Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trade - Does Obama Really Care?

...Ultimately, however, what may speak loudest about Obama’s real trade policy views is the stubbornly elitist tone that has marked the candidate and his campaign. Take the (admittedly brief) schoolmaster-ish recitation of textbook-style open trade’s virtues and allegedly iron globalization-related economic realities that comes in virtually every major Obama statement on the subject.

“Now if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that we can’t stop globalization in its tracks....” “I believe in trade. I think all countries can prosper.” “To win, we have to understand some hard realities. Not every job that’s left is coming back, and if somebody tell you they are, they’re not telling you the truth.”

Obviously, Obama relishes the role of McCain-like straight shooter and apostle of a fundamentally New Politics, and uses it when discussing many issues. And truth-telling is clearly something politics can usually use more of. But this iteration is fatally flawed. Not only does it fearlessly slay red herrings that are completely irrelevant to real-world globalization challenges, and that long ago went stale. Not only are many of the unspoken assumptions at work here demonstrably false – e.g., that many jobs that have gone overseas won’t be coming back because they are low-skill jobs that by definition have no business coming back.

But Obama’s chosen rhetorical posture is also completely oblivious to the pervasive blame-the-victim message determinedly sent through the mainstream media for decades by America’s power structure to middle and working class audiences. Read any major national newspaper or business-oriented magazine, tune into the network news or to CNBC, and what else do you see and hear about other than the glorification of globalization’s winners (and the bigger, the more glorious) and bemused tut-tutting at the losers (especially if they are Americans) for their unforgivable failures to seize the splendid opportunities before them?

Does Obama really believe that former steelworkers and machinists and computer programmers now toiling at dead-end, no-benefits jobs are so consumed with scapegoting and so dangerously combustible that their greatest need is another serving of tough love from on-high (along with enough new welfare spending to keep public employees unions happy)?

Apparently yes, meaning that despite months of campaigning across the country, Obama has become so remote from Middle America that its melancholy, its ever-so-gradually falling expectations, and its somber acceptance of globalized capitalism’s Darwinian outcomes are genuinely unknown to him.

More evidence for this dispiriting proposition comes from Obama’s now-infamous “bitter” remarks to a group of San Francisco Bay area funders. Obama has denied accusing “small town” Americans of irrationally (though understandably) blaming “people who aren’t like them” or “immigrants” or “trade” for their “frustrations,” and tried to dismiss the ensuing controversy as classic, mindless “gotcha” journalism and mudslinging politics.

But that’s exactly what he said, and the substance – which is utterly erroneous – deserves extensive debate. Further, Obama’s argument was sure to be lapped up by his audience - entrpreneurial and economically conservative but socially liberal dot.comers surely grateful to hear that the outsourcing and open borders policies they have lobbied for so successfully and use so extensively have nothing to do with the distress they read about in Flyover America.

Moreover, this brazen Obama pander to the Silicon Valley crowd’s fears about raging Middle American primitives not only expiated whatever nascent (justified) guilt they may have felt, but once again completely misjudged the mood of the country he seeks to lead. That’s hardly a formula for a successful fall campaign – much less a successful presidency.

Read it all

No comments: