This is another piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, commenting and explaining a piece by Dean Baker of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. The article, ‘Inequality as Policy: Selective Trade Protectionism Favors High Earners’, critically examines the way free trade deals are designed to protect high earners’ jobs, while making those of the workers more insecure. Baker comments that while offshoring has harmed working class jobs in America, white collar jobs and intellectual property have been ‘robustly protected’. Baker states that while globalisation and the introduction of greater mechanisation are cited as the main causes of increased inequality over the past few decades, they’re viewed as the natural products of the way the economy operates, rather than as the results of deliberate policies.
Dore criticises the rightwing attitude towards the free market, which claims that this is a natural mechanism. He instead argues that markets are invented by rich people, and deliberately given a set of rules by the rich to protect themselves. You can have a policy that favours workers, and decreases inequality, just as you can have a policy that favours the wealthy and increases inequality. Baker explicitly states that the course of globalisation and the rewards of technological innovation are the results of policy. The greater inequality they have created is the result of conscious choices determining policy. Dore states that ‘you don’t have to sell out your own people’ as under the TPP to send job to poor people, who are in a worse position that American workers. Dore quotes Baker on the fact that Free Trade deals put American workers in competition with their counterparts elsewhere, who are paid much less, and whose products are then imported back into the US. In other words, American working class jobs are offshored, just as they are here in Britain through the adoption of similar policies by New Labour and the Tories. Dore considers how NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – resulted in the lifting of trade tariffs between America and Mexico, so that the big agricultural businesses went south of the border to use cheap Mexican labour, and shipped the fruit, Vegetables and other products back into the US. This only benefits the owners of industry. It hurts the workers, and it hurts the US economy, as the workers have less money to spend on the domestic economy. The result of this, which has been predicted, is to lower wages from manufacturing workers, and workers without a college education, as they are forced to crowd into the remaining areas of the economy.
Doctors’ jobs, by contrast, are protected. Foreign-trained doctors cannot practise in the US without them completing a residency programme first, and the numbers in this, as for foreign medical students, is consciously limited. Baker notes that this form of protectionism goes unchallenged despite the elimination of the barriers on trade and trade goods elsewhere in the economy. Doctors in the US thus earn $250,000 a year, twice as much as those in other wealthy countries. The cost to America is $100 billion a year in higher medical bills compared to those of other countries. Baker states that economists, including trade economists, have chosen to ignore the barriers that sustain high professional pay at enormous economic cost. Members of Dore’s crew make the point that American doctors aren’t paid more because they’re better than those elsewhere, but on the other hand, the doctors elsewhere in the developed world don’t have ‘a ton of debt’ from medical school. They also talk about the immense bureaucracy that ties up doctors through the insurance-driven American healthcare, which simply doesn’t exist under single-payer systems. The crew members talks about a doctor he knew in Chicago, who raged against the insurance companies because of the immense amount of time he had to spend with them ensuring the patient got treated.
Baker’s article also states that scientific and statistical analysis shows that economic elites and business interests have an impact on government economic policy. By contrast, average citizens and mass-based groups have little independent influence. In other words, government policy is written by the wealthy. The result of this has been to redistribute wealth to the rich over the past four decades. Other ways in which the market has been manipulated at the expense of the middle and lower classes is through macroeconomic policies that deliberately result in high unemployment. Baker recognises that tax policies designed to redistribute wealth are desirable, it should also be understood that economic policies have also been designed to increase inequality. He states that it is easier to have an economic which automatically reduces inequality, than one which produces inequality, which then has to be remedied through redistributive taxation.
Dore states that Trump is correct when he describes how American trade policy has destroyed workers’ jobs in America. However, is he is ‘100 per cent wrong’ when he wants to use the same managers and owners, who have designed these policies, somehow to produce a replacement, as these corporate industrialists have no loyalty to America, only their company. Dore’s crew states that America has suffered, as it’s become a service economy whose people can no longer afford the services, thanks to the gutting of the middle classes. And Dore himself says he gets tweets asking where he gets the information that half the country is poor – which it is. He then advises his interrogators to google the statement ‘half the country is poor’. This isn’t hidden, privileged information. It’s obvious, and deliberately designed.
All of this applies to Britain. The TPP being pushed by the Tories, and which will doubtless receive the backing of the Blairites in the Labour party, will also have the effect of offshoring more British jobs in our dwindling manufacturing and service industries. And thanks to the creeping privatisation of the NHS and the introduction of student fees by the Blairites, which were then raised by the Tories and Lib Dems, our student doctors are also saddled with massive medical fees. And our doctors and medical professionals are similarly being tied up with paperwork thanks to the deliberate introduction by New Labour of medical insurance companies, based on the system used by Kaiser Permanente in America, that also determine where and how patients are treated.
It’s disgusting, and the result of four decades of free market ideology beginning with Thatcher and Reagan, and now carried on by Obama and Shrillary in America, and the Blairites, Lib Dems, David Cameron and his successor, Theresa May, over here.
They have to be turfed out of parliament. All of them.