Matt Taibbi: A Republican Workers’ Party?

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168 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    This is an argument I have been getting into with some of my friends and it does bring up a bit of my inner neo-liberal for lack of a better word.

    Globalization has taken away jobs from the American economy but automation has taken away many more jobs. The US is still a huge manufacturing economy but the big issues are that we no longer really manufacture basic stuff like clothing and toasters and the new manufacturing jobs require something like an AA degree instead of being simple enough for a high-school dropout or graduate to perform.

    How many times do people have to say those jobs are not coming back before it really sinks in?

    The best way for the United States to help the working class is through massive infrastructure and public works spending. This will create construction jobs that pay well over shitty service jobs that don’t. People might even be able to learn trades that can help them outside of the government spending.

    I still think that a good part or a strong part of what the WWC sees in Trump is a return to the old racial hierarchies and this cannot be allowed. A Republican Workers’ Party is going to be combined with white identity and resentments.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “The best way for the United States to help the working class is through massive infrastructure and public works spending. ”

      That was tried, it didn’t work, and it didn’t work for the reasons that make overseas labor so attractive.

      The biggest infrastructure projects in recent years spent most of their money overseas. It is less expensive to build a bridge in China and ship it across the Pacific in pieces than it is to build a bridge in America.Report

      • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

        No we didn’t try a massive infrastructure program at not least the kind most liberal types wanted. We still have many things that could be done. And at some point the bridge has to be put up in the US. Roads in the US are fixed right here,etc. Don’t know who you know but it isn’t even remotely controversial on the right that infrastructure creates jobs.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to greginak says:

          It’s not clear that we could mount such an effort anyway. When I was a lad, I was told stories about the government putting large numbers of men to work laying brick streets. At the time, brick-making required large amounts of manual labor, and the roads were constructed by digging out a sufficient amount of dirt, putting in a sand base, and setting the bricks — all by hand. Every small town in Iowa and Nebraska had one or more of those brick-paved streets [1]. We don’t pave that way any more. Paving requires heavy machinery, which is in limited supply — the number of those big, expensive machines available matches pretty well with the current work load. Similarly for most infrastructure work.

          [1] A couple of years ago, the Nebraska town where I went to high school resurfaced its “Main Street”. When the milling machine got down through enough layers of old asphalt, they hit a layer of Depression-era brick paving.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

            The reports I had out of the South were that those streets were laid so good that they didn’t need to be repaved, like, ever — and that was the only thing keeping small towns solvent.

            My street’s brick.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Kimmi says:

              Anecdotally, when I was in high school circa 1970, the town still had one section of Depression-era brick street that hadn’t been paved over. It was in remarkably good shape, but was also posted for 20 mph and weight limit six tons. One a trip back from college, I noticed it had been repaved with concrete and asked my dad about it. “New development started at the end of the street,” he said, “and the construction trucks tore the bricks all to hell within six months.”Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Not to mention, we have machines now that will dig the bed, lay the sand base, and lay the bricks.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

          “No we didn’t try a massive infrastructure program at not least the kind most liberal types wanted. ”

          Haw. Massive infrastructure programs can never fail, they can only be failed.

          “And at some point the bridge has to be put up in the US.”

          mmm-hmm, due to modern construction equipment and methods that’s not something that’s going to be “massive” on the scale you clearly have in mind.Report

    • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The best way for the United States to help the working class is through massive infrastructure and public works spending.

      I’m not sure that statement stands up to scrutiny. You can create make work jobs very easily, but I’m not sure that you’re going to get great infrastructure out of the deal. I’m sure that the Big Dig and the Washington, DC metro system employ a lot of people at competitive wages. Do we want more of those?

      This is a common problem in policy: trying to sell some course of action with promises of curing multiple ills at the same time. The world just does not work that way. The more cost effective and efficient any infrastructure project is, the less of a jobs program it will be. And the more jobs that any project creates, the less likely it is to be cost effective and efficient.

      My take is: if we have infrastructure needs, then we ought to focus on meeting those needs in the most sensible way possible. If it leads to an increase in U.S. employment, great, but that shouldn’t be the goal. If we have growth and employment issues, then we ought to focus on those separately.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


        I don’t know how many jobs the new Tappan Zee Bridge project has created, but they needed to build a new bridge (or do a massive overhaul of the existing one). It was several decades past its “sell by” date.

        The thing is… we have a pretty massive need for infrastructure repair. It would seem like we could find enough necessary projects to make a real difference with jobs without a “make works” project.

        Something I’ve always wondered… why don’t some of these construction projects happen over 16 or 24 hours? That is to say, over 2 or 3 8-hour shifts per day. I assume certain projects can’t be safely done at night. But we also know that some work is reserved for evenings to minimize traffic issues so clearly that can’t be the only reason. Couldn’t we get these projects done 2 or 3 times faster if we employed more crews? This would also get more people working (albeit each contract would be shorter). And it might save money if any of the equipment is being rented on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. My assumption is the unions. Or inertia on the thinking behind these projects. But I’m not in the industry so I really have no idea. I’m not saying make one guy/crew work 16-24 hours. I’m saying have an 6-2 crew, a 2-10 crew, and a 10-6 crew.Report

        • Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

          Funny you mentioned the construction..

          There is a major road widening effort near my house. Construction has been going on for months. I never see anyone working. I’m on the road at 6AM and back around 4pm. No one in sight. No weekend work either. No night work that I’ve seen.

          RE the 24 hour crews…I’m not sure there’s enough road crew guys to staff a 24 hour three shift day, at least on state/county payroll as they exist. You’d have to hire contractors. Then you got the davis bacon act, etc.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Damon says:

            I’m not a civil engineer, but when I worked for the state legislature I had to read a variety of reports written by civil engineers about why road construction had fallen behind schedule. IIRC, the big three were rain delays, waiting for new roadbed to settle, and equipment being unavailable for one reason or another. Their rule of thumb seemed to be three days waiting for things to dry after one rainy day before putting the heavy machinery back out. Six months of natural settling was enormously cheaper than forced compaction, even if it pushed paving off into the next season. And given those delays, the contracts allowed the construction companies to shift machinery to other projects for certain amounts of time, even if it meant longer idle periods on the state job.

