Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sirota and Moberg highlight realities in the Democratic Party -- we should pay attention

We're highlighting two stories: David Moberg's "Maytag Moves to Mexico" from In These Times and David Sirota's "Debunking 'Centrism'" from The Nation.

Why should you care?

Sirota: Now an effort is under way to set this faux "centrism" in stone. One of the leading candidates for Democratic National Committee chairman is Simon Rosenberg, a former free-trade lobbyist and head of the business-backed New Democrat Network. His group is joined by even more organizations designed to push the party to the right. The Washington Post reports that a group calling itself the "Third Way" (read: "Wrong Way") is forming to tout "centrist" policies for Democrats. Instead of leaving the Beltway and holding a town meeting to gauge the pulse of red America's working-class core, the group held its initial meeting "over dinner at a Georgetown mansion." Instead of engaging in grassroots funding efforts, it is openly relying on corporate contributions.

Got your attention yet?

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that during the first three months of this year only 4,633 workers lost jobs because of investment shifts overseas, a study for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission by Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University and Stephanie Luce of the University of Massachusetts found that at least more than five times that number of jobs were lost in the same period. They also estimate that in 2004 more than 400,000 jobs will be shifted from the United States to other countries. That's nearly twice the rate in 2001, and it represents about one-fourth of all mass layoffs in 2004.
Despite the trend toward outsourcing white-collar jobs, Bronfenbrenner and Luce found that more than four-fifths of job shifts were still in manufacturing industries and more than one-third of the estimated 400,000 jobs shifted went to Mexico. But China is in second place, and rapidly rising in popularity. They also found that companies disproportionately target unionized jobs, which represent 39 percent of all jobs shifted out of the United States but only 8.2 percent of the private workforce. The Midwest has been hardest hit, most of all Illinois, which in the first three months of 2004 lost at least 7,555 jobs—almost all to Mexico.

Sirota: From's group [the DLC] is funded by huge contributions from multinationals like Philip Morris, Texaco, Enron and Merck, which have all, at one point or another, slathered the DLC with cash. Those resources have been used to push a nakedly corporate agenda under the guise of "centrism" while allowing the DLC to parrot GOP criticism of populist Democrats as far-left extremists. Worse, the mainstream media follow suit, characterizing progressive positions on everything from trade to healthcare to taxes as ultra-liberal. As the AP recently claimed, "party liberals argue that the party must energize its base by moving to the left" while "the DLC and other centrist groups argue that the party must court moderates and find a way to compete in the Midwest and South."

In the "red" state series, we dealt with the nonsense of "move to the center" and how it would be (and was being) used by certain factions for their own purposes. Sally noted that Randi Rhodes (on her Air America Radio show yesterday) called the "red" states/"blue" states "bunk."
Rhodes is right. (And has been making that point for some time.)

In the guise of "values" certain factions in the Democratic party are arguing against popular positions, dismissing them as "too left" and urging us to abandon them. Values?

Moberg: "Morality," Dennison adds. They clearly think that is missing, as well as their power to do much about their situation. While most workers blamed "corporate greed" for the plant closing, they also blamed the government for enabling or encouraging that greed. And among an otherwise strongly Democratic crowd, people remember that it was Bill Clinton who pushed through NAFTA. "People in both parties are allowing this to happen," Toby Ladendorf laments on closing day. "Who’s going to defend us?"

Sirota: Even in the face of massive job loss and outsourcing, the media are still labeling corporate Democrats' support for free trade as "centrist." And the DLC, which led the fight for NAFTA and the China trade deal, attacks those who want to renegotiate those pacts as just a marginal group of "protectionists." Yet a January 2004 PIPA/University of Maryland poll found that "a majority [of the American public] is critical of US government trade policy." A 1999 poll done on the five-year anniversary of the North American trade deal was even more telling: Only 24 percent of Americans said they wanted to "continue the NAFTA agreement." The public outrage at trade deals has been so severe, pollster Steve Kull noted, that support dropped even among upper-income Americans "who've most avidly supported trade and globalization [and] who've taken the lead in pushing the free-trade agenda forward."

Read the two stories together and get a better picture of what has gone on and what can happen if we're not paying attention.