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Friday, March 10, 2006

Globalize this

An outstanding article by Jeff Faux on globalization and the elite scumbags behind it (who happen to include leaders of both major political parties in this country). Excerpts:
That the global economy is developing a global ruling class should come as no shock. All markets generate economic class differences. In stable, self-contained national economies, where capital and labor need each other, political bargaining produces a social contract that allows enough wealth to trickle down from the top to keep the majority loyal. "What's good for General Motors is good for America," Dwight Eisenhower's Defense Secretary famously said in the 1950s. The United Auto Workers agreed, which at the time seemed to toss the notion of class warfare into the dustbin of history.

But as domestic markets become global, investors increasingly find workers, customers and business partners almost anywhere. Not surprisingly, they have come to share more economic interests with their peers in other countries than with people who simply have the same nationality. They also share a common interest in escaping the restrictions of their domestic social contracts.

The class politics of this new world economic order is obscured by the confused language that filters the globalization debate from talk radio to Congressional hearings to university seminars. On the one hand, we are told that the flow of money and goods across borders is making nation-states obsolete. On the other, global economic competition is almost always defined as conflict among national interests. Thus, for example, the US press warns us of a dire economic threat from China. Yet much of the "Chinese" menace is a business partnership between China's commissars, who supply the cheap labor, and America's (and Japan's and Europe's) capitalists, who supply the technology and capital. "World poverty" is likewise framed as an issue of the distribution of wealth between rich and poor countries, ignoring the existence of rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries.
Given the influence of American elites, the model for this constitution [of a single global economy] is the North American Free Trade Agreement, conceived under Ronald Reagan, nurtured by George H.W. Bush and delivered by Bill Clinton. Among other things, NAFTA's 1,000-plus pages give international investors extraordinary rights to override government protections of workers and the environment. It sets up secret panels, rife with conflicts of interest, to judge disputes from which there is no appeal. It makes virtually all nonmilitary government services subject to privatization and systematically undercuts the public sector's ability to regulate business. Jorge Castañeda, later Mexico's foreign secretary, observed that NAFTA was "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."
It's impossible to understand why Democratic Party leaders collaborated with Republicans to establish NAFTA unless reference is made to cross-border class interests. There was no compelling economic or political reason for Bill Clinton to make NAFTA a priority in his first year as President. In economic terms, nothing was broken that needed fixing. Politically, NAFTA and the WTO that followed traded away the interests of the Democratic Party's blue-collar electoral base while creating a bonanza for Republican constituencies on Wall Street and in red-state agribusiness.

But Clinton was more Davos than Democrat. Tutored by financier Robert Rubin, a prodigious fundraiser who became his Treasury Secretary, Clinton embraced a reactionary, pre-New Deal vision of a global future in which corporate investors were unregulated and the social contract was history. Indeed, in all three countries it was the leaders of the political parties that had historically claimed to represent ordinary people--the Democrats' Clinton, the Liberal Party's Jean Chrétien and the Institutional Revolutionary Party's Salinas--who delivered NAFTA to their global corporate clients, undercutting their own constituencies. "NAFTA happened," said the then-chairman of American Express, "because of the drive Bill Clinton gave it. He stood up against his two prime constituents, labor and environment, to drive it home over their dead bodies."

A year later, in November 1994, enough angry Democratic voters stayed away from the polls to give the Republicans control of the House. Since then, many working-class Americans, feeling abandoned by the Democrats, have responded to the Republican definition of class struggle as a fight over gun control, school prayer and abortion. The Democrats have still not recovered.

Consistent with a deal among the rich and powerful, NAFTA made the distribution of income, wealth and political power more unequal throughout the continent. In all three countries, wages in manufacturing fell behind productivity increases, shifting income from labor to capital. Ordinary Mexicans especially went through the economic wringer--to which the willingness of hundreds of thousands of them to risk their lives each year crossing the border continues to be tragic testimony.
A lot more there. Well written and a nearly perfect argument against the idiot Tom Friedmans of the world.