            Standard fast, cheap, right, choose two engineering deal. States, at least, will almost always include cheap as one of their choices. One exception I know about was in Colorado after the 2013 monsoon flooding the first week of September. The state opted for fast and cheap with its own dollars in replacing the canyon roads that had washed away, but they only had a few weeks before construction season was shut down. They knew it wasn’t done “right” — most of what they built was torn out the next year and replaced using federal disaster funds.Report

            • IIRC, after an important freeway was damaged during an earthquake in LA, the state chose fast and right: it was worked on 24 hours a day, damn the overtime costs.

              With the Bay Bridge replacement, the state managed to choose slow, expensive, and wrong.Report

            • PD Shaw in reply to Michael Cain says:

              This comports with my understanding from relatives (see comment below). My impression though is that shifting btw/ jobs is common in my state, and is somewhat built into lowering the bids. I’ve heard the stories about complaints coming down from important people about the workers being lazy and idle, when the workers are working somewhere else at the time.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Damon says:


            This is somewhat at odds with what @pd-shaw offers below vis-a-vis private contractors versus public employees, but I venture to guess both are true in certain contexts. A town/county/state likely has a roadway crew that patches potholes and maybe handle regular repaving efforts but most probably rely on contractora for major works. Many areas could stand to grow their roadway crews… My old locale of Orange County, NY was a shitshow aside from the Thruway (which was state). The area was/is somewhat economically depressed and that is before you account for the unique effects of Kiryas Joel (which I’ve written about before). But federal funds to hire full time workers would make a real difference.Report

            • Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

              Just speaking of that patchwork effect, New Jersey gets some bizarre effects in that vein from the different towns having different budgets/priorities. During the 2011 blizzards, for example, my home town was almost entirely passable by the middle of the first clear day, and the snow was effectively gone from the streets within another day or two. Meanwhile the next town over had side streets with 1.5 feet of snow for a good week, and the big road that both towns shared went from perfectly fine to barely usable as you crossed the border.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Guy says:


                Where in Jersey are you from? I grew up in Bergen County. I think this occurs any where you have “borders”. It feels like a problem but I’m not quite sure what the solution is? Federal Department of Snow Removal?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

          In some parts of the country they do the 24 hour thing. They only have so many now-free months of the year so they work as much as they have the people to do.

          The biggest problem is noise. I remember 3am concrete demolition when I lived in Deseret.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

          Pittsburgh’s got tunnels. We do 24 hour work on them, because they’re some of the major traffic obstacles — closing them down makes massive detours of large portions of traffic.

          Plus, you’re already working in the dark.Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Kazzy says:

          I have family in the highway construction business, and they would hate that idea. My state recently ordered that all highway construction be performed at night to the extent possible, which has resulted in overnight projects throughout the state even in places where there is not a lot of commuter traffic. Overnight work has meant added expense with lighting (setting up, moving, electricity), but even with attention to lighting, I’m told its surprising how one can move a few feet and have the lighting quality drop significantly. So, they would say there nightwork is more expensive, less productive, and less safe.

          I don’t believe unions are significant in the highway construction business, you would find them more in city streets departments. Basically, highway construction jobs have shared many of the characteristics of manufacturing: more machines and less unskilled labor. The projects are competitively bid and awarded to private companies that can man the job efficiently. That often means multiple projects in the vicinity are being worked at the same time, so that workers and machines can be moved back and forth in the event of a bottle neck, such as waiting for concrete to cure, waiting for engineers to answer how to deal with a subsurface condition that was discovered, or waiting for the material supplier or a machine part to arrive at the job. There are time limitations that the contractor doesn’t overcome by working a longer day.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to PD Shaw says:

            Thanks for sharing, @pd-shaw . Very useful context. I assumed lighting and safety was an issue around water but not on land, so was wrong there. I have scene nighttime work with what looks like a football stadium’s worth of lighting and neglected to account for that cost.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

            For a great example of how infrastructure projects can go sideways, see Seattle.Report

            • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Seattle? California!

              The total construction cost estimate has now more than doubled to $68 billion from the original $33 billion, despite trims in the routes planned. The first, easiest-to-build, segment of the system — the “train to nowhere” through a relatively empty stretch of the Central Valley — is running at least four years behind schedule and still hasn’t acquired all the needed land. Predicted ticket prices to travel from LA to the Bay have shot from $50 to more than $80. State funding is running short. Last month’s cap-and-trade auction for greenhouse gases, expected to provide $150 million for the train, yielded a mere $2.5 million. And no investors are lining up to fill the $43 billion construction-budget gap.


              • Veering almost completely off topic, on a bicycle ride last week I had to stop while a light-rail train went through one of the crossings in my suburb. The flagwoman standing nearby told me that it was the first test train on the new line (and that there were flagpeople at each of the crossings in the event that the crossing gates failed to close). The line is on schedule, mostly within budget, and I’m getting excited. From my suburb to Union Station downtown in 18 minutes!Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              There are bad ways to do infrastructure and that seems to be doing new projects instead of shoring up what you have.

              That doesn’t change the fact that America’s bridges, roads, and subways/trains are very old and in need of repair. How many bridges need to collapse? NYC and Boston’s subways and commuter rails were hit hard by Sandy and Winter 2014. They need lots of work. One of the critical lines of NYC’s subway is going to shut down for a year or more in 2019.

              BART is operating at well over-capacity.

              Why not build more lines for more trains? Have crews operate as much as possible to get things up to speed.

              I don’t quite get why Americans seem so willing to allow bridges to collapse or get close to it before work is done.Report

              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I don’t quite get why Americans seem so willing to allow bridges to collapse or get close to it before work is done.

                We weren’t, until Reagan…Report

              • I don’t quite get why Americans seem so willing to allow bridges to collapse or get close to it before work is done.

