New York Times columnist David Brooks, who knows a little less about economics than John McCain, finished up this week’s rant against critics of free trade by suggesting that they were not paying attention to the economic realities of the pivotal primary state of Pennsylvania.
Condemning Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for acknowledging the damage done to Keystone State communities by trade pacts that have gutted out whole industries and tossed tens of thousands of workers into the dustbin of history, Brooks suggested that those advising the senator from Illinois were missing the point of Pennsylvania.
“What I don’t understand is why the political consultants prefer this kind of rhetoric,” wrote Brooks. “Aren’t there windows in the vans they use to drive around the state? Don’t they see that most middle-class voters are service workers in suburban office parks, not 1930s-style proletarians in steel mills?
“American voters aren’t so stupid as to think their problems are caused by foreigners and malevolent lobbyists. When Obama speaks down to his audiences, it makes me so bitter I want to cling to my laptop and my college degree.”
That’s an amusing line – sure to be a hit at any elite gathering.
Too bad it perpetuates the lie that free trade only threatens the “1930s-style proletarians in steel mills” for whom Brooks displays such open disregard.
In fact, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs promoted by misguided trade policies now poses as much or more of a threat to “service workers in suburban office parks.”
A fresh analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) of offshoring — the corporate practice of moving work now performed in the U.S. to other countries – finds that more than one million Pennsylvania jobs are vulnerable.
According to EPI, 286,000 Pennsylvania jobs are “highly offshorable,” while another 755,000 Pennsylvania jobs are possibly offshorable.
Computer-related work is the most highly offshorable. But we’re not talking merely about computer programming or call-center positions. A substantial number of the vulnerable jobs are classic white-collar positions – those of financial analysts and underwriters, actuaries and accountants, editors and writers, drafters and graphic designers, scientists and mathematicians.
“For many years, white-collar workers have watched as blue-collar workers’ jobs have been shipped to China and Mexico,” explains Leo Gerard, the president of the United Steelworkers of American union. “Now it is white-collar workers whose jobs are being targeted for offshoring. Pennsylvania workers need to wake up and join together to demand concrete solutions from our presidential candidates before their only option is a job at Wal-Mart.”
Obviously, David Brooks does not fully comprehend the realities of globalization and the new economics of the 21st century.
If he did, he would recognize that when Barack Obama talks about trade policy, he is speaking about the future of middle-class voters who are service workers in suburban office parks.
Indeed, as Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, notes, “The wide-scale export of U.S. jobs is not inevitable, but rather is a result of our current failed trade agreements, which provide expansive new protections for U.S. firms to ship investment and jobs offshore. The presidential candidates must provide American workers with a plan for changing our trade policy to aggressively address the offshoring of U.S. jobs that is only going to increase in the future.”
Wallach’s right. But she shouldn’t limit her demand to presidential candidates.
Columnists for The New York Times ought to be addressing these economic realities, as well – or, at the very least, recognizing that they exist.