American Jobs

Greg Spotts. <i>Spottsfilm. 62 minutes.</i>

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U.S. Army berets manufactured in China, Department of Homeland Security uniforms hecho en Mexico, food stamp call centers outsourced to India — of all the troubling questions raised by Greg Spotts’ perceptive documentary, perhaps the most disturbing is: Why is our government aiding the erosion of quality American jobs?

This exploration of (un)employment in the Bush-Cheney era excels on a human level. Devoting ample time to living-room chats with laid-off textile workers in Kannapolis, North Carolina, as well as former high-tech workers in Seattle and Florida — whose pink-slip indignation was compounded when they were forced to train their Indian replacements — Spotts’ film lays bare the personal devastation of job loss.

American Jobs would have us believe that Ross Perot was right: that NAFTA augured a “giant sucking sound” of American jobs lost to global trade. Spotts also pushes the thesis that what NAFTA did to American manufacturing, the increasingly global economy will soon do to white-collar jobs. It’s a bleak prognosis, but one that presumes the conditions that spurred American job growth of the late ’90s cannot be re-created.

If Spotts seems to overlook the difference that sound economic stewardship can make, his film spotlights the fact that when hard times strike, our government is far quicker to cushion the blow for corporations — say the $5 billion airline bailout in the wake of 9/11 — than for American workers, including the more than 50,000 airline employees who were thrown out of work at the same time.

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