                At the state level, budgets. Over the last 50 years or so, most state government took on three major new categories of General Fund spending: Medicaid, K-12 education, and backfilling the gas tax shortfall for transportation. At least Medicaid and K-12 expenses grew (and for the most part, still grow) faster than GF revenues. Now that the political limits on state/local tax revenues are binding, it’s a matter of what gets cut. The two least-protected areas of the big five/six spending categories are higher ed and transportation, and higher-ed spending is more vulnerable. Unsurprisingly, we are now hearing the poorer states make actual noises about getting out of the higher-ed business entirely (eg, Louisiana). Transportation is in “don’t fix it unless it’s seriously broken” mode.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I also think psychology plays a factor.

                I can’t tell the difference between a 50-year-old bridge or a 50-minute-old bridge. I can’t tell if a bridge has 100 years of life left or less than 100 seconds. I drive over the bridge… I made it to the other side… it’s working. Why spend millions to fix it? IT’S WORKING! Most people see things like bridges as a binary: they work or they don’t. In fact, many of us don’t even notice the bridge. I mean, we drive over it knowingly but we don’t really think about it. Now you’re telling me it needs to be fixed? Or replaced? With construction and traffic snarls and huge budgets? THE BRIDGE WORKS! I JUST DROVE OVER IT! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                True. OTOH, if the DOT publicized things with pictures like this one, you end up with a different set of public outrage problems.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:


                When I was in WI a few weeks ago, as I was driving through Milwaukee, I saw quite a few overpass support columns with crumbling concrete and exposed rebar. Thankfully, I also saw that the city was replacing a lot of overpasses along the same stretch of highway, so I hope that those bad ones were on the list of future replacements.Report

              • The underside of the mile-long I-70 viaduct on the north side of Denver is nasty. Originally built in 1964 with a 50-year planned lifetime, they had to start making repairs in 1981 and now some of the repairs are being repaired. The state has imposed some modest weight limits. Various parties have been bickering for years over how to replace it. The City of Denver has bought into the plan to replace it in place (rather than using the one alternate route). Given the traffic volume — much higher than the original design called for — construction is going to be a nightmare.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Can they relocate the span off to one side, or are they going to have to do it one half at a time? Seattle just replaced the 520 floating bridge by building it next to the old one, so the old bridge never had to close during the work week (they closed it often during weekends).Report

              • The one thing everyone agrees on is that if relocated in place (looking, I see that the final EIS has been written now), the new highway will be below grade, not elevated. I assume there’s a phased plan that will keep three lanes open in each direction (that’s the current size), with more when they’re all done. The expansion of I-25 through the south metro area done some years back wasn’t fun, but they did seem to keep enough lanes open throughout to avoid making it a total disaster.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                That’s good. I know sometimes you have a bridge in a spot where you can’t relocate in place and it’s a nightmare to replace.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Also, the gasoline tax hasn’t even kept up with inflation (much less road growth or usage) — which means the federal transportation funding to states hasn’t kept up.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Morat20 says:

                That, and the same thing with most state fuel taxes. Hence the need for GF money to cover the shortfall, one of the three causes that I listed.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                New York City and the Bay Area contain the richest per capita municipalities on the planet. Why do Americans, who, on the median, somewhat poorer, need to contribute even more to the wealthy?Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kolohe says:

                You seem to be assuming that wealthy cities would benefit disproportionately from infrastructure spending, and I’m not seeing why that would be the case. Seems to me Saul is just talking about infrastructure needs that he is most familiar with: the ones in big cities that he knows well.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to j r says:

        I don’t disagree with your bottom line point in the last paragraph but we have a hell of a lot of genuine infrastructure needs that are in the nature of fixing bridges before they fall down .Report

      • Morat20 in reply to j r says:

        FWIW, most liberals talking about ‘infrastructure’ are most often referring to “Let’s do the necessary repairs and expansions we’ve NOT been doing, because the cost of borrowing is low”.

        Repairing bridges, large water pipes, roads, tracks.

        You know, the fundamental stuff for the economy? Like water to fishes, you don’t notice it until it’s gone?

        It’s not Big Bertha in Seattle so much as the zillion bridges that already exist that aren’t in such good shape and will, sooner or later, HAVE to be fixed or replaced. Fix it now, when borrowing is basically free and it’s not yet a crises. Or fix it later, when borrowing might be a lot more expensive (and labor tighter), and people are screaming because the water’s out over half the city.Report

    • Dand in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The best way for the United States to help the working class is through massive infrastructure and public works spending.

      Christina Romer made sure that only 3% of the stimulus went to infrastructure because she looks down her nose at working class “burly men”Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      My, aren’t we the optimist!
      It’s delusional, is what it is — the idea that you think you can possibly know what’s best for millions of people, without bothering to know the numbers that prove you wrong.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    Other than that I think Tabibi is right. The adherents of globalization did expect everyone to take it without question and are gobsmacked at rebellion from the lower quarters at lost jobs, wealth, and prestige.Report

    • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      He’s right but there is little possibility of a real workers party. Globalization was to widely applauded by to many on all sides of aisles to ever really discuss the potential problems. But what are anti-G peeps gonna do, vote libertarian?Report

  3. greginak says:

    It’s hard to be a workers party when unions are anathema. Unions are the most direct way blue collar workers can exercise their own power. Without them they are dependent on what employers give and what pols can wrangle. The billionaires are never going to enact policies that empower workers. At most they might do some infrastructure but the R’s haven’t been to kind to that so far.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to greginak says:


      They aren’t the only way to handle the issues and needs of workers, they are simply a lower level of pol. Which is what your state and local people are. If you have laws that protect the workers, than you have a space where those elected officials can do there job; enforcing contracts, checking safety, etc.

      And at this point, the main opposition to unions (and I am saying this as a union member, CWA 9415) is often that they are supporting candidates that no longer represent the members and their interests. Also, the number of people who leave the union they started with to go to a non union job is fairly high, do to the increased opportunities out there. In other words, the main job of the union, wage negotiation, is becoming less relevant.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Aaron David says:

        I believe Mickey Kaus has asked union officials before why they support legislation like workplace safety / minimum wage that make union membership less valuable, and he came away with the belief that unions thought it was the right thing to do for workers, regardless of membership.

