The powers-that-be say the bulk of America’s middle-class manufacturing jobs are gone and aren’t coming back. High-tech jobs are being outsourced, as is an increasing share of the work historically handled by our accountants, lawyers and some other professionals.

Retail jobs at brick-and-mortar shops, however, can’t be exported.

But wait, those aren’t jobs, they’re “jobettes.” They’re part-time, pay poverty wages, offer no benefits, feature lousy schedules, come with little training, and boast few advancement opportunities.

Most big retail chains treat their employees as nothing but a drain on profits rather than an asset worth investing in. Sales people typically are paid only $10 an hour, clerks get only $9.70, and cashiers just $9. Even worse, 94 percent of retailers define full-time work as only 30 hours a week. People can’t make ends meet on that, and America can’t have a healthy economy without a solid middle class. However, 15 million Americans are in retail work now, and it’s to be our second-biggest source of new jobs for the next decade.

Well, shrug the powers-that-be, the retail giants must compete with low prices, so they have no choice but to keep cutting corners on their workforce.

As we humbly say in Texas: bovine excrement!

Just look at Trader Joe’s, where full-time jobs start at $40,000. Or at Costco, where retaining employees is a priority, and 98 percent of managers are promoted from within. Low-price chains that invest directly in workers are reaping industry highs in performance, morale, customer satisfaction and profits. Bad jobs are not a retail necessity or a competitive advantage — just a corporate choice.

A new initiative called the Retail Justice Alliance is encouraging U.S. employers and policymakers to turn retail jobs into good jobs that spread a middle-class standard of living and rebuild our grassroots economy. To learn more and join in, go to www.retailjusticealliance.org

Jim Hightower is a syndicated columnist. Email him at info@jimhightower.com