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August 15, 2011 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-15

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Monday, August 15, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
C' hi lMiiigan Oai-Im

Customer disservice

A

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@uinich.edu

BETHANY BIRON
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MARK BURNS
MANAGING EDITOR

TEDDY PAPES
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position ofthe Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Leave loans alone
Congress shouldn't cut education subsidies
The debt deal was bound to have its fair share of pitfalls.
The last minute wrangling between Democrats and
Republicans was not a compromise, but rather a messy,
last-ditch effort to avoid a disastrous default. Failing to reach
any kind of appropriate or reasonable spending cuts, the coun-
try now has to deal with the mistakes of Congress, the biggest
of which is the halting of the government's subsidy on Direct
Subsidized Federal Loans. Starting July 1, 2012, the loan pro-
gram, which provides loans to graduate and professional stu-
dents, will be phased out, leaving many students scrambling to
finance their education. In order to ensure that the U.S. main-
tains a well-educated population, the Direct Subsidized Federal
Loans must be reinstated.
The erasure of DSFLs will save revenue, but there are less vital As the U.S. continues to strug-
the government a mere $21.6 bil- areas that could have been given gle to produce a strongly educat-
lion over the next ten years, which the axe. ed populace, Congress needs to
is far less than one percent of the Many areas of the budget are increase its emphasison education
projected budget. Rather than worthy of an overhaul, but those in order to maintain a competi-
coming to an agreement that that deserved the most scrutiny tive workforce. As undergraduate
involved raising revenue to help were skipped over by Congress. education becomes increasingly
pay for progressive necessities like Education lacks the guile of commonplace both in the U.S.
education subsidies, the govern- heavily lobbied big business and and abroad, graduate degrees
ment cut programs that are vital industry, so rather than cutting have become increasingly stan-
to the future and progression of corn subsidies and prison bud- dard and necessary. Promoting
the U.S. In an attempt to deflect gets, the government is putting graduate-level education ensures
negative feedback, Congress has the weight of legislative austerity the creation of more knowledge-
stated that the majority of the on the backs of students. College able citizens in both the technical
money cut will be redirected to students are going to have to pay and liberal arts fields, which will
Pell Grants in order to maintain more for education, which will help continue to push the country
the Pell program, which provides create addional burdens, but for forward. For the betterment of the
financial support for low-income many it will simply deter them ' future, Congress must reinstate
students. While these grants help from enrolling in the first place. the DSFLs. The federal govern-
families who can't afford college, The University alone offered 3,992 ° ment should pay for this by rais-
there is always going to be a need DSFLs in the 2009-2010 academic ing revenue, but if it is desperately
for DSFLs. Democrats may have year.Across the country there will strapped for cash in this Republi-
had to adjust some essentials, like be thousands of graduate students can forced austerity, educational
social security, due to their part- who have to pay the price for a loan programs should be last thing
ner's obstinate refusal to raise poorly negotiated debt deal. eliminated.

The other day I called Comcast to
fix my Internet. After 45 minutes on
hold, I was greeted by a woman with
a Southern accent _
tinted with the
familiar customer
service industry's
"anything for you
(because you are
paying me)" enthu-
siasm. Within sec-
onds it was clear JONATHAN
something was AYLWARD
awry; interspersed
with this woman's
Southern service
charm were extremely awkward
phrases and totally bizarre inflec-
tions. Baffled and trying hard to
suppress my laughter, I respectfully
asked where this woman (I'll call her
Mary) was working from. Indonesia.
Aha! She was faking it.
I embrace my inner grumpy old
man when I say - what the hell
happened to America?
Over 10 percent of our nation
is unemployed, and this woman is
employed by a U.S. company doing
something that an American would
almost assuredly do better. I didn't
mention that the Mary offered subpar
help - I had to repeat most things I
said, and she had to pass meonto adif-
ferent department for help. As a tem-
porary cranky old white man I felt an
impulse to blame illegal immigrants
for all of our problems. Remembering
the Comcast situation that incited my
anger, I was brought back to reality.
Illegal immigrants are definitely not
the ones running Comcast and out-
sourcingjobs to Indonesia.
' The people responsible for that
would be the management at Com-
cast. But can we really blame them?
Their job is to maximize profit for
their shareholders. If they can get
away with paying workers in Indone-
sia with fake Southern accents, why
bother paying for the real thing?
With no one readily available to
pin the blame on, let's return to the
accent.'As trivial as it seems, this
farce hid something important.
Clearly Comcast's customers
would ideally like to interact with
other English speakers, preferably
an easy to understand American - if
not, why train Mary to speak in such a
way? Comcast's management knows
that Americans don't take kindly
knowing that these jobs are being
shipped overseas. It doesn't seem
like a stretch to say that by equipping
Mary with a semi-passable Southern
accent, Comcast is hoping to dupe
us into thinking they are employing
Americans.

Possibly even more depressing
than this pathetic attempt at decep-
tion was how well Mary grasped the
lifeless, tired inflections of the Amer-
ican service industry. David Foster
Wallace -described the debilitating
psychological effects of the "profes-
sional smile" and how it was a bane to
both customers and employees. This
should be the last thing we spread
around the world.
Bumper stickers everywhere pro-
claim "Buy American." What a bril-
liant way to shift the blame away from
those that truly affect the economy. A
more thoughtful attempt at bumper
politics would read "Employ Ameri-
can." It isn't too hard to see where the
jobs have gone.
"Employ
American," not
"Buy American."
The world is filled with incredi-
bly cheap labor for American corpo-
rations to tap into. Ifacompanygets
large enough and wants to expand,
it will move its production out of the
U.S. When people from one place
start demanding high wages, there
are always poorer people to turn to.
You don't have to take my word for
it - look around you. Detroit was
once a bustling industrial center;
now one in five people in the city
are out of work. The workforce of
the U.S. simply can't compete for
unskilled labor jobs that can be
exported to developing countries.
I'd hoped that this article was
going to be a diatribe against the
global capitalist system and the neo-
liberal policies that take first world
company's jobs and move them
to the lowest bidders in the third
world, ensuring that everybody loses.
Instead, with space at a serious limit
and my deadline fast approaching, I'll
direct it towards Comcast.
The website consumerist.com, a
consumer affairs blog that gauges
customer feedback, voted Comcast
the worst company in America in
2010. From my experiences over the
years, that sounds about right. The
CEO of Comcast makes 31.1 million
dollars per year. He is also a heck of
a squash player. He probably deserves
to be punched in the face.
Jonathan Aylward can be
reached at jaylward@umich.edu.

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