Free trade advocates claim that globalization creates increased prosperity. It does, for corporations and their stockholders. Examining the current economic recovery, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained, “The new Commerce data confirm that the current recovery has been relatively slow and very uneven, with workers receiving an unusually small share of the income gains and corporations receiving an exceptionally large share of the income gains. The nature of the recovery is thus likely to aggravate income disparities. Corporate profits tend to benefit those with the highest incomes, through increased dividends and capital gains. In contrast, middle and low-income Americans receive most of their incomes through wages and salaries, which are now lagging behind.” The Center’s analysis yields the following chart:
As the Census Bureau explained, “[F]actors related to the downward trend in wages of less-educated workers include intensifying global competition and immigration, the decline of the proportion of workers belonging to unions, the decline in the real value of the minimum wage;” their figures show how the gap between rich and poor has already risen:
Meanwhile, corporations bear a reduced portion of the burden for their own labor and environmental exploitation. In his “Presentation to the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform” on 8 March 2005, Douglas A. Shackelford of the University of North Carolina included this chart, showing how corporate taxes have decreased both as a portion of GDP and federal tax revenue:
Shackleford specifically cited international competition as a reason for the decreased revenue. Globalization as a means to increased prosperity then becomes another flavor of the old “trickle down” theory, which has never worked to improve the condition of anyone but the rich. Meanwhile, economic disruptions have meant that three times over the past twenty-five years, job growth has not only failed to keep up with population growth but actually gone negative (data from Bruce F. Bendall and the Census Bureau):
Economists call it “restructuring” and cast it as a good thing. But what it means is that to have any hope of remaining in demand over the last twenty-five years, workers would have to have acquired new skills three times, an average of once every eight years. What does this mean? Does it mean that they are to go to college, and rack up a bunch of student loan debt, every eight years? How, exactly, are people supposed to do this?
The background image in that chart, by the way, was taken as a prank, during the depression. I don’t know how you explain laughing about something like this without minimizing a huge amount of suffering. We idolize the rich and diminish the poor, in this country; this makes us more likely to adopt the values of the rich — including “trickle down” theory.
But preferring corporations to people has other costs. Corporate greed has driven U.S. foreign policy (data from globalsecurity.org and the Federation of American Scientists; background image from Joe Rosenthal):
People are fighting and dying to advance the very corporate interest that impoverishes us at home.