Monday, April 05, 2004

Empowering the corporations

In a column for US News & World Report, Lou Dobbs of CNN continues to lambaste the "Washington consensus":

Globalization is a fact, while free trade remains an economic ideal. Proponents of free trade have for the past three decades envisioned a borderless society, with trade being the great equalizer as well as the catalyst for unbounded global prosperity. The fact is, U.S. trade policies have failed to live up to utopian promises.

In recent years, U.S. free-trade policies have not only been costly to the United States but costly rather than beneficial to many of our trading partners. Wages in Mexico fell by 21 percent in the six years following the North American Free Trade Agreement. And in the two years since the United States paved the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization, our trade deficit with China has increased by nearly 50 percent. The total U.S. trade deficit has reached nearly a half-trillion dollars.

And what is the response to this point of corporate America and the Bush administration? Effectively, just wait and everything will be just fine. But waiting to pursue responsible, balanced trade policies will cost America dearly. The U.S. multinationals, of course, want to be able to outsource jobs to cheap overseas labor markets with little apparent concern for hard-working Americans who lose their jobs. And our government absolves itself of the duty to pursue rational trade policies by saying any change in policy would interfere with free trade. That's a convenient rationalization of a do-nothing approach on the part of government and a disregard for the national interest on the part of multinationals.
Dobbs' turn-about on the issue of "free trade" has been rather remarkable to witness.

This kind of talk was considered heresy just two years ago. Amongst the majority of the business community and the media establishment, unfortunately, it still is.