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Mar 10

A Primer on Free Trade In Ten Rhyming Verses

Fairy Tale Castle: the Free Trade DreamThe economists came saying,
“Free trade it is good!”
The world will be rich
If only we would.
And oh did we would
And again and again
‘Til just as they said
We had caught a tailwind.

The economy grew
Look at GDP!
It was right in the numbers
For all seekers to see.
But for all of the gain —
The impressive growth rate,
The people just saw
Their wages stagnate.

The people were angry
They thought they’d be rich
The economist’s notions
Must have had a glitch
But it didn’t seem likely
That this could quite be
Do tent cities trump
Higher GDP?!

The problem was where
Economists live
A fairy tale place
Where no one gets the shiv.
So there was more money
In theory at least
Offsetting mass famine
Were much bigger feasts.

It seems when the money
Began rolling in
The rich didn’t share
Greed was not a sin.
In fact it was only
How we could be free
And if you don’t buy it
Look at GDP!

But when some poor souls
Looked at all the growth
It didn’t live up to
Economists’ boasts.
They stepped back and thought,
At the numbers they stared:
The growth it is higher
When wealth’s better shared!

Workers making coats
Competed worldwide
But doctors and lawyers
They got a free ride.
So as worker wages
Sat stuck in the dirt
The cost of a check-up
Continued to spurt.

Who makes the trade deals
Is it workers like you?
Or lawyers and bankers
And all that rich crew?
It’s free trade for you
But never for them
They may all be evil
But aren’t quite that dim.

Still maybe they aren’t
Quite as smart as they think
They’d likely be richer
If their moral’s didn’t stink
But they wouldn’t be richer
In a relative way
They wouldn’t be able
To point and to bray.

So think of this next time
Economists say,
“We’ll all become rich
One bright shining day!”
It might be in theory
But never for real
The rich spend their time
Finding new things to steal.

Update

I wrote this before I read Krugman’s post, A Protectionist Moment? It’s actually the strongest he’s ever come out against TPP. He actually says that free trade is now mostly a scam. Sadly, the single worst thing I can say about Hillary Clinton is that I feel certain that she will reverse herself on the TPP and decide that acceptable changes have been made and that she can support it. I hope not. But her careful statements about it don’t inspire confidence.

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  1. Lawrence

    The ISDS courts are a back door veto on doing anything useful about climate change. Among other things. She, and for that matter President Obama as well, convince themselves it will be otherwise. That is probably easier to do if you know your progeny will be able to buy protection from the very worst of what will come. For those who are, to use her dear friend Dr. Kissinger’s formulation, useless eaters, the future is not so promising. They aren’t bad people. They don’t wish this on us all. It just happens that preventing it will certainly mean things that upset their rich friends. I just don’t like my odds in any such contest. President Obama has by his actions and inactions already given his testimony in the matter. He’s a good man. But god damn, money must be so seductive. I’ll never know. And none of this is any kind of excuse for a voting protest stunt in November. If you want to destroy the world tomorrow the Republicans have that on offer. Death comes slowly with a Clinton administration. Time for, oh, perhaps the Socialist revolution. Perhaps Lockheed really does have a fusion reactor that works. Perhaps something to hope for.

    1. James Fillmore

      I think the seduction is almost impossible to resist. Once you make it big, you can’t have any poor friends, because they’ll see you as condescending (even if you aren’t, but you probably are.) So if you don’t want to be a hermit you will make rich friends. And they will all have pretty much the same opinions on how the world should be run (there’ll be some cultural differences between rich people in your suburban megachurch and rich people at a Ted Talks, so you get a little choice.) Even the Buffets and Soroses who admit our system is flawed aren’t exactly full-time hellraisers for change. That’s just not done (unless it’s done to destroy democracy, like Bill Gates’s school obsession.)

      I’ll never know it myself, either, but I had it happen to a brother of mine and an old friend. The brother I can tolerate; the friend was really condescending.

      It makes me think of what everyone said about Scalia; how nice he was. And that’s certainly a virtue. It’s better than James Clark McReynolds, who’d say of woman attorneys, “I see the female is here.” But I get sick of how the powerful think policy which affects the rest of us is some kind of game.

      1. Frank Moraes

        It is hard to be around people who don’t have roughly the same kind of money that you do. The only people who claim otherwise are rich movie stars who claim their drivers are their best friends. The driver knows that’s not true. And the star would too if the driver ever started acting like an equal. But how can you be on an equal footing with someone who eats at fine restaurants each night if you can’t afford to. Economics ruins everything.

    2. Frank Moraes

      I think Clinton and Obama simply believe that we will always be able to game the system to our benefit. And that’s largely been true. I was interested during the Republican debate how much they talked about other countries getting the upper hand on us. What universe are these people living in? It’s this old myth about Nice Guy USA who just let’s the rest of the world walk all over him. Geez. These people need to grow up. And the Obamas and Clintons need to realize that we won’t always be this powerful. And anyway, it’s all about the corporations. But they probably don’t care about that.

  2. paintedjaguar

    Krugman admitting to the free trade scam? My, my. But he seems to have forgotten that one of the first things George W. Bush did in office was to abrogate a treaty. And everyone else has forgotten it too, haven’t they? And he might mention the $15 billion law suit recently filed under NAFTA (against the U.S. by TransCanada for rejecting the Keystone pipeline)

    1. Frank Moraes

      No. He made the first clear statement that TPP was a bad idea. Before he’s always been “agnostic” (his word). Krugman still thinks that globalization has been a good thing. He seems to be saying that there is very little bang for the buck now. That is certainly true, but I would certainly go much further. Well, I guess I already did.

  1. Both Sides Do It: Paul Krugman Included

    […] different. Well, I've been arguing the same thing for years. That is pretty much what I wrote in my poem and it's what I've said many other times, like last year, No Trade Deals Until Our Economy Is […]

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