World Economy Needs a New Deal

By Gus Tyler

Published April 02, 2004, issue of April 02, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I n the great and growing debate over globalization and outsourcing, there are always new arguments from both sides — from those who look upon these recent developments as a boon to the world economy and those who look upon the same developments as certain to bring gloom to the world economy. One of the latest and most novel arguments in favor of the United States keeping its doors open to outsourced goods and services is based on the history of “free trade” within the United States itself.

“We rarely realize,” Virginia Postrel writes in The New York Times, “that the United States is one giant free-trade zone. Businesses can move their plants, investors can move their money, and workers can move themselves from region to region without government permission.” She notes that, in this mini-free-trade world, there has been no race to the bottom. So why should we worry about outsourcing jobs to China, India, Mexico and other countries where wages are a tiny fraction of what they are in the United States?

Actually, at one time Uncle Sam did worry, and with good reason. The textile industry that started in New England had high wage standards. It also had union agreements. So textile corporations decided to “outsource.” They moved their plants, en masse, out of New England and into Dixie, where wages were much lower and where the labor movement was almost helpless in counties where the local governing agencies and their police made life intolerable for a union organizer.

The outsourcing of work by textile companies set an example for other companies originally based in the North, such labor-intensive industries as apparel, shoes, toys and novelties. Indeed, the resulting lowered wages were one cause of the Great Depression.

Then came the New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt. The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, establishing a legal floor to wages and a legal limit to the hours of work in a day or week. Hours worked beyond that standard had to be compensated at time-and-a-half. A National Labor Relations Act was passed that encouraged the growth of unions and obliged employers to bargain in good faith with any union selected by a majority of employees. In due time, other universal standards were established. Employers had to contribute to a federal fund and state funds to provide unemployment insurance and social security. Child labor was outlawed. Occupational safety and health standards were established to reduce the hazards of the workplace. And employers were obligated to live under these all-encompassing rules and regulations, no matter where they were in the United States.

Thereafter, it was within these enlightened conditions that “free trade” among the states of the United States took place. If similar standards were to be established globally along the American model, would that be in the best interest of America and the other nations of the world? The answer has to be a resounding yes.

But how can it come to pass? In three steps: The first step is for the United States to get together with the European Union (and perhaps Japan) and agree on a course of action. The second step would be to go the World Trade Organization and urge it to make all future trade agreements contain provisions on labor rights. If the WTO says that this subject is off-limits for them, then we should suggest that the WTO form a partnership with the International Labor Organization, an arm of the United Nations that has been working at a labor-rights code for some eight decades and no doubt would be glad to use the enforcement power of the WTO to bring its proposals to life — and usher in a global New Deal!






Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.