        The last Illinois gubernatorial election had 42% of union households voting for the anti-union Republican candidate. He was mostly anti-public sector union, and from the little bit of polling I’d seen, I believe probably 90% of traditional union households voted for the Republican and 90% of the public-sector union households voted for the Democrat. It seems to me that the future is here.Report

      • greginak in reply to Aaron David says:

        Unions give workers a direct and organic org to fight for what they want. Pols have many constituencies and pulls, unions are there for workers. Most people in unions are not those that would have any other power. It would be like saying why do gun owners need the NRA, they have pols to push their interests.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Aaron David says:

        Unions are highly relevant in the fight for 15 especially among service workers. The SEIU and UWA and AFL-CIO are still strong players in Democratic politics. Union heads can act as voices to politicians. The UK Labour Party was strongly connected to the trade unions.

        A lot of stuff that we take for granted now were the products of hard won union fights that lasted for decades. The 8 hour day and the two-day weekend among them.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          ” are still strong players in Democratic politics”

          Contrasted with:

          “The last Illinois gubernatorial election had 42% of union households voting for the anti-union Republican candidate. He was mostly anti-public sector union, and from the little bit of polling I’d seen, I believe probably 90% of traditional union households voted for the Republican and 90% of the public-sector union households voted for the Democrat. “

          And the problem seems obvious. First of all, the “fight for 15” is, in my view as a union member and worker, destructive and often counter to union members interests, as they should be fighting for the union members (who often make much more than 15) and fighting for more work not policies that lead to offshoring and automation. And while that process is natural*, no reason why the unions should be fighting for it. Also, as @pd-shaw comment shows, if the AFL-CIO is donating to dem politics while its members are voting R, we have a serious conflict of interest, especially when Union membership is often manditory. As for the battles of the last decades, while important, do we still need to have them being waged by the same warriors in light of the legal battles that have been won, when they, outside of pubsec unions, are increasingly disconnected from the people they “represent.”

          By the way, the two day weekend:

          It took decades for Saturday to change from a half-day to a full day’s rest. In 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the five-day week. It did so to accommodate Jewish workers, whose observance of a Saturday sabbath forced them to make up their work on Sundays, offending some in the Christian majority. The mill granted these Jewish workers a two-day weekend, and other factories followed this example. The Great Depression cemented the two-day weekend into the economy, as shorter hours were considered a remedy to underemployment.

          Nothing about unions…

          *Economic vs. political arguements.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    Trump’s big economic speech was basically your typical GOP stuff of tax cuts but maybe with a bit of trade war thrown in.

    So it is going to be a while before the GOP reemerges as a labor party and I don’t see how they do that. There are still a lot of really rich social conservatives who dislike the Democratic Party and dislike Trump.

    My guess is that if Trump loses badly, the donor class will create a bunch of rules to prevent Trumps from rising again. The question is where do the WWC go because they aren’t joining the Democratic Party because of racial resentment issues.Report

    • 1) Outside of the South, Democrats have always been competitive with the WWC. Which is good because without them they’d probably lose.

      2) If nobody that had racist views voted Democratic, they’d lose. They may not court that vote, but they get some of it even if the Republicans get more.

      3) Equating WWC with racial resentment is a good way to move things along in the wrong directions.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


        I was being a bit strong-tongued. If the Democratic Party does okay with the WWC outside of the South, they must be doing something right to be a Labor Party of sorts. The converse is that there must be an angle that makes the South separate and that seems to be race and hardcore social conservatism.

        HRC seems to be polling strong still. 538 switched Georgia and Atlanta to a light blue in the polls.

        Trump is a uniquely bad as a candidate. His defeat will either destroy the GOP or let them go back to business as normal.

        I think that a lot of people have taken 25 years of hits against the Clintons and internalized them without realizing it. HRC is not bad as politicians go.Report

        • Guy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          “His defeat will either destroy the GOP or let them go back to business as normal.”

          That certainly covers the bases.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Guy says:

            The fact that Trump’s such a bad candidate already covers the GOP’s default excuse.

            “He wasn’t a real conservative”.

            The day after the election, Very Serious People from the GOP will explain, at length, that Trump lost because he wasn’t a real conservative Republican. They’ll assure us that any real Republican would have easily won. The base will decide, again, that the problem was that Trump wasn’t a real conservative (and also not conservative enough) and demand more right-wing purity tests.

            They’ll be back to running fire-breathing crazies in 2018, worse than the idiots they were running in 2010.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Republicans can’t become labor party in an economic sense but they can be the party that a lot of the WWC votes for because of alienation from the Democratic Party on social issues.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        If the wealthy keep moving to the Democrats, I’m not sure there won’t be more room to their left on economics than to their right at some point. That doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, but with Kasich/Bush/Christie donors going more to Hillary than Trump, that opens up a lot of possibilities if it holds.Report

  5. j r says:

    If you bring up the destruction of the American middle class, pro-globalization adherents will point to facts like the rising fortunes of those hundreds of millions of Chinese workers who are now supposedly above the World Bank definition of poverty, making more than $1.90 a day.

    That those same workers still have virtually no rights or benefits and on occasion have to be housed in factories with safety nets to keep them from killing themselves at an astronomical rate is immaterial to True Believers.

    This is Taibi’s shtick. He has just enough understanding and mastery of a topic to launch a pithy polemic, but never enough to pass on useful information about that topic. Do you come away from reading this article knowing any additional information about the the things that Taibi is writing about? No. You come away with a feeling, with a set of emotions. And there is no good reason for that.

    We don’t need to settle for phrases like “supposedly above.” The actual data is not that hard to find. We can look at the trajectory of global poverty rates over the past thirty or so years. We can look at wages in export sectors and compare them to what people were making a generation ago or what people in other sectors are making.

    And we don’t need to talk about random anecdotes about safety nets. We can talk about the status of worker rights and working conditions in just about every country with a notable export sector. We can talk about countries that have forced labor issues or countries where labor unions are persecuted or where hazardous working conditions are widespread. Of course, once you start to have that conversation, it becomes very obvious that this is not an issue that can be shoehorned into any easy ideological dichotomy.Report

    • veronica d in reply to j r says:

      @j-r — +1

      Data is data. Emotional appeals with cherry picked-anecdotes are emotional appeals with cherry-picked anecdotes.

