Reports from the Economic Front

by Martin Hart-Landsberg

Still The World’s Top Military Spender

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According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, the United States remains the world’s top military spender. In fact, U.S. military spending equals the combined military spending of the next ten countries.  And most of those are U.S. allies.

Top 15

Although declining in real terms, the U.S. military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources.  As the following chart shows, military spending absorbs 57% of our federal discretionary budget.

discretionary spending

 Notice that many so-called non-military discretionary budget categories also include military related spending. For example: Veteran’s Benefits, International Affairs, Energy and the Environment, and Science.   We certainly seem focused on a certain kind of security.


Written by marty

July 17th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Africa And Globalization

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Economists continue to celebrate the free movement of goods, services, and capital.  However, faced with slowing economic conditions in core countries, it is now third world growth that is highlighted as proof of the gains from unregulated globalization.

As the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development points out:

The crisis and its fallout have accelerated the trend towards a greater role of developing countries in the world economy. Between 2006 and 2012, 74 per cent of world GDP growth was generated in developing countries and only 22 per cent in developed countries. This is in sharp contrast to their respective contributions to global growth in previous decades: developed countries accounted for 75 per cent of global growth in the 1980s and 1990s, but this fell to a little over 50 per cent between 2000 and 2006.

Africa, in particular, has become the new toast of investors.  A 2011 African Development Bank report celebrating the rise of the African middle class offers the following reason:

Strong economic growth in Africa over the past two decades has been accompanied by the emergence of a sizeable middle class and a significant reduction in poverty. Also rising strongly has been a robust growth in consumption expenditures as a result of this growing middle class.

The report estimates that Africa’s middle class reached “nearly 350 million people” in 2010.  And, as Jacques Enaudeau comments:

Since then the estimated number of middle class Africans has been arbitrarily set at 350 million, sometimes delivered as the more dramatic sound bite “one in three Africans”. The African Development Bank goes on to explain that, given their higher revenues from salaried jobs or small business ownership, and the ensuing economic security, “Africa’s emerging consumers are likely to assume the traditional role of the US and European middle classes as global consumers”.

Marketing is everything, well almost everything.  There are two big problems with this growing celebration of African progress and the free trade process said to be responsible.

The first problem concerns the African Development Bank’s definition of middle class.  The Bank defines the middle class as those with a daily consumption of between $2 and $20 in 2005 PPP (purchasing power parity) dollars.  At the lower end we are talking about a U.S. life style based on a yearly expenditure of $730!  It takes quite a stretch of imagination to see that as a middle class life style.

It turns out, according to Bank statistics, that 61% of Africans still live below the $2 a day poverty line.  Approximately 21% more live just above that amount, between $2 and $4 a day.  The Bank, while including them in the middle class, also calls them a “floating class.”  If we are being honest we would have to acknowledge that after decades of growth, more than 80% of Africa’s population still struggles with poverty.

Moreover, as Enaudeau also points out:

Also sobering is the geographical dispersion of the African Development Bank’s middle class: most of the African upper middle class (spending $10-$20 per day) lives in North Africa, which does not bode well with all the talk of frontier markets stimulated by a new white collar generation south of the Sahara.

The second problem concerns the forces driving Africa’s recent growth.  Africa remains highly dependent on the export of primary commodities.  China’s massive drive to export manufacturers has turned the country into a major consumer of primary commodities, pushing up their prices and serving as Africa’s main source of growth.  As the Asian Development Bank explains:

Developing Asia became a major commodity-consuming region during the last decade, turning the region into a net commodity importer. Its relative importance has increased even more since the 2008–2009 global financial crisis started, as the economies of the major industrial countries slowed significantly. . . .

The PRC [People's Republic of China] is Asia’s largest commodity consumer by far. It even overtook the US in the consumption of major metals and agricultural commodities in the late 2000s, making it the world’s largest consumer of many commodities. The PRC consumed in 2011 about 20% of nonrenewable energy resources, 23% of major agricultural crops, and 40% of base metals.

The PRC’s share of consumption of agricultural products, such as oilseed soybeans, doubled over the past decade, driven by a change in diet to foods richer in oil.

