Taking It To The Bank

Well, it’s been a year since the battle in Seattle, a.k.a. the World Trade Organization protests. Prior to the historic demonstration, I would bet most Americans knew little, if anything, about the WTO.
“The WTO? What’s that – a new wrestling or boxing organization? If the WTO is so important how come our glorious free press didn’t do any investigative exposes on it?

Well, it’s been a year since the battle in Seattle, a.k.a. the World Trade Organization protests. Prior to the historic demonstration, I would bet most Americans knew little, if anything, about the WTO.
“The WTO? What’s that – a new wrestling or boxing organization? If the WTO is so important how come our glorious free press didn’t do any investigative exposes on it?

Apparently, the fourth estate had more important things to obsess over, like the O.J. trial and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Misplaced priorities aside, the veil of secrecy shrouding the international “free trade” institution has been torn asunder. And we have the protesters to thank for that.

At the WTO’s Millennium Round last year, President Clinton acknowledged that the protesters “represent millions of people who are now asking questions about whether this enterprise in fact will take us all where we want to go. We ought to welcome their questions and be prepared to give answers.”

Problem is economists, eggheads and other so-called experts don’t welcome the questions. They’re too busy genuflecting before the god of market fundamentalism. Devotees of that ideological priesthood talk as if “globalization” is both new and inevitable. It is neither as any honest historian will tell you. But more importantly, it appears that a major assumption of theirs is mistaken, or at least in need of some serious revision.

It is generally assumed – even among critics of the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – that globalization has ignited economic growth across the planet. It just ain’t so, according to Mark Weisbrot, Robert Naiman and Joyce Kim of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

In a briefing paper called “The Emperor Has No Growth,” published in September, they analyzed the official data and found that it tells a far different story from the globaloney repeated by pundits and politicians eager to celebrate the rising tide that lifts all yachts.

“In the United States, the median real wage is about the same today as it was 27 years ago. This means that the majority of the labor force has failed to share in the gains from economic growth over the last 27 years. That is drastically different from the previous 27 years, during which the typical wage increased by about 80 percent in real terms,” the paper explains.

Economic growth has slowed dramatically, especially in so-called less developed countries, compared with the two previous decades. For example, from 1960 to 1980, output per person, globally, grew by an average of 83 percent. From 1980 to 2000, the average growth of output per person was 33 percent.

Mexico would have nearly twice as much income per person today if it were not for the growth slowdown of the last 20 years, and Brazil would have more than twice its current per capita income, according to the report.

Eighty-nine countries – 77 percent of the world’s nations – saw their per capita growth rate fall at least five percent in the last two decades. In Latin America, GDP per capita grew by 75 percent from 1960 to 1980, compared to six percent from 1980 to 1998.

“In short, there is no region of the world that the (World) Bank or the (IMF) can point to as having succeeded through adopting the policies that they promote – or in many cases impose – in borrowing countries. The IMF and World Bank should be using their enormous capacity for research to try to find out what has gone wrong,” the report suggests.

It should raise at least a few eyebrows when prominent pro- “free trade” economists are questioning the benefits of globalization. William Cline of the Institute for International Economics estimates that 39 percent of the increase in wage inequality from 1973 to 1993 has resulted from increased trade.

But check out what U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told the New York Times: “When history books are written 200 years from now about the last two decades of the 20th century, I am convinced that the end of the Cold War will be the second story. The first story will be about the appearance of emerging markets – about the fact that developing countries, where more than three billion people live, have moved toward the market and seen rapid growth in incomes.”

Clearly, policy-makers are not paying attention to the people or the evidence. If this keeps up, the battle in Seattle will look like a walk in the park compared to the major protests to come. And you can take that to the bank.

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Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist. He can be reached via email: sgonsalves@capecodonline.com

Author: Sean Gonsalves

News Service: Cape Cod Times

URL: http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/edits/seang.htm