Obama’s India trip aimed at elites, not US or Indian workers
9 Nov 10
By Roger Bybee
"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade."–N. Gregory Mankiw, chair of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, 2004
"I've seen the New India. Nearly a billion people in shacks supporting a teeny minority's right to shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang [visionary horror/science fiction director of the 1920's] film in Hindi.
Just look at the numbers. India's productivity has exploded, tripling in two decades to the world's fourth largest in purchasing power. But not many Indians are doing the purchasing….79.9% of the population still makes under $2 a day.–Greg Palast, in his 2006 book Armed Madhouse.
The New India depicted in the US media accounts of President Obama's trip bears little resemblance to Palast's grim portrait. The corporate media assure us that India is an emerging economic super-power of 1.2 billion people, growing its GDP at 8% a year, and purportedly a giant potential market for US corporations.
The very limited buying power of the wretched of the earth surviving on less than $2 a day has not been a prominent topic in either Obama's speeches or the US media accompanying him. Nor has there been much discussion of India's badly-skewed development that creates billionaires while driving near-starving farmers to suicide.
Notes prominent social critic Noam Chomsky:
In the UN human development index, India retains its place near the bottom, now 134th, slightly above Cambodia, below Laos and Tajikistan.
But President Obama's speeches have not been geared toward the suffering majority of India, nor even the restless majority of Americans back at home whose wrath took a bizarre pro-Republican turn Nov. 2.
AIMED AT US CEOS AND INDIAN ELITE
Instead, his remarks have been aimed at US CEOs swarming around him in India and to India's elite, which has been enriched by the increasing flow of US corporations shifting their information technology and back-office operations to low-wage India. The president said in a speech to the U.S.-India Business Council:
The United States sees Asia and especially India as a market of the future. We don’t simply welcome your rise as a nation and people, we ardently support it. We want to invest in it.”
MENDING FENCES WITH PRICKLY CEOs
Along with working on political and military issue in this crisis-racked region President Obama's trip to India provided a chance to mend fences with corporate leaders irritated at his periodic jabs at CEO greed. The president got along swimmingly with the many CEOs accompanying him on the trip, the New York Times reported:
Mr. Obama lavished attention on American business leaders who coordinated their visit with the White House. He announced that, as part of the trip, American and Indian companies signed or are about to sign 20 deals worth about $10 billion that will help create more than 50,000 jobs at home, although many of the deals have been in negotiations for some time…
At the same time, Obama made some relatively limited efforts to repair his relationship with the American electorate which expressed its blind fury Nov. 2 with high unemployment and economic insecurity by knocking off more than 60 Democratic House members and senators.
Obama proclaimed that the visit to India other Asian nations will generate more jobs back in the US as part of his National Initiative for Exports:
As we look to India today, the United States sees an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. For America, this is a jobs strategy.
TWO-WAY RELATIONSHIP ON JOBS
President Obama argued strenuously that investment overseas can create jobs at home that would provide relief to the persistent high unemployment and sinking wages that have plagued America:
There still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs. That’s a real perception.
But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality: In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India. It is a dynamic, two-way relationship that is creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries.
Not quite, Mr. President: jobs and wages are heading one way, downward. A race to the bottom is not a two-way relationship.
As pro-globalization Prof. Jeffrey Garten of Yale, a former Clinton undersecretary of commerce, put it in Business Week,
As US -based employers consider the costs of adding either one American or, say, one Indian to the payroll, the alternative of offshoring will put downward pressure on middle-class wages throughout the US.
NEARLY 40 MILLION JOBS 'HIGHLY OFF-SHORABLE"
Along with the pressure on earnings, there is the very real threat of job loss. Another supporter of :free trade," economics Prof. Alan Blinder of Princeton, estimates that nearly 40 million professional jobs are "highly off-shorable."
Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul thus argues persuasively:
India is to American office parks as China is to American factories. Unless we change course, we're going to see higher trade deficits, more job loss, and deeper frictions, despite periodic announcements about one-off business deals.
So Obama's reassurances to workers back in the US wound up ringing quite hollow.
HARLEYS TO BE SOLD IN INDIA–AND ASSEMBLED THERE, TOO
For example, the Indian market for motorcycles will not be filled by esxports from Harley-Davidson's plants in Milwaukee or Easton, Pa.–where workers were forced to accept massive, divisive concessions and job cuts–but by a new assembly plant in India.
But despite severe Democratic losses in states vital to his reelection in 2012–from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin–Obama appeared more preoccupied with winning back the approval of corporate CEOS, as the Times continues with unusual bluntness in its news story :
Still, Mr. Obama seemed mostly to be aiming his message at American business leaders. Many executives during the recent political campaign accused the White House of being antibusiness and poured money into the coffers of Republican candidates and groups that aimed to defeat the Democrats.
… Mr. Obama met privately with American chief executives, among them Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric, who has been critical of the White House in the past. “It’s unprecedented,” Mr. Immelt said in an interview, praising Mr. Obama for talking up trade, a politically risky move for a Democrat.
Obama's big prize for the CEOs is a new "free trade" agreement with South Korea based on the NAFTA model that grants supremacy of investor rights over national laws, and lacks important conditions protecting Americans from the loss of jobs.
While minor modifications have recently been made to the US-Korea FTA negotiated by the George W. Bush administration, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka's strong and fundamental objections are still valid:
Trumka said the agreement, negotiated by the Bush administration, “would exacerbate our already lopsided trade relationship with South Korea, putting at risk thousands of good U.S. jobs in the auto, steel and other industrial sectors."
Without labor's intensive efforts on Nov. 2 and the fact that many Democrats were saved largely because of their fierce opposition to "free trade" agreements precisely like the one with Korea, the Democratic bloodbath would have been even worse and Obama rendered far more powerless
Yet even with labor's all-out electoral push and the anti-trade message from the voters (incuding Republicans), President Obama seems almost compulsively drawn back to his old ways.
FAR EAST DEALS DEVASTATING TO MIDWEST
With his trip to the Far East, Obama is once again trying to appease his enemies and neglecting the devastation that will result especially in the industrial communities of the Midwest.
Dear Mr. Bybee,
Thank you for a great article and your continued support of the American workers! I just had Ian Fletcher, an Adjunct Fellow at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, (a Washington think tank founded in 1933) on My "Buy American" radio show on The Working Family Radio Network (WFRNLive.com) He is also an economist and author of "Free Trade Doesn't Work: What should Replace it and Why"
The unbridled free trade and the lopsided results we have gotten from bad trade deals is devastating our sovereignty and jobs. It is high time we take pride again in in what America has to offer and insist our elected officials represent OUR nation instead of the global CEO's! It is a sad day when a wealthy conservative like Donald Trump even falls on the side of a 25% tariff (historically a swear word for conservatives) for Chinese imports while Obama goes stumping for more avenues for outsourcers. The middle class is delusional into thinking by Obama playing to be a "nice guy" to foreign nations they will open their markets freely to our goods. The barn door is already wide open.
Thank you again and keep up the good work!
-Buy American activist (as seen on MSNBC, National Examiner, AQHA mag, Union Edge Talk Radio Show etc…)