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News :: Globalization
The creep in the global cellar
12 Nov 2004
Still reeling from the election, a crowd of radical artists recently discussed the debacles in Ohio and Florida in a panel mistakenly called “What’s Next?” Lamentations over the demise of John Kerry clog the newswires of grassroots Indymedia outlets around the world. The world itself, from the Global South to the Social Democratic North, reacts with surprise and fear to the news of the President’s second term in office. But is Bush the real problem? Is he the root of all evil? Does anyone remember a little term called Globalization?
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“We need to face facts,” says Thad Williamson, co-author of “Making A Place for Community”( http://www.dollarsandsense.org/bookstore.html)and contributor to Dollars and Sense magazine, “If we get a Democrat in the next ten years, he will be a fiscal conservative.” The days of New Deal type reforms and the social welfare state are over, he asserts. The real threat to working people here in Massachusetts and the rest of the world is ‘globalization.’ A forgotten word.

Down in the heart of Chinatown, in an union owned building on Harrison Street, Mr, Williamson, Ellen Frank, author of “The Raw Deal” (http://www.beacon.org/catalogs/sp04/frank.html), and Jason Pramas of Mass Global Action spoke to a crowd of roughly ten.

Undaunted by the low turnout, Ellen Frank gave a concise rundown of the history behind the rollback of all social programs that W has been putting the final touches on. Skip it if you’re in the know,


-The rise of foreign competition in the 1970’s,

-The resulting flow of jobs from the Northern U.S. to the South where cheaper labor was to be had.

-The recession of the early 80’s that helped destroy the steel unions,

-The political consensus that formed then, under Reagan, to rout the Social safety net.

-NAFTA in 1992, that gave corporate assets protection from nationalization and certain taxes in the US, Mexico and Canada as well as eliminating protective tariffs (and eliminating thousands of US and Canadian jobs).

-The birth of the WTO as an enforcement body for the GATT agreements in 1994,

-The stripping of environmental laws, the loss of jobs, the lowering of real wages in the U.S., and the further exploitation of the third world that has taken place since then.


Today Bush is promising to privatize Social Security and replace the graduated income tax with a flat tax or national sales tax. The theory behind the rollback, says Frank, is that with low labor costs the US will be able to compete with countries like China on the world market. Frank believes there is a growing risk of instability that Bush hasn’t considered. American workers might not put up with it.

To bring this into perspective for Massachusetts residents, Jason Pramas presented the local effects of globalization.

Outsourcing, business relocation, and the mere threat of business relocation is hitting Massachusetts hard. Raytheon nabbed tax breaks and still moved their operations to Arizona, Power One moved halfway around the world to China. In the three years since March 2001 Massachusetts employment in information services has fallen 24.1%, in Manufacturing 20.3%. The wage gap is now among the highest in the country. Three percent of the public workforce has been let go, including 8% of the Department of Social Services staff and 24% of the Environmental Protection workforce. In the 2005 budget, housing is taking a 19% cut, Health and mental care has been level funded, and despite a $1 Billion dollar budget shortfall, Romney is still calling for tax cuts. All of this is compounded by a cost of living that is 15% above the national average.

Pramas cited several examples of the trends in recent local news reports, including these alarming stories:

Hub schools’ tutoring program in jeopardy ( http://www.baystatebanner.com/story%20archives/October%202104-1.htm )

More students take out loans to pay for rising college costs
( http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=49947 )

Putnam eliminates nearly 70 area jobs
(http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2004/10/22/putnam_eliminates_nea/ )

Franklin schools’ budget override fails
(http://www2.townonline.com/bellingham/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=12 )

Retirement isn't the end of it all: Many elders find they must work
(http://www.dailynewstribune.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=43777 )

According to Pramas, globalization has definitely hit the Bay State. He left it to Author and Phd Thad Williamson to try and put a silver lining on the evening and speak about alternatives.

After reminding us that progressives will have no voice on the national scene for at least ten years Williamson gave the first positive news of the evening:

“We are not powerless.”

As an interesting alternative to the idea of red states versus blue states Williamson sets up a dichotomy between capital and “particular places.” Because capital is mobile it can affect local economies by moving away or by the mere threat of moving away. It instigates bidding wars between governors and local officials of competing states for incentives to locate facilities, often causing politicians who depend on job creation for re-election, to overbid. Some types of businesses cannot use this threat. Universities are an example, so are certain ports and tourist attractions. University towns almost always vote to the left of the dial. According to Williamson, this is because they have that fixed, rooted capital.

