The Weathervane


Thomas Friedman often serves as the weathervane for elite opinion. Friedman’s article, where he urges Hillary to double down on neoliberal dogma in order to thwart the evil Donald, reminds us that after all that’s happened in the 2016 election, our elite remain clueless. Along those lines, his employer, The NY Times, continues its descent into irrelevance, where its main purpose seems to flatter the 1% and continue the fiction of their merit to society.

Matt Taibbi, who writes for a music magazine, has emerged as one of the most trenchant critics of American economic, political and foreign policies. Taibbi, who christened Friedman, Flathead, says that Friedman’s purpose at the Times is to serve as the elite defender of globalization.

“We never really had a referendum on globalization in America. It just sort of happened. People had jobs one day, then the next morning they were fired, replaced by 14-year-olds in Indonesia or sweatshop laborers in Bangladesh, working in unsafe hell-holes without overtime or health care, beaten when they don’t make quotas.

Globalization in the snap of a finger essentially erased nearly two centuries of America’s bloody labor history. It’s as if the Thibodeaux Massacre, the hangings of the Molly McGuires, the Pullman Strike, the L.A. Times bombing, the Flint sit-in and thousands of other strikes and confrontations never took place.

The problem is that the major parties in the United States in particular seem almost totally disinterested in addressing the inequities of globalism. That’s because conventional wisdom is still stuck in the Friedman stage of telling people that if they’re troubled by the global economy, they’re just afraid of the future.”

And, here we are, with a Republican candidate–Trump–who has largely appealed to Republican voters who’ve been left behind by globalization.

To really understand the costs of globalization it’s nessessary to visit the flyover regions of America–Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, etc. Countless shuttered factories, depressed and often nearly abandoned towns and cities, and populations overtaken by unemployment and the social breakdown that goes with it. The bleakness of the post-NAFTA industrial landscape is heartbreaking, but often completely hidden from view, especially for elites on the East and West coasts.

Like I’ve said before and will say again– economic insecurity does strange things to a society.

Defenders of globalization love to point to foreign workers in India or China and lecture you on your lack of empathy. Yeah, right. Since when do corporations, who are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, give a rats-ass about foreign workers? After all, there’s that little detail of fiduciary responsibility that gets in the way of any concern except the bottom line.

Taibbi seems to be drinking from the same stream of consciousness on globalization so I’m going to quote big chunks of his latest article.

“Like Marxism, globalization is a borderless utopian religion. Its adherents almost by definition have to reject advocacy for the citizens of one country over another. Just as “Socialism in One Country” was an anathema to classic Marxists, “prosperity in one country” is an anathema to globalists, no matter what their politicians might say during election seasons.

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. 

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. Moreover, they certainly didn’t elect leaders to push such policies.

The problem with all of this is that the Democrats went so far in the direction of advocacy for the global religion that they made something as idiotic as the rise of unabashed nativist Donald Trump possible. 

Worse, Trump’s rise will give the Globalist Faith Militant an automatic argument for more time. They will decry any criticism of free trade or globalization as racist Trumpism, and Trump is such a galactic jackass that this will work, his vast inventory of offensive bleatings discrediting even the legitimate economic concerns of his voters.

But to deny that something needs to be done, and to ask American voters to keep having faith in this “we’ll all see gains in the end” fairytale that so far has very conspicuously only delivered gains to a tiny group of very wealthy people in this country, will do nothing but drive more workers into the Trump tent. 

And maybe the next strongman those voters pick to lead them out of the wilderness won’t be quite as huge an idiot, or as suicidal a campaigner, as Trump. Sooner or later, failing to deal with these questions is going to come back and bite all of us.”

Like a skunk at a dinner party, Trump has managed to unite the entire strata of the establishment and their media cheerleaders in opposition by exposing the rottenness in American political, economic, and foreign policies. The gang that’s oh, so horrified about Trump’s boorish behavior are the same ones who assured us that invading Iraq over nonexistent weapons of mass-destruction was the proper thing, and that bailing out banks instead of homeowners in the wake of the Wall Street crash avoided moral hazard.

While we’re lectured constantly on upping our game to succeed in the globalized marketplace, the neoconservative and neoliberal elites who were responsible for the biggest foreign policy and economic disasters in US history have escaped accountability with glib justifications of  how we should “look forward and not backward.”

Defenders of globalization, like Friedman, wondering where a monster like Trump came from should take a look in the mirror.

Update: “The White House put Congress on notice Friday morning that it will be sending lawmakers a bill to implement President Barack Obama’s landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a move intended to infuse new energy into efforts to ratify the flat-lining trade pact.” [Politico].

What’s that adage about doing the same thing and expecting different results? Oh, yeah, insanity. And, this is your Democratic president–Mr. Hope and Change.



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