Are ‘Globalization’s’ Costs Inevitable?

You hear often that we “live in a global world now.” You hear that “globalization” means we have to drop our wages and standards to match those in impoverished, Third-World countries. You hear that the “cost” of controlling pollution makes us uncompetitive in the world. Etc. Etc. Etc. It’s inevitable – a force of nature – so don’t fight it, they say. This is endlessly repeated as if we weren’t in a “global” world when the first camel crossed a border or the first sailing ship crossed a sea. But since that first camel countries have enacted policies to make things better for their people.

Sunday’s New York Times published an op-ed, “The Myth of Industrial Rebound,” by Steven Rattner, one more wealthy Wall Street executive who revolved through the door from being an Obama administration official after he revolved through the door from being a Wall Street executive. In his op-ed Rattner accurately describes many of our economy’s problems but concludes that we should let these things just happen to us because, “In a flattened world, there will always be another China.”

Rattner points out that many of the new manufacturing jobs are low-wage. “This disturbing trend is particularly pronounced in the automobile industry. When Volkswagen opened a plant in Chattanooga … the beginning wage for assembly line workers was $14.50 per hour, about half of what traditional, unionized workers employed by General Motors or Ford received.” Meanwhile, “in Germany, the average autoworker earns $67 per hour. … Volkswagen has moved production from a high-wage country (Germany) to a low-wage country (the United States).”

Rattner is correct that falling wages are slowing economic recovery. “These dispiriting wage trends are a central reason for the slow economic recovery; without sustained income growth, consumers can’t spend.”

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Best Walmart Video

Show this one at Thanksgiving!!

See What’s Walmart’s Business Secret? at the AFL-CIO blog.

The six Walton heirs own about 50% of the company and have a combined wealth of $142 billion. This means they have more wealth than 42% of all Americans combined.

Connect the dots: This stock is worth so much partly because taxpayers subsidize Walmart’s business practices. Walmart’s wages are so low that their employees qualify for various government assistance programs, like Medicaid and Food Stamps. So we are subsidizing the pay of Walmart’s employees, which increases this $144 billion fortune.

Walmart also takes advantage of trade policies that force American wages down. We let in goods made in non-democracies where people don’t have a say, so their wages are low, and the environment is not protected. The company also takes advantage of the low minimum wage. (40% of Americans now make less than the 1968 minimum wage, had it kept pace with productivity.)

The Walmart heirs were one of 18 families that funded a successful 10-year campaign to get rid of inheritance taxes. Public Citizen documented how these families used front groups to push the “death tax” astroturf campaign to convince Americans they average people were affected by this tax when only one-fourth of one percent of Americans were affected in 2006.

This $144 billion fortune influences our politicians to make sure this rigged system stays the way it is. The result is that Americans are paid less and less, and a very few people pocket the difference.

See previous CAF posts on Walmart.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

No One Should Be Paid?

How often do you hear the argument that people in unions shouldn’t ask for reasonable pay and benefits because no one else gets reasonable pay and benefits anymore?

And people in unions certainly shouldn’t ask for pensions, because no one gets pensions anymore…

After Reagan came in they broke the unions, and by-and-large working people have not gotten a raise since — except the few who still have a union.

Isn’t the lesson to learn from this that people are much better off when they are in a strong union — not that people should hate unions? Duh?

Happy Labor Day weekend. Remember that the only reason you have Labor Day off is because of unio ns fighting to get that.

And the only reason you only have to work 8 hours a day, get a weekend off, a minimum wage (as low as it is now) etc. is because of unions.

Austerity Is Dead – So Can We Fix The Infrastructure NOW?

You might have heard that “austerity is dead.” You’ll certainly be hearing it, and with good reason: the U.S. deficit is down more than 50 percent from what President Bush left behind, projections of the rise in medical costs that drove future deficits are way down, the “intellectual foundation” that justified the push for cutting government has collapsed (as if it ever existed), and the European experiment has shown that budget cuts really just make things worse – much, much worse – and cause misery and suffering to boot. Meanwhile we have two real problems to worry about: unemployment and crumbling infrastructure. So can we hire people to fix the infrastructure now?

Economists Had Learned How To Revive A Falling Economy

Before the financial collapse economists had nailed down the way to get out of an economic crisis: Government has to spend to pick up the drop in demand caused by businesses and consumers cutting back. This investment into the economy causes businesses to hire again, which helps people to be able to spend again, and after things recover the resulting growth pays off that investment.

