News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: What does American politics breed abroad?

Monday, September 26, 2005

What does American politics breed abroad?

The current standards of living in the west are built on the backs of billions of the poor, many of whom go hungry every day. The average yearly income of workers in the US has stagnated, Even under Clinton--when unemployment decreased and wages rose--the annual income was still 10 percent less than under Reagan.

The suffering I am talking about occurs in those countries which are raped by American neoliberal policies. It is without a doubt true that fat-assed American live off the emaciated and dying bodies of the young in poor countries.

The planet does not have enough resources to support the existence of current rates of consumption by the US, western Europe and Japan. How many more fat-assed Americans can the poor old globe support?

Some will say that American Yankee ingenuity will solve these problems. But you can't build and innovate when there's nothing to build or innovate with. There are numerous empires that have collapsed due to their rapacious exploitation of the natural world.

I wonder whether you have heard the story of the assistant soccer coach, Jim Keady, from St. John's University. He criticized the use of Nike emlblems on the shirts of SJ's soccer players because of the suffering caused by Nike business practices abroad. He was asked to leave the coaching staff. Instead of hiding away and licking his wounds, he decided to move to Jakarta and take up one of those jobs that you so glorify. He lived on the wage paid and lived as those who work in these places do. In a month's time he beagn to suffer from lack of food, as well as other health problems (with no healthcare provided!). He later came back and published his work.

I do not have to go far to find sweatshop conditions. They are alive and well even in the great US of A. I remember visiting a manufacturing plant in southern NM and wondering whether I was still in America. They even had the "guard tower" in the plant which used to observe the workers to make sure they were doing their jobs. The lead engineer spoke proudly of having not used the tower for several years. He said this as we stood amid towering barrels of deadly chemicals and as forklifts careened quickly through very tight passages in between workers and these chemicals.

Just to finish up, I quote from an interview with Robert Pollin recently published on the web:

"[W]hen neoliberal policies were implemented in India, small farmers in India were made substantially worse off on average. They lost trade protection, access to cheap credit and fertilizer, and technical support from agrarian extension services. They correspondingly felt increasing pressure to produce cash crops for exports rather than stable crops that would, at all costs, keep themselves and their families afloat. They were set up to fail, especially when the global prices of their cash crops, such as cotton, declined. When they did fail, lots of them felt desperate enough to commit suicide. It's a terrible tragedy."

. . . . . . . . . . . .
"India , and especially China, have indeed grown rapidly over the 1980s-1990s, what I termed the neoliberal era. But this cannot be seen as an endorsement of neoliberalism. This is true in the most obvious sense since, as I emphasize in the book, that China has not followed neoliberalism at all. They may do so in the future, but, to date, they remain a highly state-controlled economy, while at the same time allowing private investment to flourish alongside the strong state. This economic policy framework is made clear in another outstanding recent U Mass economics Ph.D., by Minqi Li. Obviously there are some useful lessons there for developing countries that want to grow, even while recognizing the brutality of the Chinese regime on many fronts, including conditions for workers.

The story in India is somewhat more ambiguous, but one thing that is clear is that the growth in India began in the 1980s, before the neoliberal policy interventions were implemented. As for Kerala, this is a case not of neoliberal interventions but quite the opposite. They have low infant mortality rates because they have an extensive and effective welfare state that provides for people's basic needs. The region of Bengal has also been controlled by the Communists for a generation now.

Taking the developing world as a whole, the story about the effects of neoliberalism are inescapable. It is [sic!] [has] led to declining average growth, increased poverty and inequality, unambiguously so if you leave China out of the calculation. Lots of honest researchers at the World Bank do not dispute these trends."

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