      Actually, it is good to have a bit of both. The data provides the scope of the problem. The anecdotes tell us what it means in human terms.

      How many Chinese factories have suicide nets? Was this a one time thing, or is it business as usual?

      I don’t know.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to veronica d says:

        “Data is data. Emotional appeals with cherry picked-anecdotes are emotional appeals with cherry-picked anecdotes.”

        So much this.

        One of the issues that does need to be addressed though is that while globalization is a net economic boon for both individual countries and the world as a whole, there are winners and losers, as with anything. And that is what becomes the political question.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

          Take it away, Matt:

          They want even American voters to focus on the good news of incrementally increased wages abroad, forgetting that American workers never signed up for a plan to disenfranchise themselves so that workers in China or India could earn a few quarters more per day.


          • DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Because screw those non-white non-Americans. Who said they deserve a better life, right? If they want it they can work for it themselves, just like we did!Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Parents will love their own children more than they love the children of strangers.

              Attempts to improve people by making them love all children equally have usually failed.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

              So global trade is a zero sum game, I guess.

              In order for Chinese workers to have a better life, American workers must suffer.

              No other choices?

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s not a zero-sum game. American *SKILLED* workers didn’t suffer at all. They benefited. And the the Chinese unskilled workers benefited. I’m pretty sure that Chinese skilled workers benefited as well.

                The only people who really didn’t benefit were the American unskilled workers and, primarily, the “no high school diploma” ones.

                Apparently, we still make those.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m a no high school diploma worker 🙂Report

              • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                (I probably count as a “special case.”)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I am 100% down with replacing up to 60% of the mean with outliers.

                I’m merely waiting for the rest of society to catch up.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to veronica d says:

                yeah… but not so much as a friend of mine, who managed to graduate high school on the strength of winning prize money for the school that he wouldn’t get if they didn’t graduate him.

                (Of course, before graduating high school, he had held multiple jobs “on the internet”)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Doesn’t this sort of thinking only look at one variable, specifically employment/wages?

                Okay… yes… offshoring jobs means people who used to have good manufacturing jobs here don’t anymore because now those jobs are in China or India or Thailand or where ever they are.

                But doesn’t offshoring also help keep costs down? I know wages are only one of many things that influence costs but if they are lower, than it at least means the potential for prices to be lower. So maybe that guy lost his job at the GM plant… but now he can afford a Honda and an iPhone and a flat screen.

                Is he better off? That isn’t for me to say. But let’s not pretend that the only impact of offshoring is on jobs.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                The argument of “they may be out of jobs, but at least they can buy cheaper televisions” shows up in the strangest places.

                As for employment/wages, the good thing about using that measurement is that it is measurable and can be compared meaningfully from year to year to year (and to adjust for inflation). If you like numbers, you’re doing great.

                So we know that those probably have gone down…

                But what does that mean?

                One of the things that had to be hammered into my head over and over and over again is that you can’t merely look at absolute better off vs where people were back in whenever.

                You have to look at positional goods as well.

                Positionally, this guy took one hell of a hit.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                Show me any period in the last 30 years where the CPI has gone down, or even held steady for four or five years. Ten percent cut in household income equals a drop in overall standard of living, or savings rate, or both.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Yea, I think I framed my argument pretty poorly. The guy who lost his job is definitely harmed. But his neighbor, the teacher, still has his job and he can afford that TV.

                If we only look at the factory job — and whether someone in the US has it or someone in China does — we are missing other pieces of the puzzle. Some Americans do benefit from jobs going overseas.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, absolutely. The teacher is marginally better off because TVs are cheaper. The CFO of the company that moved the plant overseas (or decided on the installation of machinery that does the job better and cheaper) is enormously better off, after bonuses and stock options. The 50-year-old struggling to finish the mortgage, help the second kid through college, and then save furiously for retirement at 67, who lost the job, is just f**ked — they’re not going to get a job as a teacher, or a CFO, or even a job in manufacturing that pays 90% of what their old job paid.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “In order for Chinese workers to have a better life, American workers must suffer. No other choices? Really?”

                Welp. That’s apparently Matt Taibbi’s view, and you’re the one who quoted him, soooooo…Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                So what you are saying is that we should return to the golden age of American manufacturing that was, as pretty much everyone agrees, a rather glaring historical anomaly that was never likely to be sustained without massive government intervention (intervention that stood a solid chance of doing even worse damage to the US economy)?

                So conservative.

                Globalization is good for humanity in general. American screwed herself by failing to have a plan for the inevitable displacement of unskilled workers. That is not the fault of globalization, that is the fault of our political class.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “Globalization is good for humanity in general.”
                Is it really in the long run? I know we have discussed the pools of money that form. What if this leads to that same place?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I don’t use the word globalization because its like “capitalism”, an entity that can take many different shapes an configurations.

                Global trade is, of course a very good thing, depending on how it is structured and regulated.

                Is the current structure of global trade a good thing for American workers?
                Could it be reconfigured to benefit them more than it does now?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Taibbi actually touches upon that when he notes:

                But we never excluded politically oppressive regimes from free-trade deals, never made sure that trade partners weren’t also massive human rights violators, never seriously worried about environmental enforcement. Mostly, we just made cheap, un-free foreign labor available to Western manufacturers.


                but still seems to just beat the drum against globalization, rather than focusing on the details of the agreements that were specifically problematic.

                Globalization, like capitalism, like socialism – the devil is in the details, but details are hard, and they don’t inflame passions like vilifying a singular group/institution/concept can.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                We seem to be having the reciprocal debate about “globalism” that the East Bloc people had about “socialism”;

                That is, any attempt to complain about living standards was countered with “well socialism has improved our lives since 1918“.

                Which was in fact a completely true statement.

                But it reflected an unwillingness to grasp the deep unhappiness people had with their lot.

                As you can see in this thread, any complaint about “globalism” is met with an accusation that we want Chinese children to starve.Report

              • j r in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                As you can see in this thread, any complaint about “globalism” is met with an accusation that we want Chinese children to starve.

