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October 23, 2009

Who's making it to Making it in America?


The Institute for America's Future and the Alliance for American Manufacturing are co-sponsoring a one-day conference on alternatives to the bubble economy on Thursday, Oct 29. 

Making it In America is a symposium on how the U.S. might move from a speculation and service economy to a more just and sustainable alternative. Featured speakers include AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), US Steelworkers President Lou Gerard, Prof. Suzanne Berger of MIT, and Kate Gordon of the Apollo Alliance. Registration is free.

As part of their outreach, they're covering the travel expenses of several out-of-town bloggers to attend the conference and write about it. I'll be one of them. 


Service economies are more sustainable than manufacturing economies. Software pollutes a lot less per unit GDP created than steel manufacturing, which together with the auto and petrochemical industries has been one of the major blocks to environmental legislation.

Also, justice depends on government regulations, not on economic structure. Texas has plenty of manufacturing, which hasn't stopped it from having poverty and inequality rates that make New York look good. I'm sure that a panel composed of unions representing the poor, such as HERE, would understand that a lot more than a panel composed of the upper middle-class AFL-CIO.

(Sorry, I'm in snarky mood. I've just read a report by a Texas booster about a conference in Houston by a couple of highway lobbyists, which as far as I can tell has the same level of rigor as this conference.

Any way to suggest modifying free trade agreements to allow consistent tariffs based on equalizing labor costs instead of explicitly punishing foreign trade, or forcing $10/hour workers to compete with $1/day workers overseas? The current model of making cheap goods and selling them at inflated prices is not a sustainable market system.

Good point. I'm pretty sure trade will be on the agenda.

Labor costs are mostly proportional to how rich a country is. If you can design a consistent tariff regime penalizing countries that keep wages lower than they can be, such as Dubai, but not countries that pay low wages because they have to, such as India, I think I would welcome it. The problem is that such an objective standard would amount to global sanctions on the US: it would probably be based on metrics like unionization rates, Gini coefficients, minimum wage to GDP ratios, equality in health and education, and worker safety laws, all of which the US performs poorly on.

Of course, there's a simpler way of doing it, as suggested by Robert Reich: putting up tariffs on everyone who's poorer than us. Sure, let's promote global justice by making it harder for poor countries to export.

Reich is wrong, I'll admit. Global trade is a good thing, but the way it's been implemented has been jerky and clumsy to say the least.

I'd be careful to call high wages "inflated prices on making cheap goods" and an "unsustainable business model," as its not exactly a viewpoint which needs anymore help. Everyone in the top tier of business these days agrees: improve efficiency! Cut your labor costs! Somehow, what with corporate influence and all, we lost sight of what we were improving efficiency towards: a better lifestyle for everyone. So now that's an expendable thing that can just be cut.

Sure, the rising tide will raise your boat a couple bucks. Just as its soon raising mine a few hundred million dollars. Just as soon as we're done investing in this or that firm, just as soon as we've finished these new condos. We might have enough clothes/food/etc. to feed and cloth everyone and we'd never know it, because we're too busy.

Trumka's a (cough) (cough)ing (cough) demagogue. His succession of Sweeney means (cough)ing nothing. Anyway, glad I got that cough out of my system. Oh wait, I feel it coming back. Always do when I talk about (coughing) (cough)-o-saurs. LiUNA's the only one which has got it going on these days. They turned a 180 so fast they made my head spin.

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