Even Taiwan seeks cheaper labor in China. The quest for cheap labor is the Black Death of the 21st Century. But who is searching for a vaccine? How are we going to diversify our economy to create jobs when nobody wants to pay decent wages or benefits? We used to take false  comfort in the notion that manufacturing would be supplanted by a booming service industry, but it`s booming in India. Is Congress too busy to have this debate?

About that housing market. No wonder the big heads on television keep saying that there won`t be a recovery until the housing market recovers. It`s as good an excuse as any for not talking about the real problem, which is that there is no way in hell a housing market recovery is going to get us out of this fix.

Do the big heads really think we can hire enough electricians, carpenters, excavators, landscapers, surveyors, painters, installers, predatory lenders, and the rest of the housing crew to claw our way back to a decent standard of living for the middle class? Are they kidding?

Who is going to afford these houses? All the people out of work because their jobs have been exported? All the people paid minimum wages by WalMart and Dunkin` Donuts? Where is our common sense that we listen to these patsies of the corporados day after day?

The only person I know of who is making any sense these days is Ron Paul, the Texas Congressman. Listen to him.

Where`s the debate? I don`t have the answers, but I know we should be up to our eyeballs in a great national discourse about creating good jobs and paying fair wages. Instead we`re in foolish arguments about wars and health care and God knows what else we can`t afford because we don`t have jobs.

I wish I thought this is what the Tea Party movement was about "demanding that government pay attention to job loss. But I fear it`s merely an attempt to hitch our inchoate rage to a right-wing agenda. The only agenda any of us ought to entertain is putting Americans back to work, not flipping burgers and manning the cash registers in discount houses, but creating a high-tech society with a visionary future.

Why can`t we agree on that, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, independent and apoplectic?

I know we have some wonderful minds at work on just such ideas. We need to hear them, not the usual paid pundits, generals and pols. But we don`t hear from them because the media are paid by the same people who have corrupted the aforesaid. And the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, has just made the corrupters` task a lot easier by removing all limits on corporate campaign contributions.

Welcome to Push Nut, USA

So here we are, jobless or underpaid, overworked and jerked around every which way, asked to buy products made in the very places that have taken our jobs. And what are we asked to buy? Junk.

I bought an exercise bike the other day from one of our most famous appliance chains. It was made in China. Six parts were missing, so it couldn`t be completely assembled. One part was cracked. Several of the bolts wouldn`t bear the strain of ordinary finger-tightening.

So I called the home service department "after carefully marking the missing part numbers in the exploded diagram only to find the defective part, a bushing, does not appear on the diagram and is not numbered. Try explaining that to the helpful lady on the other end of the phone whose English is barely adequate to repeat what I have told her. So I repeat each part number and description. But for some reason, no matter how slowly I speak, she cannot register the words push nut. So I know what I`m going to get in the mail seven days hence: more aggravation and another unsatisfactory telephone conversation. And this is not only how retailers treat us these days, it`s how health care-givers treat us, it`s how our elected officials treat us. Their idea of responsiveness is a telephone tree.

And as if that game of push-the-nut had not been upsetting enough, I get a customer satisfaction survey call. Are you kidding? I say. No, Mr. Marbrook, we just want to make sure you`re completely satisfied with your new exercise bike. No, I`m not. Well, that`s not our department, you`ll have to call our customer service department. And where are they, may I ask? Mumbai? Ulan Bator?

Each person has been rehearsed to be pleasantly unhelpful. I don`t mind chewing out Americans, but I dislike having to chew out foreigners because it`s not their fault they don`t speak my language as well as I do. After all, I don`t speak theirs. They`re always very pleasant but so rehearsed that you know you`re not going to get anywhere.

This is the smiling new American Dystopia.


Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy. 

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.  

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.