Unfortunately, growth based on the export of primary commodities tends to create few jobs.  Take Nigeria as an example.  As Jumoke explains

While the last decade was marked by higher economic growth, the unemployment rate actually increased from 5.8% in December 2006 to 23.9% in January 2012. Note that this number measures the percentage of workers actively looking for work, and does not include the rate of the chronically unemployed who have stopped looking, and the underemployed working poor. Tellingly, the poverty rate actually doubled over the last five years and now affects 112 million Nigerians, meaning that 112 million Nigerians are consistently without food, clean water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education.

Moreover, the steady decline in U.S. growth has meant a decline in Chinese exports to the United States and a fall in key commodity prices (see chart below).  Thus, Africa’s boom, such as it was, appears nearing the end.

commodity prices

Relying on market forces is not going to do it for Africa, or for that matter Latin America, whose growth was also fueled by primary commodity exports to Asia and is now declining, quickly undermining the economic gains of the past decade.  As the Wall Street Journal reports:

A decade long commodity boom in Latin America that lifted millions out of poverty is showing signs of fatigue, as fading demand in China hits consumers and corporate earnings from Bogotá to Brasilia.

If economists are looking to the third world to lead the way growth-wise, we are all going to be disappointed.


Written by marty

July 8th, 2014 at 3:42 am

A Four Day Work Week to Combat Stress

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Now here is an idea worth serious consideration—a four day work week to combat stress.

The Guardian newspaper reports:

One of Britain’s leading doctors has called for the country to switch to a four-day week to help combat high levels of work-related stress, let people spend more time with their families or exercising, and reduce unemployment.

Bringing the standard working week down from five to four days would also help address medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and the mental ill-health associated with overwork or lack of work, Prof John Ashton said.

The president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said the five-day week should be phased out to end what he called “a maldistribution of work” that is damaging many people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”,  Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.

Full article here.

Written by marty

July 2nd, 2014 at 11:13 am

The Money Is There!

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Growth is slow, job creation minimal, and real median earnings are in decline.  However, for a small group of powerful people things are just dandy.  The following chart from an Economic Policy Institute study highlights the enormous gains enjoyed by top CEOs relative to their production/nonsupervisory workers.

ceo compensation

The next chart, from a different Economic Policy Institute study, highlights one reason for the divergent economic experiences of those at the top and almost everyone else.

productivity and compensation

As we can see, companies have generally been successful in maintaining a steady growth in real net productivity.  They have also been successful in suppressing any increase in real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers.  The growing gap between the two trends is the basis for these divergent economic experiences.   Workers continue to create wealth but an ever greater share is being captured by those at the top.  

The New York Times offers this look at the recent movement in median household income.  Worthy of note is the fact that the decline continues despite the fact that the economy has officially been in expansion since June 2009.


As I previously discussed, a disproportionately large share of all new jobs created in the current economic expansion are low wage ones.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that growing numbers of people have concluded that economic expansion alone is insufficient to improve majority living and working conditions.

One consequence is the increasingly popular effort to push for a $15 an hour minimum wage. There are those that claim that such a high minimum wage is unthinkable.  However, as the chart below from a Huffington Post article shows, if the federal minimum wage in 1968 had been adjusted annually by the rate of productivity growth it would have reached $18.30 in 2013.

productivity and minimum wage

It is important to add that many of the firms employing the greatest number of low wage workers have also enjoyed above average rates of productivity growth.  One example is Walmart. As the New York Times explains

[Walmart] is a remarkably innovative exploiter of the latest technologies . . . The economists Barry Bosworth and Jack E. Triplett of the Brookings Institution find in a new book, “Productivity in the U.S. Services Sector” (Brookings Institution Press), that retailing in general has contributed substantially to the nation’s productivity boom since the mid-1990′s. And Wal-Mart is the industry leader.

The Seattle, Washington city council recently approved a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers in the city.  As the Guardian newspaper reports:

University of Washington study (pdf) commissioned by the council said the increase would benefit 100,000 people working in the city, reduce poverty by more than one quarter and save the government money by reducing the number of people claiming food stamps and other welfare payments. The pay of full-time workers on the existing minimum wage would increase by about $11,000 a year.

Opposition to the increase in Seattle has centered on claims that it will drive enterprises with slender profit margins out of business and force restaurants, which employ the largest number of minimum wage workers in the city, to lay off people.

