This post is combination of my comments on Jon Wolfman's post 1-Sentence Sunday: Why I Want the Trade Deal to Burst, so if you're inclined to complain don't blame me, go give Jon a piece of your mind.
His take is that Congress should deny Obama "fast track" negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Treaty that has been negotiated in secret because it is a potential threat to American jobs, wages and unions. While I don't necessarily disagree with that take, Jon also presses the notion that the agenda of the 2016 Presidential campaign might be about a "...potentially reinvigorated, re-focused, punched-up, meaningful American Union Movement."
After reading about Hillary Clinton's latest campaign speech on Roosevelt Island, I'm afraid that both sides of the 2016 debate are about to take us all to the cleaners. Republicans will be invoking Teddy Roosevelt's mythology of "Big Stick" American Exceptionalism ( while conveniently forgetting his Progressive anti-trust and environmentalist agenda) while Democrats will hold up FDR and the New Deal as a path to restoring our faith in The American Dream, and here's my problem with all of that:
While the TPP could evolve into definite threat to jobs and wages in the USA, the New Deal was never intended to be a tool for social and economic engineering, but an interim salve for the wounds of failed speculative capitalism to prevent the infection of socialism. Unions began as a workers' struggle for a living wage and a safer work place, but between 1948 and 1980 they devolved into corrupt entities more concerned with preserving seniority, restrictive shop rules, job security and fat retirement packages. When faced with coherent opposition in an economy plagued with back to back to back recessions even the best of organized labor (UAW and such) sold out new younger members into a system of tiered wages and benefits.
Here is the problem as I see it. Our contemporary American Dream of a prosperous middle class was the result of an historical accident. In 1939 before Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland the US economy represented 33% of a depressed global GDP. From1946-1960 with the economic infrastructure of Europe and Asia still recovering from WWII, US prosperity roared along and at its peak produced 67% of the Global GDP. After the 1970's OPEC oil embargoes, the collapse of the "Internet Bubble" in 2000, followed by the 9-11attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon in 2001, the US share of the world's GDP was back to 33%.
So, we either have to figure out some way to live with higher prices to pay for higher wages, or we'll have to adjust our expectations of "universal 'Boomer' middle class entitlement and 'Millennial' instant gratification" back to the lean times of post Great Depression 1939.
Until we make it economically feasible to return decent paying manufacturing and IT jobs to the USA in a hyper competitive world economy, we'll continue to live in an economy of "jobless" recovery, where average people will have to hold down two or three low paying "service" jobs just to get by. BTW: Southern California Edison and the Disney Corporation may soon be under investigation by the Congress and Dept of Labor for knowingly using a third parties to violate federal law through the H-1B visa program, so your job isn't safe even in a stateside union shop.
The real test of our economy and society is coming down over the next fifty years as the "Boomers" go extinct and the population born between 1960 and 1985 retires.
Unless we open the doors to significant legal immigration, there aren't enough native born American 'Millennials' to pay SSI taxes and there won't be enough left in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to pay for their retirement and medical care. As the old Chinese curse goes, our children and grandchildren will live in interesting times.
We need to wake up and smell the coffee, but as usual our politicians and business people are feeding us promises about what they think we want to hear. In the meantime, thanks to Jon W:
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