                You must be reading a different thread.Report

              • America screwed herself by failing to have a plan for the inevitable displacement of unskilled workers.

                I can’t even imagine what a plan to compensate for the amount of capital and jobs that went overseas would be. Especially in an era in which transfer payments from those who gained to those who lost were simply out of the question.Report

              • j r in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I can’t even imagine what a plan to compensate for the amount of capital and jobs that went overseas would be.
                One inconvenient fact is that our economy loses as many, if not more, jobs to automation as it does to globalization, but I don’t often hear people lamenting the advance of technology or arguing in favor of smashing the machines. It’s much easier to make these sorts of arguments when you have foreigners or elites to scapegoat.

                Also, this does exist: Could it be expanded, strengthened, made more relevant? Absolutely, but let’s speak accurately about what exists.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to j r says:

                The “machines are going to take all the jobs and the rich are going to make us their serfs as a result” is a common enough sentiment on sites like Reddit and such, @j-rReport

              • veronica d in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think it is a real serious concern for humanity. With automation and machine intelligence, we’re well past the point where we can provide a fairly nice material life to pretty much everyone. It will only get better — setting aside tough questions about ecology and population growth (but anyway). The problem is, full-on socialism doesn’t really work, at least, it hasn’t worked so well in the past. Likewise, much of this new capacity resulted from a free market system. However, the “free market” can be pretty freaking unstable. Likewise, humans are political animals, so it’s kinda politically impossible to keep a “free market” exactly free in the way that the ancaps preach. So globalization this and rent seeking that. That stuff won’t just go away. On this point, libertarian types can be as pollyannaish as the “yay socialism” crowd. Blah.

                So much lost capacity to thrive.

                Entropy always wins. Hold on tight.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to veronica d says:

                America has double the population that it will be able to afford, going forward (and that’s using the rosy projections). I’m not so sure we really can afford to set aside the questions about ecology and population growth… except if your solution is “constant war” (which, well, it does solve things)Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kimmi says:

                @kimmi — I don’t have a “solution.” I have profound cynicism.

                My girlfriend is really sexy. I’m gonna have some fun before I go out.

                I hope I get a clean death. I like the whole Norse idea “dying well.”Report

              • Kimmi in reply to veronica d says:

                Cynicism, or learned helplessness?
                You have the world at your fingertips — and the FBI at the other end of the phone line.
                You’d be surprised at what you can find.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kimmi says:

                Cynicism, or learned helplessness?

                Good grief, @kimmi , don’t be a ninny.Report

              • I think it is a real serious concern for humanity. With automation and machine intelligence, we’re well past the point where we can provide a fairly nice material life to pretty much everyone.

                I’ll assert that we’re not anywhere near that point. Consider electricity. To allow the undeveloped and developing parts of humanity to have the same per-capita electricity consumption of Japan — one of the more efficient large economies — would require tripling current global generation. Electrify personal transportation and tripling becomes quadrupling. No one has a serious clue about how to do that. I’m somewhat more extreme and say that it can’t/won’t be done.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to veronica d says:

                Automation is an interesting thing. Not long ago people were washing there own close on a wash board with home made soap. After they heated water that they transported in from the nearest water source. Not a lot of longing to undo that automation because it favors personal means of production.

                The automation that is in the spotlight can be found in production factories that are displacing personal production. The way out of that problem is to create manufacturing automation outside of the factories and back within the realms of personal production. This may sound a little strange at first glance, but it tends to be many peoples preference to take these things and eventually make them accessible, like the clothes washing machines that so many people own.

                Sometimes I wonder what the abacus users of 2000 years ago would think of an excel spread sheet.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Joe Sal says:

                you could try asking the abacus users of today, who might say “takes too consistent electricity”Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kimmi says:

                For sure. There is probably something obvious about how enduring some automation is.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Joe Sal says:

                It’s a conversation we’ve had before. Personal automation is seen as a net good because it allows for more leisure time, since the labor involved was uncompensated. Production automation is bad because it allows for more leisure time… err, because it limits the amount of compensated work available to people.


                The American economy is changing too fast for many to keep up with, maybe for most to keep up with. A lot of the problem is we haven’t figured out how to educate a workforce that is highly adaptable & flexible. We can produce individuals who are, but I’d argue that such people often excel despite the current pedagogy, rather than because of it.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                Can you think of any educational system that creates such flexibility? What kind of educational program do you think will?

                I would argue that it is not so much flexibility but many middle and wealthy kids don’t need flexibility because they are college bound and being trained for the careers that are harder to get rid of via automation like finance, marketing, engineering/STEM, medicine.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I do not know if it is possible to educate a work force that is highly adaptable and flexible. Unskilled workers are the most flexible in some way because they are working jobs that require strength, endurance, and ability to follow direction and little else. When you get more skilled and more trained than you get pigeon holed. I have not idea what I would do if the need for lawyers vanished. My working class immigrant clients have demonstrated more flexibility than my more educated ones when it came to employment.

                The need for specialized knowledge and skills is increasing but with increased specialization comes decreased flexibility. Think of how long it takes to produce doctors, scientists, lawyers, architects, engineers, and finance professionals.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I don’t think there is a way to educate and adapt out of what has been built. About the only solution is to start unplugging from what has been built.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I agree, although what that means for a large percentage of the population is grim.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @saul-degraw @leeesq

                Honestly, I don’t know if it can be done. I think we can identify individuals who are already mentally adaptable & flexible and capable of learning new things very quickly & offer them an education that works with that. I think there are things we can do to foster that kind of development in young kids, but I doubt if it would ever fly politically because it would be something that is very difficult to test for to see if it’s working, and it’s also something that would probably require a great deal of family involvement.

                don’t need flexibility because they are college bound and being trained for the careers that are harder to get rid of via automation like finance, marketing, engineering/STEM, medicine.

                Those career paths are hard to automate specifically because they require a great deal of mental flexibility, non-linear thinking, and ability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions.

                Think of how long it takes to produce doctors, scientists, lawyers, architects, engineers, and finance professionals.

