Home > Uncategorized > Even in the face of coup attempt, NYT continues propaganda for upward redistribution through trade

Even in the face of coup attempt, NYT continues propaganda for upward redistribution through trade

from Dean Baker

I have repeatedly raised the point that media accounts routinely use the term “free trade” when they can more accurately say simply “trade” or trade policy. It is amazing to me that this practice continues.

We saw it yet again in a NYT article on how many Republicans continue to be faithful to Trump even after last week’s coup attempt. The article told readers:

“Anthony Sabatini, a Florida state representative, described Ms. Cheney and other Republicans who voted for impeachment as ‘artifacts,’ saying they were out of step in a party that has embraced a more populist platform opposed to foreign interventions and skeptical of free trade.”

As I have pointed out endlessly, we do not have a policy of “free trade.” We do not allow foreign trained professionals, such as doctors and dentists, to freely practice in the United States. Our trade policy has been focused on reducing barriers to trade in manufactured goods, while leaving in place the barriers that protect the most highly paid professionals.

This has the effect of putting U.S. manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world. This has the predicted and actual effect of lowering the pay of manufacturing workers in the United States. Since manufacturing has historically been a source of relatively high-paying jobs for workers without college degrees, the loss of good-paying jobs in manufacturing has put downward pressure on the pay of non-college educated workers more generally. This distributional impact has nothing to do with “free trade,” it is due to a policy of selective protectionism.

In the same vein, much of our trade policy has been focused on making our patent and copyright protections longer and stronger and imposing these rules on our trading partners. These protections are 180 degrees at odds with free trade, they are government granted monopolies. They also have the effect of redistributing income upward, to drug and software companies and people with skills in the relevant fields. Very few dishwashers and custodians benefit from patent rents or royalties from copyrights.

It would be helpful if the NYT and other media outlets could stop trying to pretend that the upward redistribution from globalization was some sort of natural process involving free trade. That is a Trumpian lie and it would be good if the media stopped repeating it.

  1. JD
    January 19, 2021 at 12:49 am

    Actually, I think pretending upward redistribution from globalization is some sort of natural process related to free trade is an element of conventional economists’ unquestioned dogma. We have been hearing some version of “globalization is free trade” and “globalization will benefit everybody” for decades now. It is not really surprising that the NYT and other media outlets, capitalist-supported every one of them, don’t publicly argue against these positions. Have you ever heard an economist say, “We need an industrial policy coupled with progressive taxation that redistributes the benefits of unrestricted global trade to working people in the US”? No, I haven’t either.

  2. Ikonoclast
    January 19, 2021 at 1:24 am

    I agree with JD. The question is how will things ever change? The human world’s current growth and production course is unsustainable. The USA’s inequality levels are also rising above socially sustainable levels. Ecological and climate collapse will interact with social collapse in the USA. That is how things will change in total under oligarchic capitalist business as usual, but that does not predict the specifics of the changes. All we can say is that we still have (just) the choice of managed change or un-managed collapse. The first would occur by dealing in a scientific manner with the ecological, climate and resources challenges and by dealing in an enlightened social equality manner with inequality. The second (runaway catastrophic collapse) will happen under oligarchic capitalist business as usual.

    Unfortunately, the runaway catastrophic collapse scenario is far more likely. The US elites will not relinquish power willingly or become more enlightened. The US masses comprise too many sub-groups (like Trumpians) who are mired not only in the false consciousness of consumer capitalism but also in a panoply of lunatic anti-science and conspiracy beliefs: a complete failure of reality checking.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    February 5, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    It is impossible to say anything about ‘free’ trade as the origin of any of this. First, because there has never been any freed trade. Second, the endorsements of ‘free’ trade are self-serving, at best, or at worst attacks on all the versions of ‘free’ trade. Third, ‘free’ trade is no more than a direct referral of the superiority of western civilization over all other civilizations, current and past, Much more about putting so called ‘non-free trade’ countries and regions ‘in their place’ in the world’s hierarchy.

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