Silly Meyerson!

April 10th, 2008at 07:39pm Posted by Eli

Harold Meyerson completely misses the point:

President Bush has sent his trade pact with Colombia to Capitol Hill, and suddenly Washington is not only ablaze with cherry blossoms but cluttered by chestnuts. Every old argument for the virtues of free trade is being recycled by the league of American editorialists, whose all-but-universal commitment to a failed policy will surely excite the wonder of future historians.

The amazing thing about the free-traders’ arguments is that they never change. Today’s free-trade commentaries make the same points as the pro-NAFTA editorials of 1993-94. Now, as then, bilateral trade is a win-win proposition for the peoples of both signatory nations. It raises living standards in developing nations. An educated American workforce has nothing to fear from competition.

Read these commentaries, and you’d think that the past 15 years hadn’t happened. If NAFTA had been a win for Mexico, the millions of its farmers displaced by U.S. agribusiness would have found better jobs in Mexican industry. Instead, with Mexico failing to invest in its own people, and with China supplanting Mexico as our manufacturers’ preferred source of cheap labor, those farmers are disproportionately the immigrants who’ve crossed the border to work here in the States.

Read these commentaries, and you’d never know that America has gone from being a nation that manufactured things to a nation that manufactures debt. Manufacturing (as Kevin Phillips points out in the forthcoming issue of the American Prospect, which I edit) accounted for 25 percent of America’s gross domestic product in the 1970s but just 12 percent in 2006. Finance, which amounted to 12 percent of GDP in the ’70s, amounted to 20 percent in 2006.

…In the years since NAFTA was passed, the jobs created in the United States have been disproportionately low-wage service-sector and retail jobs. And in the years since we granted permanent trade relations to China and U.S. companies moved their factories from the Midwest to the Middle Kingdom, incomes in America for all but the rich have been stagnant — at best.

(…)

In short, while we’ve been practicing free trade, we’ve been devoid of any national policy geared toward retaining or creating good jobs…. Among the industrial democracies, only the United States has allowed its corporate sector to decimate its union movement, leaving the vast majority of its workers with no leverage to obtain higher wages. And only the United States has kept its economy humming chiefly by extending more and more credit to those with largely stagnant incomes — an economic strategy that led us into our current recession and, most likely, toward a long-term decline in living standards.

What’s been missing in America’s trade policy is a preference for Americans. The object of trade in China is to help the Chinese nation. German trade is designed to help Germany; Scandinavian, to help the Scandinavian nations. This is not the case here. General Electric goes abroad to lower costs and boost profits. Goldman Sachs invests abroad in the same kind of low-wage, high-profit enterprises. That’s the mission of such businesses. But the U.S. government has never taken on the mission of defending the American economy, or the American people, in the global economy. That is not the only reason the broadly shared prosperity of the three decades following World War II is now a distant memory, but it is a certainly a major reason.

The problem is, things like better wages, job security, and upward mobility for us little people are simply not a priority for the Bush government.  To them, as long as corporations,  senior executives, and finance high-rollers are doing well, that’s all that matters.  (Dubya’s happy talk about the economy makes a lot more sense in this context, although it’s a toss-up whether he thinks everything’s great because his rich friends are doing well, or if he’s simply lying his ass off – either explanation is equally plausible to me.)  Indeed, they see things like better wages, job security, and upward mobility for us little people as threats to corporate profit margins.

Let me put it another way: What incentive do BushCo. and the Republicans (and, sadly, a good chunk of the Democrats) have to make the economy work for everyone?  We already know that altruism, compassion, and a sense of fair play are not in their emotional toolkit, and they simply cannot fathom the idea of trickle-up economics, where workers who get paid more spend more.

They don’t even have to worry about their self-centered policies producing an economic collapse, because the government will just bail the big shots out. Not us little people, of course – we’re on our own.

(h/t dakine)

Entry Filed under: Bush,Economy,Media,Republicans,Wankers


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