                Yes, and guess what, there are a lot of people with that training who are not working in those fields. As I said above, those careers require people who are mentally flexible, able to take on challenges that lie outside their original training, and move beyond that training. I swear you guys act like lawyers never leave the profession and can only ever draft legal documents and maybe argue in court.

                Unskilled workers are the most flexible in some way because they are working jobs that require strength, endurance, and ability to follow direction and little else.

                Sure, but they are flexible in exactly one direction, and if that direction is fixed by outside forces, they are screwed. The guy who can only follow directions is little better than a machine. This is why I harp on expanding the skilled trades. A person who can fix cars can quickly learn to fix almost any machinery. I went from fixing bikes, to cars & motorcycles, to turbines and hydraulic systems on ships & hovercraft, and the hardest part was memorizing all the symbols on the schematics (i.e. it wasn’t that hard). A person who learns basic carpentry can learn to build houses, make furniture, or move on and learn to work plastics & metals & stone.

                If a person wants to, if there is a path to expand the skills & knowledge.

                Or a person could be like a guy I know back in WI, who only ever bothered to learn how to hang drywall, and spends half a year unemployed and drunk.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Joe Sal says:


                The way out of that problem is to create manufacturing automation outside of the factories and back within the realms of personal production.

                Like, we have a 3-d printer in my office that we can play with. It’s really cool. So yeah, I can see a really great scenario where this plays out, some kinda post-post-post-industrial whatever.

                I dunno. Can the human polity thread the needle to get there? I tend to be pretty skeptical of anything that sounds like “Silicon Valley utopianistic dreams.”

                But I don’t have a working crystal ball, so…Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:


                Technically, we could probably do it.

                Politically, it’s a hell of a lift.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Well the whole problem is cultural and political. In and of itself, automation increases productivity and is all profit, but I have some very serious concerns about our ability to equitably distribute the gains from automation, and our culture is hostile to leisure in a number of ways.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Don Zeko says:

                and our culture is hostile to leisure in a number of ways.

                Well, it’s hostile to your idea of leisure, which is dangerous/hedonistic/disgusting/perverted/lowbrow/unhealthy/etc., as opposed to my idea of leisure, which is healthy/safe/wholesome/nurturing/intelligent/etc.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Let me rephrase. It is hostile to people that don’t work, and that includes how people evaluate themselves.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Its more than that. Nearly every society has some form of the belief that “those who do not work, do not eat.” Even the Bolsheviks believed this. See also why most people side with the Ant in the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. The idea that things should carry some cost is deeply ingrained in humans because life has been a struggle for a lot of human history. Overcoming this is going to be hard.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Is that a tenent of societies or a tenent of nature? The lions don’t wake in the morning expecting to find a pile of dead gazelles in front of them. Gazelles don’t wake expecting piles of hay to suddenly appear. Humans are born into the world with needs. Survival takes effort.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Joe Sal says:

                It does now, and it has for all of human history, but that doesn’t mean it will in the future. Its very possible our cultural, economic, and political systems that have worked in the past will be profoundly ill-suited to a post-scarcity or nearly post-scarcity society.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Although I’d add that there is precedent for societies determining that some people will be supported in their idleness. aristocrats, people with severe disabilities, royalty.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

                It depends what you mean by idleness. Aristocracies were usually given a political-military role to fulfill. Thats a very big form of work.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Don Zeko says:

                I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but isn’t that kind of a pie in the sky, way, way, down the road thinking considering the real state of scarcity that exists at this time?Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I don’t think star trek style post-scarcity is coming anytime soon. What I do think is coming soon is a world where there are very very few tasks that an able-bodied person without a college degree can do that a robot can’t for which there is any demand. In theory that will mean a tremendous increase in productivity, and therefore wealth, but in practice I think that will mean a vast increase in inequality and human misery.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Don Zeko says:

                What if I told you that when automation is brought into personal production it fixes the wealth inequality and decreases the misery.

                How would that change your outlook?Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Joe Sal says:

                It’s not clear to me what will change to make average people own these machines when that largely hasn’t happened in previous waves ofd automation. I’d love to be wrong, but if service industry employment, driving, construction, etc go the way of agriculture, manufacturing, and mining, we’re going to have a steadily growing population of people with nowhere to go in the labor market.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Don Zeko says:

                There is no shortage of things that need to be done.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Joe Sal says:

                But what we need are things that people are willing to pay other people to do.Report

              • notme in reply to Don Zeko says:

                And yet folks still get degrees in puppetry or MFAs.Report

              • j r in reply to notme says:

                Do you actually no anything about MFA program and the people who go to them and what their career prospects are? Or is that just an all purpose smear, courtesy of some internet trend piece you read?

                I know a couple-few folks with MFAs or related degrees and they all make a living doing the craft that they studied.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to notme says:

                And law!Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Well, certainly attitudes regarding what constitutes an appropriate amount of “work”.

                I recall Saul talking about pulling the 40 hour work week back to something considerably less. We seem to be in a state of conflict as our economy values less & less the simple punching of the clock and more the value of ideas, but culture hasn’t really embraced that except in certain areas.Report

              • notme in reply to Joe Sal says:

                When needs become rights all you have to do is wake up and expect the govt will provide for you.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to notme says:

                No matter the ideologic fog it’s fairly safe bet the first ‘rights’ struggle in the morning is to find the coffee.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to veronica d says:

                The current state of capitalism will/has likely hit a bad patch. I don’t know how the transition will occur. There was a slice of time in american manufacturing when cottage industries made individual producers pretty wealthy, that might be a good model to shoot for.
                I really think the population has become too settled on these layers of production. It’s almost like the rank and file expects cubicles and an in and out box. Threading the needle may be a tough one.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to veronica d says:

        The Foxconn thing was a manufactured scandal. First, Foxconn has nearly half a million employees at that facility. 14 of the 18 suicides occurred in a three-month cluster between March and May 2010. Call it 3 per 100,000 that year, or 12 per 100,000 if we annualize the rate for just those three months. That’s roughly the annual suicide rate in the US, and a bit over half the annual suicide rate in China. The remarkable thing, really, is how low the suicide rate for workers at that Foxconn facility has been outside of that three-month period, averaging about 2-3 per year, or less than one per 100,000.