But studies of significant minimum wage increases (pdf) in San Francisco, Santa Fe and San Jose show no evidence of job losses.

This is just one of many efforts by people to change the way our economy operates.  Hopefully these efforts will multiply and learn from each other, as well as broaden in terms of their constituencies and demands.

Written by marty

June 16th, 2014 at 9:05 am

Hipster Economics

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We have the money and the know how to tackle most of our social problems.  Certainly unemployment, houselessness, and poverty.  So, why don’t we?

In large part it is because our socially created wealth remains outside social control.  Critical economic decisions are driven by private interests not the public good.  One result is hipster economics.

If you are not familiar with hipster economics, I recommend Sarah Kendzior’s The Perils of Hipster Economics. Here is the first part:

The Perils of Hipster Economics

On May 16, an artist, a railway service and a government agency spent $291,978 to block poverty from the public eye.

Called psychylustro, German artist Katharina Grosse’s project is a large-scale work designed to distract Amtrak train riders from the dilapidated buildings and fallen factories of north Philadelphia. The city has a 28 percent poverty rate – the highest of any major US city – with much of it concentrated in the north. In some north Philadelphia elementary schools, nearly every child is living below the poverty line.

Grosse partnered with the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak to mask North Philadelphia’s hardship with a delightful view. The Wall Street Journal calls this “Fighting Urban Blight With Art”. Liz Thomas, the curator of the project, calls it “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day”.

The project is not actually fighting blight, of course – only the ability of Amtrak customers to see it.


“I need the brilliance of colour to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence,” Grosse proclaims.

“People”, in Grosse and Thomas’s formulation, are not those who actually live in north Philadelphia and bear the brunt of its burdens. “People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.

Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised. This is hipster economics.

The rest of the article is here.

Written by marty

June 8th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

The Concentration of Wealth

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In their 2014 study, “The Distribution of US Wealth, Capital Income and Returns since 1913,” economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman find that “capital inequality” continues to grow, but the gains are flowing only to those at the very top of the wealth scale.

The first chart shows that the share of wealth going to the top 10% of wealth holders has been steadily increasing since the mid-1980s.

top 10
However, as we can see from the next chart, the top 1% of wealth holders has done far better than the top 10% in capturing wealth.  In fact, the share of wealth going to the top 10%-1% has actually been declining.

top 1

But the gains are even more concentrated than the Occupy Movement realized.  As Saez and Zucman show below, the surge in wealth going to the top 1% is largely driven by the gains of the top 0.1%.

top .1


Sadly, there has been far too little discussion/debate about the underlying policies and processes that are driving these trends.

Written by marty

May 29th, 2014 at 11:14 am

Posted in Inequality

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The Student Debt Squeeze

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Student debt is a major and growing problem for young people, their families, and our economy.  Despite the fact that everyone knows this, it keeps getting worse.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the class of 2014 will be the most indebted class ever:

The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at student-marketing company Edvisors. Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago. . . .

The good news for the Class of 2014 is that they likely won’t hold the title of “Most Indebted Ever” very long. Just as they took it over from the Class of 2013, the Class of 2015 will probably take it from them.

student debt

Not only is the average debt for graduates that borrowed money growing in real terms, the percentage of graduates with debt is also growing.  More than 70% of this year’s bachelor’s degree recipients will graduate with student loans.  In 1994, it was less than 50%.

debt 2

And what makes it all such a crisis for those affected, is that:

earnings and debt aren’t moving in the same direction. From 2005 to 2012, average student loan debt has jumped 35%, adjusting for inflation, while the median salary has actually dropped by 2.2%.

debt and earnings

Phil Izzo, the author of the Wall Street Journal article, comments that if things don’t change, “debt burdens could start to become more unwieldy.” I think unwieldy might be the wrong word.  More optimistically, it might help fuel a movement of young and not so young workers to become more active in transforming our system. The burgeoning fight for “15 dollars and a union” is a hopeful sign.


Written by marty

May 21st, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Neoliberalism Kills

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On April 16, the Sewol, a South Korean passenger ferry, sank.  The Sewol carried over 400 people, the majority of whom were young students on a field trip to Jeju Island.  More than 260 people have been officially reported as dead; dozens more remain missing and are presumed dead.

The international media has run numerous stories about the sinking and the alleged irresponsibility of the captain and crew.

