Author Archives: Jennifer Pawlowski

“The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy.”

For my second book review I read The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy written by Pietra Rivoli published by Wiley copyright of Reed Business Information.( Isbn 041648493).

Pietra Rivoli has a PhD in Finance and International Economics and a BS in Finance. The only website I found for her was

The author begins this book by purchasing a t-shirt from a bin at a Walgreens in Florida. She decides to trace where it comes from, referring to much more than just the “made in” tag. She begins by phoning a company overseas that produced the t-shirt but upon speaking to someone there found out that the actual cotton to make the shirt was from the Unites States-Texas specifically.

She researches and finds out that America is consistently among the top 2-3 producers and exporters of cotton and questions why this is so. How are cotton farmers in Texas able to out-produce cotton over so many other countries that may have cheaper labor? How have they been able to maintain this lead given the advancements in many other countries? She is able to track this success back to the farmers figuring out how to assume little to no risk for their crops. Government subsidies (on cotton they are 5-10 times higher on cotton than on soy beans, and many other crops) and guarantees on pricing and more have given these farmers ways to be successful and eliminate the many risks involved with this type of farming. The risks of labor prices and being able to find labor when the crops needed harvesting were alleviated with the Bracero program (allowing Mexican citizens to cross the borders for work.).  Developments in agriculture, equipment, fertilizers, and even GM seeds have increased output and eliminated the threats that once were very real for these types of farmers. Cotton farmers have also gained a lot of governmental sway or control which makes them even more secure and more monopolistic.

Next she followed the path of the cotton overseas to the factories where textiles, clothing and more are made. Seeing the types of conditions that the workers were subject to and their limited options for any sort of advancement made her see the freedoms that were being denied to generations of people who had little or no other options. Conditions were unsafe, the work was grueling and some people were forced to work 7 days a week.

Fast forward to some students at Georgetown hearing of these injustices and wanting to make a difference. They formed a committee and demanding that any University apparel must disclose where it was made and uphold societal standards. Once their goal was achieved she mentions that the meetings got boring-that once the change was made they needed to step forward and keep going.

The basic moral of the book, and view of the author is that we have control. Similar to the Hoodwinked book that I read for my first review the theme seems to be that small changes that we make are steps forward. As long as we keep stepping forward progress will happen.

If we think that cotton farmers shouldn’t receive such large subsidies and other perks we need to demand that it changes. American companies and consumers refusing to purchase goods from unethical companies and demanding regulations prohibiting child labor and unsafe working conditions will force others to follow suit. As much as it seems like these problems are out of our control it will be the small changes that individuals make that will be the change that the world needs.

The general consensus on the reviews that I have read for this book seem to agree with the author’s theme and thoughts on this matter. Some mentioned that she spent too much time on the subject and that the information is somewhat outdated even with her revisions. For the most part I agree with the author on her points, but agree that the book could be made shorter and the theme could have still been conveyed.

The biggest thing that I learned is how much the government really steps in, and was astounded by the amount of financial support that cotton farmers have available to them. It makes me wonder how many things like this we as consumers are unaware of.

“Hoodwinked” and John Perkins’ solutions to our economic situation

The book I read for my first book review was “Hoodwinked-An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the Global Economy Imploded-And How To Fix It.” It was written by John Perkins, published by Crown Publishing eISBN 978-0-307-58993-4.

John Perkins is a former self-proclaimed Economic Hit Man (EHM) by way of a consulting firm for the U.S. Government. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Boston University.

Perkins writes about the current “mutant” capitalist system that is our current economy, explains how it became  that way and then how he believes it can be fixed. He begins by explaining how he became an economic hit man, the things he witnessed and was even a part of. Having a grandchild gave him a sort-of epiphany about the current condition of the world what kind of world we are leaving to future generations and what prices they will have to pay for our mistakes. He details how the economy has gotten to it’s current “mutant” state, and in the second half of the book explains how he believes it can be fixed.