“The #1 threat has been taken away,” says Williamson, meaning job security. In other towns and in the country, business dominates, politicians go along, and people are unknowingly caught in the trap. Williamson comes up with five ways that we can defend ourselves from this neo-liberal model that Bush and Co. are pushing and promote the growth of more municipalities that have fixed, rooted capital. Some are traditional and some are new alternatives.

1. Public Investment in Universities or State and Federal jobs.

2. Economic Development Policies- like building human capital through education and community based job training, or building infrastructure like mass transportation.

3. Keep money here- buy locally, build business to business buyer-supplier networks locally, halt privatization and corporate chains.

4. Build up different forms of capital ownership that are tied to the community and place. Some examples would be:

a. Small businesses
b. Worker owned firms
c. Firms owned by community groups
d. State owned public enterprises (like city owned cable TV or city owned equity shares in new industries)
e. Using union controlled pension funds for community investment instead of stock market investment, akin to Canada’s Solidarity Worker Funds

5. Halt suburban sprawl. Because, “When you live your life in an airport you don’t want to bother with something like community when you get home from work, you want to hide away.”

As an example of a way to increase worker ownership Williamson cited the Employee Ownership Center at Kent State in Ohio. That group helps to build worker co-ops at a cost of roughly $500 per job creation. By contrast, the bidding wars incited by large corporations have gone as high as $100,000 per job creation.

It is time for activists to think not only of the atrocities that are happening overseas, but also about shoring up the backyard. Social Security and the graduated tax system are about all we have left of the Social safety net. If we do not protect ourselves, and our less fortunate next-door neighbors, we will eventually find ourselves living in a place just like the ones we hear about daily in the news. And when we do line up against the WTO, the GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA, the FTAA, and other trade treaties that supercede our own American legislation in the name of big business, we are also standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.

This work is in the public domain.
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Comments

Re: The creep in the global cellar
14 Nov 2004
wow, i wish i'd known abotu this talk, sounds facinating, and i've been thinking about alot of this stuff lately. . . .how might more people get into knowing the difference between local and corporate, and that their money that they spend determines whether or not the former will exist? how can capital be garnered for the starting fo woker co-ops(fer instance), and how can the public be encouraged to go to the worker co-op and not the corporate chain for their goods? thoughts?
Re: The creep in the global cellar
15 Nov 2004
One thought is the example of worker pension funds talked about above. Another that I just heard about and will be writing more about is community investment funds instead of stock mkt investment. There is one up in vermont called green mountain fund or something like that. When I get a chance I will be interviewing them....
Re: The creep in the global cellar
24 Nov 2004
But isn't this what all of the Marxists called for? This is the one world government that Karl Marx wished and worked toward.
Re: Upside down Economy via Free Trade
12 Mar 2005
Free Trade has brought us economic decay across the board. The economic model of the 1970s can be related to the cost of a First Class Stamp. It was 8 cents back then. The Post Office Department uses comparisons with the rest of the economy each time they go for a raise. They note how a car cost ten times more today but they do not ever compare the wages. Wages have been deflated. Unemployment back then was based on primarily full time jobs. Today there are only about 88 million full time jobs out of about 188 million workers.
In the 1980s, the computer revolution was in high gear. Our city was leading the way in high tech industries. Then Free Trade took over and high tech took a big fall. I witnessed a thousand or more competitors in the computer industry in a tri-state area go out of business. Soon after President Clinton took office in about 1993-94, over a million people lost their jobs in the computer industry. IBM and ATT/NCR together laid off 350,000 workers just between the two of them. Then in 1998, while President Clinton was proclaiming a statistical prosperity at least 250,000 lost their jobs in high tech. The Globla economy was supposedly about old industries closing down - and they did- but people still use most of all the same products and the only difference being the products are made outside the USA. For more information and unique data from the streets of USA, see Tapart News and Art that Talks at http://tapartnews.filetap.com or http://tapsnewstory.filetap.com featuring top newspaper story featuring the American Dream is Burning by Ray Tapajna.
beach
30 May 2006
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beach
03 Jun 2006
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