However, missing from the reporting is any discussion of the real culprit: South Korean neoliberal policies.  The connection between this tragedy and neoliberal policies such as privatization, deregulation, and liberalization needs to be understood if future tragedies, in South Korea as well as other countries, are to be averted.

Since most major media and governments are not anxious to highlight this connection, a group of scholars has decided to do it.  They have written and circulated a statement – see below — that is to be sent to the South Korean media.  It has already been endorsed by almost a thousand scholars.  

As the authors point out:

The ferry sank under the weight of deregulation and privatization: the previous administration relaxed the regulations on a ferry’s life and safety, allowing the Chonghaejin Maritime Transportation, the Sewol’s owner, to import an aged ship and add more room for passengers and cargos; the safety inspection and the certification of the ship were left to private entities formed or heavily influenced by ferry owners; the Park administration allowed the Chonghaejin to hire temporary workers, including the captain, at a low wage and without adequate safety training; and the government turned a blind eye to the illegal overloading of the ferry.

Sadly, the South Korean government is not alone in seeking to boost private profits by relaxing health and safety regulations, privatizing vital public services, and weakening labor laws.  Such policies have become the new normal and we all suffer the consequences.


The Sewol Ferry Tragedy as a Warning: Neoliberal Deregulation and Lack of Democratic Accountability in South Korea
May 7, 2014

We express our deepest sorrow and condolence for the families of victims and Danwon High School students who have lost their loved ones in the sinking of the Sewol Ferry on April 16th. We sincerely hope that the missing passengers, whose death is not yet confirmed, return to their families as soon as possible.

The tragedy of the Sewol Ferry sank the heart of not only the Koreans but also everyone in the world to the deepest of shock and grief, as the world helplessly watched hundreds of lives drown to death because of the combination of corruption, ineptitude, and irresponsibility pervasive in today’s Korea. The ferry sank under the weight of deregulation and privatization: the previous administration relaxed the regulations on a ferry’s life and safety, allowing the Chonghaejin Maritime Transportation, the Sewol’s owner, to import an aged ship and add more room for passengers and cargos; the safety inspection and the certification of the ship were left to private entities formed or heavily influenced by ferry owners; the Park administration allowed the Chonghaejin to hire temporary workers, including the captain, at a low wage and without adequate safety training; and the government turned a blind eye to the illegal overloading of the ferry. Throughout the tragedy, not only did the Park Geun-Hye administration fail to mobilize its resources to rescue the passengers in a timely manner: the Coast Guard never issued an order to rescue the passengers, but only a call to salvage the ferry; and it relied on a particular private company for the rescue and salvage, and protected the company’s monopolistic operation. The Park Geun-Hye administration also walked away from democratic accountability by abandoning its responsibility to protect the people, systematically controlling the media, and mobilizing the police to isolate and surveillance the victims’ families. Many Koreans, watching the government’s betrayal, began to raise serious questions about whether they could trust the current government with their lives.

We, the undersigned academics and scholars, share Koreans’ sense of governance crisis in South Korea. Compelled by a sense of urgency that a similar tragedy can occur again unless the problems exposed by the tragedy are immediately and adequately addressed, we demand the following:

1. The survivors, the victims, and their families must be provided with medical care, adequate healing, and proper compensation. 

The Sewol tragedy is bound to leave indelible wounds on the survivors and the families of the victims. Instead of providing the needed support for them, however, the Korean government has mobilized the police to block the families’ protest against its slow rescue operation and sent undercover policemen for the surveillance of the families. The government must offer all the care and support required to help them heal their wounds and try to resume their lives. Those responsible for the tragedy must compensate the survivors, the victims, and their families because a just compensation is required not only for their recovery but also for social justice.

2. The government must own up to its responsibility for the Sewol tragedy, mindful that it is the most fundamental responsibility of the government, including the president, that it protect the life and safety of the people.

