The article in question admits (which is the only way I can put it — admits) that we in America have been in recession essentially since 1999, as measured by manufacturing job losses. The financial crisis of 2008 is only an extension of the acute bleeding of jobs overseas that began after the H.W. Bush-Clinton years, i.e., NAFTA and trade agreements with China. It remains to be seen if we’ve really put this job loss behind us.
When the dotcom bubble burst, and with 9/11 on its heels, a housing bubble and wars were the economic answers to the growing crisis, but all of this just set up an even worse situation that we now are living through.
The current response is only more of the same: propping up an exploitative and destructive system that benefits those in power — and I don’t mean government leaders, but the true power brokers of global capitalism. It is increasingly clear that elected officials are pawns in the game. A president or a majority leader might be a knight or a rook, maybe a bishop. You’ll rarely glimpse the queen and king in the background, which I would liken not to individuals but multidirectional composites of the driving forces of the system itself.
As one who worked in retail warehousing during the time when manufacturing jobs really started taking a hit, it was mind-boggling how nearly everything being sold in retail went from a balance of sources to almost exclusively Chinese in origin, almost with a snap of the fingers and with few exceptions, like household chemicals. We, the workers who moved goods from point A to point B, we saw it. Yes, we were selling more than ever before, but it wasn’t being made by us.
We all saw the massive shedding of manufacturing jobs and especially that within the heavy industries. Mills and foundries closed down, buildings lay dormant. What manufacturing remained was increasingly light-industrial, less and less the processing of raw materials which is considered by some the backbone of any manufacturing base.
Much of the work that remained amounted to assembling in America what had largely been produced elsewhere. Much of it was the mere moving of the vast increase in foreign-made goods from ship to truck to warehouse to big box store.
I expect, though I can’t claim expert knowledge, that any numbers economists use to show U.S. manufacturing production increases during this period are fuzzy numbers, counting one-and-a-half times what really came from overseas. Such a thing serves the narrative of bankers and corporate empires, but it simply does not reflect the reality on the ground that Midwesterners know firsthand.
Those jobs are not coming back, and we know where they went. Not machine labor and increased efficiencies, but cheap, foreign labor often under poor conditions allowing for an unfair competitive advantage drew jobs from Americans. I don’t write that as one who is against trade between peoples but as one who is against exploitation. Yes, it caused a prosperity boom in the short term, but the long-term effect is more exploitation of people’s lives both abroad and at home.
It is this system we are currently engaged in — not fixing — but retaining. Keeping it from imploding and/or exploding. There is no fixing it. It is what it is. It produces inequities by its very nature. That’s why there’s no one really to blame. Accusations of greed are only scapegoating tactics in the name of retaining the system.
Current debates center on whether or not to be more or less humane about these inherent inequities, on how much should be shared with the little people to keep things from sparking, and a smart capitalist knows that inhumane capitalism risks revolutionary upheaval.
By this standard, Obama is among the smarter capitalists. You can extrapolate who the dumb ones might be. Indeed, the next election is all about who are the smartest capitalists in the bunch.