The Great Depression in particular had taught us that a downward spiral could develop in which a drop in demand caused businesses to cut back, lay people off and/or cut wages, and of course this caused people to have to cut back, which meant demand dropped even more so businesses laid off more people, so demand dropped more, etc.

The FDR administration tried various things to stop this spiral and found that programs that injected money into the economy, such as unemployment benefits and other assistance, direct hiring, investments in infrastructure, etc., could turn things around. And then after things turned around we had all that new, modern infrastructure driving continuing economic growth!

We also learned the hard way. In 1937 the government cut back too soon, and the economy sank into recession again. Then World War II came along, the government spent massively, and the economy grew so much that the ratio of debt to the size of the economy shrank dramatically. We had it figured out.

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Just Stop It: This Is NOT A Good Economy. We Can Fix It.

Recent stories appearing in “mainstream” opinion-leader outlets would have you think that things with the economy are going great – if you didn’t know better (and they don’t). The thing is that outside of the geographic areas and cultural circles these opinion leaders inhabit, everyone knows better. Especially “Old Economy Steven.”

better than his kids

The old economy collapsed because it wasn’t sustainable, and to put that another way, “unsustainable” means it couldn’t be sustained. And it wasn’t. It didn’t work then for 99 percent of us and it won’t work now. We can’t go back to that.

“Good News”

The economy is slowly improving. Car sales are rising, housing has “bottomed” and started back up (and is in absolute bubble-mode again in some areas), and we’re actually seeing about as many new jobs as new people entering the economy! But that’s it. And this has taken how many years?

These small gains are enough for our media opinion-elite to declare good times are rolling. All around us we are hearing that we are out of the woods. For example, at The Washington Post Neil Irwin and Ylan Q. Mui wrote Tuesday that the sequester’s austerity (which has only partially kicked in so far) hasn’t really held back the booming economy. In “The economy is holding up surprisingly well in a year of austerity,”

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Another Bridge Falls — Fixing Infrastructure Fixes Jobs And Deficits

Another aging highway bridge fell the other day, cars and people in the water… This problem was well-known and urgent years ago! But Republicans block it, saying fixing our infrastructure is “more government spending.” Fixing our infrastructure is also jobs and economic growth. And after you fix or build a bridge you have the bridge.

In Seattle another aging bridge has fallen. The American Society of Civil Engineers report America’s 2013 Infrastructure Report Card gives us a D+ and says we are $3.6 trillion behind in infrastructure maintenance. And this is just to catch up, not get ahead.

This work has to be done at some point but today we have a 10 million person employment gap. And today we can get the money to do this at close to zero percent. We have the double need — it needs doing and we need jobs — and we can get the money almost free.

The hiring and purchase of American-made materials involved in fixing the infrastructure would bring millions of jobs. It would boost the economy, increase the tax revenue and decrease safety-net spending.

Fix Or Build A Bridge: You Have The Bridge

And did I mention that when we fix or build a bridge we have the bridge? After we have updated the roads, bridges, electrical systems, dams, airports and everything else that means our economy is much more competitive and efficient. So the benefits continue. Compare that to the supposed benefits of tax cuts. After the tax cuts you are left with the debt they cause and less revenue with which to pay it off.

This is a trifecta of the urgent need to fix our aging infrastructure matched with all the good that it will do for us to do this now.

WTF is the matter with Republicans, that they won’t even let us maintain the country’s infrastructure?? They call it “just more big-government spending.” In fact they force this sequester of cuts, and demand even more cuts! (More here, here, here, here, here, here, here.)

In this mornings post, Washington’s Literal Sinkhole, And Our Idiotic Fixation On Deficitswritten before the bridge collapse — Bob Borosage laid it out,

There is an idiocy about our current national politics that is simply stupefying. We are sitting idly, watching, and suffering, as our nation disintegrates into a run-down backwater. Our airports are a global disgrace. Our railroads, broadband, energy grid are all outmoded by international standards. A bridge falls every other day. Our sewage systems are overwhelmed by normal use, and collapse in the extreme weather that has become the national norm. Sinkholes now are becoming a life-threatening peril.

At the same time, over 20 million people are in need of full-time work.

1) Urgent need to fix the infrastructure.
2) Urgent unemployment problem.
3) Fixing #1 fixes #2.
4) We can get the money for free.
5) It isn’t “government spending” it is investment in ourselves because after we fix or build a bridge we have the bridge and all the things that does for the economy.
6) WTF?