Article 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea clearly states, “The state must endeavor to prevent disasters and protect the people from their danger.” While the immediate cause of the Sewol’s accident might be attributable to the captain and the owner of the ship, the government bears the most direct responsibility for saving not a single passenger who was left in the ferry. Ten years ago, then Representative Park Geun-Hye criticized President Roh Moo-Hyun for failing to protect Kim Sunil, who defied the government’s travel ban to go to Iraq on a proselytization mission and was killed by an extremist group: “If a state fails to protect its people, it cannot be called a state. A president who fails to protect a citizen has lost his credentials.” We hold President Park to her own words. She must stop blaming others for her failure, own up to her responsibility, and sincerely apologize to the victims’ families. Top officials, including ministers, at Ministry of Security and Public Administration, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, and Coast Guard, must be investigated and punished for their failure to fulfil the duty to protect the people’s life. President Park and the Presidential Office must tell the people how they are going to take the responsibility for failing to direct and oversee them.

3. An independent special prosecutor must be appointed and a special act must be adopted to investigate the causes of the tragedy and prosecute those who are responsible.

We agree with the victims’ families that it is imperative to form an independent special prosecutor and adopt a special act to investigate the causes of the Sewol tragedy. Since the Park government is directly implicated in this, prosecutors under President Park’s order cannot conduct an independent and thorough investigation. They have failed before: they could not investigate the full extent to which the Korean Intelligence Service, the military and other administrative agencies interfered in the election that had elected President Park; and they colluded with the Korean Intelligence Service to fabricate evidence in an attempt to frame Yu Osong, a North Korean defector, as a spy for the North. Only an independent special prosecutor, who is given the Korean people’s mandate to get to the bottom of the incident without worrying about the government’s influence, therefore can summon not just the crew members who are at the bottom of the power hierarchy but also the rich and the powerful, including the relevant ministers and President, and reveal their failures. Those found guilty must receive the maximum punishment allowed under the law so as to restore justice and serve as a warning for the future. The Sewol investigation should not be used as a blanket with which to cover the election interference and the recent spy fabrication case, but rather add the urgency to investigate them as fully.

4. Neoliberal deregulation must be repealed, and regulations on safety and public interest must be strengthened.

Just as neoliberalism has clearly betrayed its limits around the globe, so does the Sewol incident tragically demonstrate the dangers of rampant deregulation and privatization that place corporate profits before the public interest and safety. An interest group that regards the people as a tool of economic gain and promotes deregulation and privatization under the name of efficiency cannot be called a government. We are appalled that amidst the Sewol chaos the Park administration restarted the Kori Nuclear Reactor that had been stopped over concerns about safety. Restarting the Kori Reactor, which generates only 1% of Korea’s electricity, is not just taking the same fatal missteps as letting the Sewol sail to the passengers’ peril, but represents a more serious threat to the nation and the region. The current government has set the quantitative goal of reducing all economic regulations by 20%, and is vigorously working to accomplish it. President Park must reverse the dangerous policy of wholesale deregulation and privatization that she has prioritized, and place the people’s life and the quality of life before business profits and government convenience. The Sewol tragedy brings home the necessity to shift Korea’s profit-driven paradigm to a people-centered one.

5. The government must stop its media control and censorship, and guarantee the freedom of press.

A victim’s father clearly identified one of the problems: “I still think that there would have been survivors if the media had reported a little more factually and a little more critically from day one on.” The government has systematically worked to control the media for fear that the government should be held responsible. Immediately after the Sewol’s sinking, the government misled the public by announcing that all the passengers had been rescued, an announcement that was dutifully relayed by the media. Korea Communications Commission created a task force that would monitor media coverages and internet postings and “coordinate and control” – later changed to “request cooperation” – broadcasters in order to de facto censor the media and manipulate public opinion. The brazenness of the government’s media control is reflected in the fact that Korea Communications Standards Commission is seeking to penalize Son Sukhee, a TV anchor, for conducting an interview with Lee Jongin who had offered a rescue method different from that of the private salvage company backed by the government. Also the government has impeded the free flow of information and opinions in the internet by intervening in various internet media. The Park government must immediately stop all its endeavors to oppress the freedom of press that is so central to liberal democracy.

Written by marty

May 12th, 2014 at 9:48 am

A Failing Grade For U.S. Job Creators

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In a fancy bit of marketing U.S. capitalists have been reborn as “job creators.”  As such, they were rewarded with lower taxes, weaker labor laws, and relaxed government regulation. However, despite record profits, their job creation performance leaves a lot to be desired.

According to the official data the last U.S. recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Thus, we have officially been in economic expansion for almost five years.

