What the free marketeers sold us was bad fish

Forrest Johnson

I just read an article saying that, yes, globalization hasn’t been good for the American worker.
Really.
Megan McArdle, a self-proclaimed free trader, wrote in BloombergView.com that she was wrong to believe that the working class would ultimately benefit from cheap imports and the ensuing loss of manufacturing jobs. The belief was, apparently, that the American working class would simply move and find a better job somewhere else and leave behind the monotony of the assembly line and become the enlightened economic partner of the future.
Ya sure.
Believe me when I say I’m no genius when it comes to economic matters. I did, however, write a paper in high school back in 1971 or 1972 disproving the notion of a labor free economy, one where the man didn’t toil with his hands any longer like a neanderthal but with his mind. Free market geniuses had always been putting the high tech theories in place, talking about a smarter workforce and smarter workplace, even in the early days of high tech.
Let the other ninnies of the world grunt in the factories, they said, we’ll work smarter.
Ya sure.
My simple-minded thesis was based on a saying I’d heard that said the brain surgeon needs the help of the auto mechanic much more than the auto mechanic needs the help of the brain surgeon.
It was a time in my life when I had just come to an understanding about why I should learn something more than how to draw up hockey plays on the chalkboard when the geometry teacher called me to the front of the class to work on a proof or theorem. For many students the lightbulb of learning had lit in their heads much before it lit in mine but I was on a run for the first time in my educational life. In history class I’d even written a paper debunking Frederick Jackson Turner’s idea of the American frontiersman as the foundation for our national identity. I said something about myths being strong medicine for people in search of a place in the world.
Long ago it was apparent to me that globalization wasn’t going to be what it was cracked up to be by the new robber barons and their minions. It was simple arithmetic to see that the rest of the world was finally recovering from the devastating effects of the last world war and our goods and services wouldn’t be in demand like they were in the 1950s and 1960s. Our efforts had to be finding ways to continue making stuff and providing jobs but like always the greed factor would come into play. Did anyone in the higher echelons of business and finance really believe that we’d get the rest of the world to make our stuff and we’d simply be plant manager or was the money to good to be true by outsourcing and forgetting about the workforce that created the greatest wealth on the planet?
The money was to good to pass up even if it meant dropping the middle class off at the last bus stop.
TVs and wash machines made elsewhere and no impact on the American worker? What knucklehead wouldn’t understand the impact that would have? Free marketeers that’s who.
Now someone like Ms. McArdle has the lightbulb moment and even she says it comes too late to do anything about.    
Her wake-up call was based on a recent study by noted economists that proved “China’s vast, low-paid labor force really did gut U.S. manufacturing and destroy the middle-class livelihoods of millions of American workers.”
The free marketeers have always been wrong with their hollow assumptions. The siren call was that the worker would leave the shackles of mindless work and become a member of the new high tech society that would be the new American economic utopia. No more drudgery of assembling widgets and thingamabobs. No, the new American worker would be highly educated and  
“Whatever mistakes we made 20 years ago, we’re stuck with them now,” she wrote.
Sound like the free marketeers have given up on the American worker and had better console themselves by making their money wherever they can. Just like always I suppose.
The National Union of Friendly Americans (NUFA) is backing the old notion of supporting the American worker by buying American. Americans just have to steer clear of cheap pants and make a few demands that say let China buy Chinese goods. Bring the Levi factory back from Mexico. The game is not over. The factories will follow the consumer wherever we lead them. Too much steel dumping? Somebody over here, Americans, are buying the stuff. The Chinese aren’t simply unloading boatloads of steel if nobody is in the buying mood. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. We bought into the wrongheaded notion that we can have our cheap cake and still keep our jobs.

What the free marketeers sold us was bad fish.