Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
At last. Someone who talks like a real populist and progressive. John Edwards has come out and unequivocally rejected neoliberalism (which mostly was a disguised corporatist conservatism).
John Edwards is doing something important. It’s so important that it’s eluded the attention of the political press. While pundits handicap the horserace and assess hairstyles, Edwards is quietly yet thoroughly rejecting the economic philosophy that’s dominated the Democratic Party for the last fifteen years.
More important, he’s rejecting it in favor of a bold progressive populism, the likes of which haven’t been advanced by a serious contender for the White House in a long time. Ezra Klein in Raising the Bar in the latest American Prospect, a publication not prone to hyperbole, says Edwards is “the most populist presidential candidate we’ve seen in many decades.”
So what is neoliberalism? It’s the Democratic Leadership Council’s fevered brainchild of the 90’s, a sort of if-you-build-it-everyone-wins attitude on trade. Its favored phrase? “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Of course, the end result of so-called “free” trade is that without restrictions on overseas corporate conduct, there’s no rising tide. And for our pains, we lose American jobs in waves that has come to include even high-paying white collar jobs like computer programming.
The fact remains that it is in the multinational corporations’ best interest to keep the people in their cheap-labor countries from ever lifting their own boats. This same principle is the reason for the 19th century’s great muckrakers decrying the terrible conditions of the American worker. This is the reason we have US laws against dumping heavy metals into rivers; why we have child labor laws; and safety laws to prevent death and maiming of our workforce. It is the reason for minimum wage. When we export our jobs to other countries, should we not export our hard-fought American work values with it? Why should we be privileged to have protections while allowing these amoral corporations to commit human rights violations elsewhere? If you want to really know why we can’t compete with China or Indonesia, it’s because we let our corporations do terrible things in the name of chasing a dollar.
It’s an idea that has inevitably failed. It didn’t lift the boats of Mexican workers; instead, we have a worsening situation of poverty and lack of opportunity there evidenced by the increasing stream of illegal immigrants. It has not equalized the poor countries with the rich. It has only impoverished our own citizens. It’s time to move to a sane and fair trade policy. Our middle class - and the future middle class of emerging nations - will thank us for it.
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