s overbearing regulations, taxes and wage controls, Louisianans cannot compete with Mexicans for international manufacturing business. But don’t worry, there’s still enough disposable income and people too lazy to cook at home for restaurant chains to open and employ minimum wage help. Part-time, minimum wage help.

This is keeping in tune with our age’s obsession with extravagance and vice and rejection of the humble and good. The local high school’s coach who for 20 years has tutored young men in sportsmanship and chivalry earns a pedestrian $70k per year while his “major league” counterpart earns 100 times that babysitting petulant drug abusers.

And so while Americans cling to our pampered, 40 hour work weeks, “unemployment insurance”, equal employment commissions and legions of suit-happy attorneys, foreigners who expect none of these expensive contrivances build the future. American bread winners have been reduced to begging for manufacturing bread crumbs. Part-time, bread crumbs.