View Full Version : Nancy Pelosi: We Want Globalization To "Be Promising To More"

07-17-2007, 08:54 AM
American angst grows over globalization "menace"


Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:18PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The stock market is at an all-time high, unemployment is near record lows, yet poll after poll shows American workers uneasy over job security and worried that they are losing out in a global economy.

The disconnect between the seemingly rosy economic data and the dour mood has caught the attention of some influential politicians who are concerned the middle class has soured on globalization, tingeing the debate on hot-button issues ranging from immigration to trade.

On the same day in June that Republican senators scuttled an immigration bill, many Democrats were applauding the demise of the fast-track trade authority that the Bush administration desperately wanted.

Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, sees a link.

"Both of those died because of problems that were extrinsic," the Massachusetts Democrat said, adding that many workers harbored "deep anger" over stagnant wages and widening income inequality, and were quick to pin the blame on illegal immigrants, China or regional trade deals like NAFTA.

As long as that malaise exists, lawmakers will have trouble tackling thorny trade or immigration issues, Frank said, and with an election year looming, he and his colleagues argue for policies that make globalization more palatable to the public.

"The globalization issue is one that is menacing to many," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "We want it to be promising to more."

Manufacturing job losses and recalls of potentially harmful Chinese-made goods have hardened negative attitudes. A recent survey from the Financial Services Forum found that 49 percent of Americans had a favorable view of globalization, down from 54 percent a year earlier.

When economics and politics meet, it is not always a perfect fit, so the flat wages that stoke worker anxiety actually come as a bit of relief to economists who fret over an overheating job market and inflation.

That makes policy decisions all the more tricky, and even many Democrats are shying away from hard anti-trade stances like import tariffs for fear of shutting off profitable trade.

Emboldened by last November's congressional sweep and optimistic about their chances in the next election, Pelosi and other Democrats are pushing for a stronger safety net to support those hurt by competition from low-wage countries.

Proponents of globalization have a wealth of statistics to support their case that lowering trade barriers strengthens the U.S. economy -- even if the benefits are not equally shared.

A study released last month by economists Matthew Slaughter, Grant Aldonas and Robert Lawrence said that the average American family stands to gain as much as $15,000 per year from global trade that boosts productivity and opens new markets for U.S. goods and services.

But the report also found that wage growth had stagnated since 2000 for a wide swath of the labor force. Even college-educated workers have seen wages decline in recent years, when adjusted for inflation.

"This is like a bad lottery," said Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee. "A few people get really good numbers and the rest of us get $1 to buy a new ticket."

That helps explain why the average worker is not thrilled with the state of the U.S. economy. A survey by Lake Research Partners found that 82 percent of workers felt they were missing out on economic growth.

"Trade may not be the No. 1 reason why they're losing their jobs, but they think it is," Miller said.

Economist Alan Blinder raised eyebrows this spring when he estimated as many as 40 million U.S. jobs could potentially be outsourced. He sees a painful transition as workers in even well-paid services lose out to cheaper foreign labor.

"It's gone beyond call centers and other relatively low-wage jobs," said Blinder, a former White House economic adviser who now teaches at Princeton University.

Blinder describes a divide between people who provide "impersonal" services that require little face-to-face interaction, such as radiologists, and those with truly hands-on jobs like taxi drivers or janitors. The second group will fare much better in a global economy, he said.

In 20 years, he expects carpenters to make more money than computer programmers. That means the U.S. education system needs to do a better job of preparing the next generation for the type of work that will exist.

But that's a long-term fix and for Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, it does not help her address questions from her constituents who are anxious about their jobs.

"There is a sense of insecurity that is palpable," she said. "Enough of the debate. Let's get to the specifics."