It is a given that we will experience another recession; the business cycle comes with capitalism.  Since times will always be tough for the majority during a recession (by definition), we have a right to expect that things will go well for the majority during the expansion that follows. More precisely, we should expect that the gains from the expansion will be strong and broad based enough to ensure real progress for the majority over the course of the business cycle.

If that doesn’t happen, it is sign that we need a change in our basic economic structure.  In other words, it would be foolish to work to sustain an economic structure that was incapable of satisfying majority needs even when it was performing well according to its own logic.

A recent study by the National Employment Law Project titled The Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years Into the Recovery provides one indicator that it is time for us to pursue a change in the U.S. economic structure.  As it shows, the current economic expansion continues the U.S. transition into a low wage economy.

In net terms, the U.S. economy lost private sector jobs every month from January 2008 to February 2010.  The private sector posted positive net employment gains every month from March 2010 to March 2014 (the last month considered by the study). Coincidentally, total private sector employment finally recovered its pre-crisis January 2008 peak in March 2014.

Figure 1 from the National Employment Law Project study shows the net private sector job loss by industries classified according to their medium wage from January 2008 to February 2010 and the net private sector job gain using the same classification from March 2010 to March 2014. As we can see, the net job loss in the first period was greatest in high wage industries and the net job creation in the second period was greatest in low wage industries.


Figure 4 presents a visual picture of job growth by industry over the period February 2010 to March 2014.

job bubble

As the study explains:

 The food services and drinking places, administrative and support services (includes temporary help), and retail trade industries are leading private sector job growth during the recent recovery phase. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.

While the study focused on private sector job creation, Figure 4 also shows one consequence of the continuing attack on the public sector: all levels of government have been forced to dramatically slash their employment.

In short, if the hard times of recession disproportionately eliminate high wage jobs and the “so called” good times of recovery bring primarily low wage jobs, it is time to move beyond our current focus on the business cycle and initiate a critical assessment of the way our economy operates and in whose interest.

Written by marty

May 5th, 2014 at 5:09 am

The Free Trade Record

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The U.S. government is hard at work negotiating the Transpacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement with eleven other governments.  It continues to defend this and other free trade agreements with claims that they generate exports and jobs for U.S. workers.

That the historical record demonstrates the falseness of such claims seems not to matter to the media or political and economic leaders.

For example, here is what the Office of the United States Trade Representative had to say upon completion of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade agreement:

The entry into force of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement on March 15, 2012 means countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell more Made-in-America goods, services, and agricultural products to Korean customers – and to support more good jobs here at home.

However, the Eyes on Trade blog examined the data and found that:

Two years after the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), government data reveal that the Obama administration’s promises that the pact would expand U.S. exports and create U.S. jobs are exactly opposite of the actual outcomes: a downfall in U.S. exports to Korea, rising imports and a surge in the U.S. trade deficit with Korea. Using the administration’s export-to-job ratio, the estimated drop in net U.S. exports to Korea in the FTA’s first two years represents the loss of more than 46,600 U.S. jobs. . . .

Contrary to the administration’s promise that the Korea FTA would mean “more exports, more jobs”:

    • U.S. goods exports to Korea have fallen below the pre-FTA average monthly level for 21 out of 22 months since the deal took effect. See graph below.
    • The United States has lost an average of $385 million each month in exports to Korea, given an 11 percent decline in the average monthly export level in comparison to the year before the deal.
    • The United States lost an estimated, cumulative $9.2 billion in exports to Korea under the FTA’s first two years, compared with the exports that would have been achieved at the pre-FTA level.

Eyes 1

More specifically, “U.S. average monthly exports to Korea have fallen in 11 of the 15 sectors that export the most to Korea, relative to the year before the FTA (see graph below). . . . Ironically, many sectors that the administration promised would be the biggest beneficiaries of the Korea FTA have been some of the deal’s largest losers.”

Eyes 2

And of course this is just the trade record.  All free trade agreements also have multiple chapters that have nothing to do with trade as commonly understood but are designed to block possible future government interventions that might limit corporate profit-making opportunities.  See here and here for examples from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Since agreements like the Transpacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement are first and foremost about promoting corporate interests, the government’s lack of interest in highlighting the historical record should come as no surprise.

Written by marty

April 27th, 2014 at 6:53 am