        One thing you won’t hear from the xenophobic left is that Foxconn had a policy of making a very large payment (multiple years’ wages) to the families of workers who died. Yes, they installed suicide nets, but they also stopped giving these payments to the families of workers who committed suicide. This is speculative, but my guess is that when one worker committed suicide, the other workers got wind of the payout his or her family received. In any sufficiently large population of people, a certain percentage are going to be be depressed and contemplating suicide, and this may have pushed some over the edge.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to j r says:

      Right. particularly when China just got a minimum wage. (not sure about enforcement — you got data?)Report

  6. Michael Drew says:


  7. Joe Sal says:

    Republican Workers’ Party is just another social construct. If all workers divested out of social constructs and invested in individual constructs, they could collapse the entire rent seeking Leviathan.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    If I may, a digression that attempts to tie this into the ad hominem thing, the counter-argument of “you’re using moral language to try to persuade me to do something in your interest that is also against my interest” has been haunting me lately.

    Assuming this counter-argument is accurate, it’s 100% beside the point of whether the original argument is valid/invalid/sound/unsound… but it is tapping into something that is unpleasant anyway and may even be unpleasant to the point where it ought to be avoided.

    But maybe my saying that is in my interest and against yours.Report

  9. b-psycho says:

    “Republican workers party”

    There’s currently a group calling themselves “traditionalist workers party” — they’re open white supremacists.Report

  10. Marchmaine says:

    Now that the froth is over…

    I’ll pull my inner- @jaybird and ask whether it’s at least fair to assess the various Global trade agreements after 20-years of policy experiments, and judge them against the stated goals of their architects?

    There was some of this around 2014, but it seems to have been somewhat quietly swept away owing to the weird Presidential dynamics.

    President Clinton I (1993):

    Our agenda must, therefore, be far reaching. We are determining that dynamic trade cannot lead to environmental despoliation. We will seek new institutional arrangements to ensure that trade leaves the world cleaner than before. We will press for workers in all countries to secure rights that we now take for granted, to organize and earn a decent living. We will insist that expanded trade be fair to our businesses and to our regions. No country should use cartels, subsidies, or rules of entry to keep our products off its shelves. And we must see to it that our citizens have the personal security to confidently participate in this new era. Every worker must receive the education and training he or she needs to reap the rewards of international competition rather than to bear its burdens.

    I actually think its a really good speech… but its a little bit like some of the EU research I did. It appears that measuring legislation (once it has been passed) for effectiveness is something of an after thought. There’s certainly some info, like here and an anemic little “fact sheet” about the great successes as of 2006 and a benefits list (again from 2006) that is clearly borrowing from the same Q gospel.

    Even the as the Council of Foreign Relations trumpets the success of NAFTA, there are embedded at least a few quibbles:

    Critics of the deal, however, argue that it is to blame for job losses and wage stagnation in the United States, driven by low-wage competition, companies moving production to Mexico to lower costs, and a widening trade deficit. The U.S.-Mexico trade balance swung from a $1.7 billion U.S. surplus in 1993 to a $54 billion deficit by 2014.

    But Mexico’s NAFTA experience has suffered from a disconnect between the promises of some of its supporters—that the pact would deliver rapid growth, raise wages, and reduce emigration—and the deal’s more mixed outcomes. Between 1993 and 2013, Mexico’s economy grew at an average rate of just 1.3 percent a year during a period when Latin America was undergoing a major expansion. Poverty remains at the same levels as in 1994. And the expected “wage convergence” between U.S. and Mexican wages didn’t happen, with Mexico’s per capita income rising at an annual average of just 1.2 percent in that period—far slower than Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile, and Peru.

    Mexican unemployment also rose, which some economists have blamed on NAFTA for exposing Mexican farmers, especially corn producers, to competition from heavily subsidized U.S. agriculture.

    What about Canada! i know we have some Canadians here, so you’ll be happy to know that it has had a very Canadian impact:

    Neither the worst fears of Canada’s trade opponents—that opening to trade would gut the country’s manufacturing sector—nor its highest hopes—that it would spark a rapid increase in productivity—came to pass.

    So, to what end all the fuss? Well, as others have said above, I don’t think anyone really is objecting to Global Trade; but like lots of governance issues, we seem to focus intently on a thing at one given moment, then once its decided, then that’s who we are: Globalists. The problem, as I see it, is that are we the Globalists that Bill Clinton promised? Or are we a new kind of Globalist? The kind that actually drives the day-to-day activity under the regulations and slowly shapes them to their advantage. And, now that that Globalist owns the definition and execution of Global Trade… who’s to gainsay or evaluate whether that’s the kind of Globalism we signed-up for or still want? This is the sort of thing Taibbi is getting at… and I’ve said before that in competent and capable hands, this assessment and course correction could be a powerful rhetorical tool – and neither party will escape intact.Report

    • J_A in reply to Marchmaine says:

      In my first job, back in the roaring eighties, I was given a fairly light and not directly related duty supporting the purchasing department with coding the purchases for custom duties purposes. I was given a copy of the Brussels Universal Custom Coding and when needed I would find the correct code for this or that screw or specialty paper.

      Those were the waning days of protectionism. The idea that every country should manufacture everything. Small differences in a screw tread would trigger duties of 20%, 100%, even 250%.

      Then the world changed. By the year 2000, 10% duties were already uncommonly high (we still use a flat 10% duties assumption in my job for budgeting purposes, but that includes port and handling charges that can be as high as 5% in some places).

      tl/dr. In the 1980 a free trade agreement like NAFTA was a huge deal for all parties involved because custom duties were a real trade barrier. By the time it was fully implemented, it was irrelevant. As far as I know, China only has Most Favoured Nation status, and it’s all it needs (is not a party of the TPP either). Today, Trade Agreements are more about things like intellectual property protection and trade in services than about customs and industry.

      Which means that there is also nothing for Trump to renegotiate with China. But we knew that already.Report