YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


'Rich' a Familiar Tour of '90s Economy


"Who's Getting Rich and Why Aren't You?"--that's some title for the latest edition of "CBS Reports." The report? Not everything the title promises.

CBS' genial Harry Smith takes us through the well-trod territory of the tough '90s economy, exploring once again the incredible shrinking middle class, the rising upper class and the irresistible force known as downsizing. In a manner that's become all too familiar in countless programs studying the new American economic insecurities, we visit some winners, some losers and some struggling in between. And we're told, once again, that the forces behind it all are much bigger than us.


The syndrome looks like this: Factory employing hundreds, even thousands of American workers for decades is shut down by parent company and moved to a land of cheaper wages--from the unionized north to the non-union south, from the south to Latin America or Asia. Workers fight for their jobs, company cites bottom-line survival, and the global economy marches on. And now, it's marching right over a middle management white-collar class that's in a quiet panic.

Smith's approach is to both bemoan this often heartless process, which is laying waste to both numerous aging company towns and hopeful middle-class families across the country, and to admit that there's nothing to reverse it.

He profiles several people responding to this historic shift, but none represents opposite approaches better than Cypress Semiconductors founder T.J. Rodgers and union activist Mike Griffin, striking against Caterpillar.

While Rodgers hustles from one meeting in Silicon Valley to another in the Philippines (where Cypress is building a new factory), he reminds Smith that "you can't save a job that doesn't have an economic right to exist," and later that "efficiency is survival." Griffin decries efficiency at the expense of people.

In the end, Rodgers has seen Cypress' profits continue to rise, and Griffin has lost his union job along with the strike against Caterpillar.

* "Who's Getting Rich and Why Aren't You?" airs at 9 tonight on CBS (Channel 2).

Los Angeles Times Articles