A quick inventory of the presents under the tree is probably as good as any statistical analysis for telling us who’s the current leader in the global economy’s race to the bottom. This year it’s not even close. The clear winner: China! Come on down!
Our big-ticket item was the new Sylvania™ DVD player, a present for the whole family from Santa. It had “Made in China” stamped in bold letters on the carton. But the DVD player was just the start. My granddaughter’s teddy bear was also made in China. So too was her cute little Dirt Devil™ Junior Upright vacuum cleaner. And her “Alphabet Art Puzzle”™ with its scripted message from Melissa and Doug: “We care about your comments, please call us!” (To be scrupulously fair, the puzzle is marked “Made in Taiwan.”) And our new Rival™ toaster. And that pretty new dress for my daughter. And my new toothbrush. And the bag clips we used to close the snack mix.
So China was this year’s winner, hands down. According to a report just released, China’s exports were up a whopping 22 per cent for the first eleven months of 2002! The big loser seems to be Mexico. Two years ago, we were all humming “Feliz Navidad!” Many of the items under the tree then were made in Tijuana, Juarez, Mexicali, and Nogales. Literally thousands of U.S. manufacturers, over the past two decades, had closed down their U.S. plants and moved just across the border, where they could not only pay much lower wages and lower taxes, but they didn’t have to worry about unions, health and safety regulations, or environmental damage. Now, however, those same corporations are pulling up stakes in Mexico and moving to China. A starting machine operator in China makes less than $2 a day, while that Mexican operator made almost $8 a day. As a consequence, more than a quarter of a million Mexican factory workers have lost their jobs in the past two years. (Jobs originally lost, of course, by workers in the U.S. and Canada; it’s a slow-motion case of musical chairs.)
All of this has come about through the push for “free trade.” The worthless lot we call political leaders are owned by multinational corporations and investors. And the “New Democrats” are as bad as the Republicans. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were first-team cheerleaders for the globalization of trade.
“Free markets” is a pretty-sounding way of saying “capitalism with no holds barred.” The motives of the “free traders” are greed and power; their real agenda is tax cuts, union-busting, deregulation, and “tort reform” (since law suits are one of the few remaining means for holding them accountable). As long as they can keep us bamboozled with phony issues like gun control and military escapades like the invasions of Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, they can continue to play cowboy and ride tall in the saddle.
That “giant sucking sound” you hear? It’s not just my granddaughter’s vacuum cleaner.
© Tony Russell, 2003