Democrats & Liberals Archives

Trade Jobs for Education

Where is the Win/Win deal that will resolve the jobs deficit and put trade back where it belongs in the grand scheme of things in our economy? By win/win I mean everybody wins, including those in the newly growing economies in India and China and those in the parts of the world previously known as industrialized.

It is not in the protection of jobs here that such a prospect can exist, although it will require either slower job losses or faster job creation than we have seen lately. It is not in the creation of an economy here and elsewhere in the more developed world that is dependent on other nations for the production of everything. It is not in the reduction of middle class programmers into McDonalds’ burger flippers as we have done with production workers in the recent past. So where is this grand idea that combines growth in the poorer nations with prosperity here and in Europe? If you think that is an easy question to answer you are delusional beyond anything drugs can help reduce.

When we moved people off the farms too fast, because the smaller farms like the one owned by my grandparents were quickly becoming economically unviable, we wound up with a depression that lasted for over a decade. As long as people had jobs they were able to do OK but those without them lived lives of horrible deprivation and in ugly circumstances. Jobs were expanding during much of the depression but could not keep up with the population growth and exodus of the younger people from rural America. We made some mistakes in international trade then and wound up in a trade war that hurt every economy involved in some way. WWII devastated Europe and ended trade wars as national policy until now.

Now there is pressure on candidates to apply standards to international trade that will slow down the job exporting express leaving our shores daily. I don’t believe that most protectionist schemes are likely to work. Like others I am stymied by the way this economy is unraveling, from the bottom up. That is a hard process to stop now that it has begun. The poorer working classes in this nation have suffered most of the problems up to now, but the middle class is beginning to catch a chill of things to come.

We have sacrificed a lot of what has kept the middle class viable in the last several years, on the altar of globalization. We badly need something to replace that basis for an economic middle with something new; corporate jobs will no longer suffice. Corporations on the scale of the multinationals cannot compete by paying high wages here for jobs that can be preformed elsewhere for pennies on the dollar. The global economy cannot easily be disassembled. Not in a world where we depend on it for basic things like fuel and other raw materials. We now need it to provide the finished goods that drive our consumer based economy. To attempt such a disassembly is to recreate a world of trade wars. They most likely will lead to another world war, probably one war more than the human race can afford.

Education has devolved here, over the last seventy years, into a means of training people to work in corporate roles that are now quickly disappearing abroad. Being middle class in this nation, before the economy forced a lot of people into cities, meant that you were engaged in trade. Jobs did not commonly provide an income that allowed for middle class pretensions to exist before 1920. Entrepreneurs were everywhere and the Yankee Trader was a proud symbol of our national obsession with trade. My uncle, who let my family live in his house for many years, used to play a game with me. The game was called “what do you have in your pocket”? I learned early that some things were worth money and occasionally I could get money just for letting him look at something really interesting. Does anybody in this nation play those games with kids anymore? We traded marbles at school and I wrestled bigger kids for a penny at lunch more than once while my peers hid us combatants from the nuns. Betting was sometimes heavy on the bigger kid; like Pete Rose I bet on myself. That part of my education was at least as important as the one I got inside the classroom walls.

We need to change something in how we train our children to survive in this wild and wooly world of international trade. Our educational system needs to turn out more entrepreneurs and traders that know the value of a penny lest our penny become worthless in a world of traders. The unraveling of the Corporate job dependent economy here will inevitably take place. Whether it happens by jobs moving offshore at the command of our corporations or the replacement of those corporations by others that can take advantage of lower costs of labor it will still occur. That is, it will happen unless we precipitate a trade war with the outside world. That way lies economic depression and social devastation. Trade wars will quite possibly precipitate a worldwide war that will truly end all wars in the only way that seems likely, the extermination of humanity.

It is indeed a serious dilemma that our political leaders face today in regard to the issue of international trade. It is no wonder that those who help us choose our President by backing candidates with corporate money are betting on free trade, there are no real other choices left that I can detect. We need to reinstate the values related to trade into the culture and educational system or we will face demotion to a second class society in a world that treats such nations badly. It is not possible to protect our children and grandchildren from the world of free trade, we must equip them to deal with it.

Now I cannot assure you that anything we can do will end the problem of job losses, but the one thing that I can assure you of is that the freedom to be found outside the corporate shield is wonderful. My wife and I have both lived lives as entrepreneurs and it has rewarded us greatly; not in money so much as in a life full of interesting events and powerful experiences. Our children and grandchildren will be equipped to deal with these changes but we need to change our society to reflect the need for entrepreneurs, one family cannot do it all. Please reflect on this need for people ready and willing to take their destiny into their own hands and pull this society up by its bootstraps. It is the most certain solution to the problems created by free trade. We must recreate ourselves as a nation of traders who know when to buy and when to sell and who can find out what is in our uncle’s pocket and what its worth. Cronyism has no place in such a world and wars will not get us there by protecting our “national interests” against the Saddam’s of the world. Only in teaching our kids to rely on themselves for their income and their society’s outcome will we prosper once again. God bless and keep you all safe and prosperous in this strange new world where old values will make us stronger.

Posted by Henri Reynard at February 21, 2004 11:51 AM