Two weeks ago, Thomas Friedman wrote, Web People vs Wall People. “Web people” are the Good Guys who accept what Friedman believes: that the more interconnected the world is, the better. The “Wall People” are, of course, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders followers who don’t think much of this whole globalization thing. Leave aside that Trump supporters are mostly xenophobes who are well to do and don’t really care about economics. You get the idea of his argument.
But I was really struck with something that he said, that sound suspiciously like what Bill Clinton was pushing in 1992. He said that Hillary Clinton was “refraining from telling people the hardest truth: that to be in the middle class, just working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t cut it anymore. To have a lifelong job, you need to be a lifelong learner, constantly raising your game.” That’s interesting, I think.
Lawrence Mishel Is a Livelong Learner
It reminded me of something that Lawrence Mishel wrote last year, Failed Theory Posed by Wall Street Dems Puts Hillary Clinton in a Bind. It it, he noted, “There was a time where it was plausible to argue that more education and innovation were the primary solutions to our economic problems.” But since then, we’ve learned a lot. Friedman famously said, “I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.” Two words and he’s for CAFTA! Mishel is a brilliant economist who looks at actual data — and learns.
So here is Mishel, roughly the same age as Friedman, continuing to learn. But Friedman, the man stealing ideas from a politician 25 years ago hasn’t learned a thing since at least 2005 when he published The World Is Flat. I guess it’s just the poor who need lifelong learning and not overpaid columnists who write constantly about economics without actually knowing anything about it.
Thomas Friedman Married Well
And Thomas Friedman isn’t just wealthy. I read this from the great Norman Solomon:
Throughout his journalistic career, Friedman has been married to Ann Bucksbaum — heiress to a real-estate and shopping-mall fortune now estimated at $2.7 billion. When the couple wed back in 1978, according to The Washingtonian article, Friedman became part of “one of the 100 richest families in the country.”
That was in 2011, when Thomas Friedman and his wife were building a $10 million house. I don’t care. As Solomon noted in the article, this doesn’t make Thomas Friedman’s arguments invalid. But it does make you wonder. There is no doubt that globalization is a great thing when you are part of one of the hundred richest families in America. And everyone has a frame. Friedman’s not too open about his frame.
Thomas Friedman Stop Learning Long Ago
But it’s amazing to think. We went through NAFTA and it didn’t work as promised. (Since then, various different justifications have been offered.) We’ve been through the Dot-Com bust. We’ve been through the Great Recession. We have seen worker salaries stagnate — including those of the college educated. And what did Thomas Friedman learn from all this? Zip! Nada! Not a damned thing!
Yet there he is: a columnist at The New York Times! And it’s not just that. Those in power listen to him (or he’s just an apologist for them). And he’s here to tell us that all we have to do is open ourselves up to education. I have a better education than Thomas Friedman — in a supposedly valuable STEM discipline! And as a professional freelance writer, I am by definition a lifelong learner. But it hasn’t helped me that much. It certainly hasn’t helped me the way marrying into the General Growth Properties family did Thomas Friedman.
Lifelong learning is for the prols! It’s for the people who didn’t marry well. It isn’t for Thomas Friedman!
Image of Thomas Friedman as Ralph Wiggum was created by me using The Simpsons still licensed under Fair Use.