Mr. Perkins explains how he began working for a consulting firm and was approached to be an economic hit man. He acted as a negotiator with developing countries who had valuable resources that we coveted. His job was to convince these countries to sign for huge debt to have U.S. firms and companies travel to their countries to build the resources, buildings, equipment that was necessary to extract these resources. The problem with these loans is that they were very high interest, and almost doomed to failure. When the countries began to have difficulties repaying these large amounts, the United States then had them hooked….forcing them to provide those resources at a low cost, or lift environmental regulations. This created a large vicious cycle of an economy that was doomed to fail (for the developing countries) and made the rich business owners and corporations even richer.

The effects of these transactions were promised by EHMs to revolutionize these struggling countries, bring them forward and help them thrive and stimulate their own economies. Instead it did quite the opposite, creating conditions where workers were forced to work for lower wages, were still facing poverty, and the environment was being ravaged in the process. The lack of regulations and rising debt to the U.S. allowed the U.S. to monopolize their resources and create a huge inequality.

This basic theory is what Perkins describes as happening in the financial sector of the U.S. economy. When regulations are lightened or disappear, large banks are able to not only monopolize the markets but are almost untouchable because they are so large. If they were to fail, the domino effect that would happen would be devastating.

He explains that our desire to buy things cheap or “1/2” price has driven companies to search for the cheapest way to produce the products but most importantly the best way to translate to large profits for the company. The problem is that the true costs of these goods are not reported. We need to factor in the cost to the environment or to the people, and that should also be considered when calculating the cost of the goods. Accounting for the damages done to the environment would help restore the areas that have been damaged due to production.

Basically, profits have become the main goal of a lot of big business, and this shouldn’t be the only goal. We should not maximize profits while exploiting workers or the environment. There need to be priorities. He refers back to post WWII and how the economy began to thrive with entrepreneurs who wanted to “do well by the stockholders”. Regulations we in tact, and corporations were limited to how large they could get. Once regulations were lifted, the goals shifted to profits.

The second part of the book is the best, and Perkins offers what he believes is a solution. We need to stop blaming everyone else, and actually make something happen. Using China as an example, their optimist attitudes turned their economy around and it continues to grow. Their morals, and response is to do the work and fix the problem. We need to follow their lead in a lot of ways.

First he says we need to have consumer responsibility. We need to support companies that we believe in, even if the goods are more expensive-considering it an investment in the future. If this is done by enough people, the executives will have to listen.

Second we need to create a new economy based on things that we need. Jobs don’t have to be lost only shifted to serve real purposes. Part of that includes the “Green Markets” or stores that provide items that are made locally or at least in the U.S. utilizing our resources, avoiding chemicals, and other undesirable products.

Third is encouraging good stewardship and it kind of goes along with the second one if you ask me. A vendor of one of these green markets would be a great example. We need to honor the people serving REAL purposes instead of idolizing the greedy and the rich. He also talks about adapting an attitude of compassion and protectiveness and how it could make the world more peaceful.

Fourth he talks of new business and government rules and regulations. This goes without saying for me. Tighter regulations and dissolving huge monopolies (like Roosevelt did) would be first on the agenda. Also, making the companies account for those other costs of doing business like the environmental impacts listed above.

Finally he talks of honoring individual passions. Taking the things we are passionate about and figuring out a way to use our skills to be heard. Instead of just making noise, actually doing something about it. The government needs to be pushed and sometimes we need to speak a little louder to be heard.

There wasn’t much that I wish he would’ve included in this book. I was surprised about how much information that he gave, and really believe that his experience has given him great insight as to what a solution might be. It’s also nice to see that he was inspired to make a change and this is his way of doing that.

This book hasn’t really changed my thinking, I knew that there was a lot of economic injustice in the world, it just opened my eyes to how bad things really are with the economy. It has inspired me to explore ways I might make a difference.