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Deficit Fixed. Now Fix The Job Gap, Wage Gap And Trade Gap

The deficit is now down 60 percent as a percent of gross domestic product. It is down more than the deficit hawks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles asked for. This rapid reduction is seriously hurting the economy and jobs, but demands for cuts continue. It is time for Congress and the President to “pivot” to focusing on our real problems: the jobs gap, the wage gap and the trade gap.

Mythical Deficit Problem Solved

The “deficit problem” is man-made. When Bill Clinton was president we were paying off the debt. George W. Bush turned Clinton’s budget surpluses right around, calling deficits “extremely positive news” because they would later force cuts in government. Ronald Reagan’s “strategic deficits” began a strategy to make the borrowing appear so bad that the public would be panicked into allowing cuts in the things government does to make our lives better – so the wealthy few could have even more wealth and power. (Reagan tripled the national debt, Bush doubled it again.)

So after Bush we had a problem. When ‘W’ left office the budget deficit was $1.4 trillion. Then after Obama took office Wall Street and the right started terrifying the public about deficits and outlining their “solutions”: Cut government, cut regulation of the giant corporations, cut entitlements, cut investment in infrastructure, privatize public assets, cut the safety net, etc… Cut the things that government does to make our lives better (government spending) and cut the things government does to protect us from the immense power of the insanely wealthy and their giant corporations.

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Next Week’s Opportunity To Get Our Labor Board Operating Again

President Obama has nominated five people to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Two are Republicans. All are waiting for confirmation by the Senate. Let your Senators know these nominees should be confirmed so the NLRB can get back to work.

What Is The NLRB?

The NLRB is the agency that “safeguards employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”

The NLRB supervises elections to form or decertify unions in the workplace. It investigates charges that employees, unions or employers violated rules over labor practices and rules on the charges. It works to get problems resolved rather than taken to court. And finally, when the NLRB has issued a ruling that is ignored it can take the parties to court.

But if the NLRB is prevented from operating there is no one to make sure that the rules for labor practices are being enforced. This hurts workers and companies.

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“Spreadsheet Error” Economists Blame “The Left” Not “Science”

In an op-ed in the NY Times today the “spreadsheet error” economists tell us all we need to know about their research and their conclusions. In the op-ed, Reinhart and Rogoff: Responding to Our Critics, skip to the last paragraph:

“Now we are being attacked by the left — primarily by those who have a view that the risks of higher public debt should not be part of the policy conversation. “

“The left?”

I think these two words tell the whole story. All the economists and other scholars who are criticizing the errors and selective use of favorable data in work represent “the left.” Actual science that looks at the real world to see what actually happens is “the left.”

Downward Spiral

Here is the situation:

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What Does It Mean To Be An “American” Corporation?

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What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to be an American corporation? An article in the Wall Street Journal the other day should trigger questions like these.

WSJ: Domestic-Based Multinationals Hiring Overseas,

Multinational companies based in the U.S. boosted their global work forces in 2011 almost entirely by hiring workers overseas, underscoring the slow growth in the U.S. job market.

… The paltry hiring at home reflects where multinational companies are focusing their attention. Stronger economic growth in overseas markets in Asia and Latin America is driving their expansion, reinforcing their shift toward cheaper labor or closer access to customers.

The U.S. parents of multinational firms account for about one-fifth of total private U.S. employment. Since 1999, employment by U.S. multinationals is down by 1.1 million inside the U.S., while it is up by 3.8 million overseas.

The hiring by American companies is not happening in the U.S. At the same time these companies are holding $1.7 trillion of profits outside of the country, away from their own shareholders and our economy to avoid their taxes, while pushing to dramatically lower the taxes they pay us – and even to get out of paying any taxes at all on money they make outside of the country!

Why Do We Have Corporations?

Why do We the People even have laws that allow corporations and give them special benefits? The answer obviously is for our common benefit — why else would we do it? The corporate form of a business enables the company to easily obtain capital from investors, in order to accomplish large-scale projects that benefit us. To encourage this we give these entities special privileges. For example, we limit liability which means the investors are not held liable for the actions of the company – they won’t lose more than their investment if the company gets sued for some reason. We provide a system that helps them obtain financing, insurance, market liquidity and all kinds of things to help those investors get a good return on their money.

Benefit: We the People want railroads, but it takes a lot of money to build and operate a railroad. And our system wants private companies to do the work of building and operating railroads instead us just doing it ourselves. So we set up a way for a private company to gather investment from lots of people.

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