I thought that Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota might be a cut above the general run of politicians when I noticed that he was one of four Democratic senators who voted against the Bush administration’s recent “immigration reform” bill, designed to replace the American population with Third World coolie labor. That prompted me to get his book criticizing current federal-government trade and labor policies, and I was not disappointed. (The other Senate Democrats who proved better patriots than 23 Republicans, not to mention the President, were Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the last Southern Democrat in Congress, and gentlemen from Michigan and Nebraska, states where a lot of people still actually work for a living.)
Many of us have believed that the American social fabric has been stretched in recent years toward a dangerous point of tearing—that the working and middle classes in what was once the Land of Opportunity have been losing economic ground while a small percentage of the very rich got very richer. Senator Dorgan’s book supplies chapter and verse in support of our suspicions. His facts and figures, listed below, are sufficient to convince all but the most hardened lobbyist and Wall Street Journal editorial writer.
The middle and working classes are being relentlessly pushed downward by the outsourcing of jobs to the point that the American Dream is in danger of becoming a bad joke. (Watching adult children and college students trying to get a leg up these days, as well as examining Dorgan’s data, convinces me that the senator is right.) As he says, perhaps tritely but certainly truly, “this country cannot move forward while the middle class is moving backward.”
The trade agreements that have been pushed through by the Establishment of both parties (with more to come) are not “free trade” at all but a snare and a delusion for all but politically favored corporations. The U.S. government is actually giving tax breaks for companies to relocate to other lands, which, of course, is also a means for the companies to escape American taxes. Further, U.S. “trade representatives” have repeatedly acquiesced in violations of those agreements by foreigners, and not a few of them have left the government to draw big bucks from those foreigners they have helped.
The major media have been concentrated into a few conglomerates that have no interest in telling us common folk the truth about what is happening, in the world or in our country.
The prices that Americans are paying for drugs, the highest on earth, have nothing to do with either free markets or product safety and a lot to do with the fact that the drug industry has two lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress. While raising alarm at the danger of “foreign” drugs and excluding them from our market, and while getting one third of their research funds from the government, the drug companies import the products of their foreign factories and sell them at prices higher than they charge anywhere else in the world.
No government but ours puts mushy foreign-policy objectives ahead of the economic well-being of its people. President Bush could do more to advance “freedom” and “democracy” around the globe by actually enforcing our trade agreements against countries that practice slave labor than he will ever accomplish by aggressive wars.
The present regime has effects, including the break-up of communities, the downward mobility of families, and the demoralization of the people, that undermine the very conditions which make possible the productivity that supports the wealth of the regime’s masters. (Anyone who has dealt with college students in recent years knows that work is a declining value and practice in America.)
To this critique, the senator, to his credit, adds a sizable package of legislative proposals that would begin to reverse the deleterious effects of present policies.
Ronald Reagan, despite his virtues, committed many errors—the most grievous of which was ushering into power both the Bush dynasty and the neocons. But he was an American, with a sincere interest in the well-being of the American people—which, after all, ought to be the chief motive of any president. It is hard to imagine Reagan engaging in senseless warfare or celebrating the proletarianization of the American middle and working classes as the Bushies have been doing for years now—with, of course, the collaboration of the “opposition” party.
The old Democratic Party had many faults, but it once had an honest claim to being the party of the common man. How did it become the vehicle of alienated minorities, baby killers, sodomites, limousine liberals, and Wall Street? Senator Dorgan is not as disgusted with his party as I and most Americans are, but he is not afraid to call the Democracy to account for its complicity in the selling out of the people. He tends to believe, however, that among the Democrats will be found the most potential for resistance to the present economic regime. Anyone who will take a close look at the current crop of Republican congresspersons will be tempted to agree.
Despite his vote and his thorough discussion of every other aspect of the American declension, in his book, the senator does not bring up immigration, which is surely a major element in the downward pressure on American workers. An ethnically coherent working class is better able to protect itself than a promiscuous and polyglot one. Senator Dorgan laments the present weakness of the unions. He does not mention that union leaders, to preserve their own power and perks, have abandoned the American laboring class to pander to the immigrants who are replacing us just as surely as has Wall Street. The unions have always been at a disadvantage with the banks and corporations in purchasing politicians, but they have now quit trying.
This is my notion and not the author’s, but perhaps we could make progress in understanding our situation by clarifying our ideas of “free trade” and “capitalism” with an old distinction between production and trade, on the one hand, and “speculation,” on the other. My rigorous free-market friends will say there is no valid distinction here. But, in fact, the works of early exponents of the goodness of free trade are full of denunciations of “speculators and stock jobbers.” They drew an economic and moral distinction between the wealth created by productive labor and entrepreneurship and that produced by manipulation of paper. Certainly, the extremely wealthy in our country got that way in the second manner—by stock and currency manipulations that added nothing to the total stock of goods available to mankind. And such activities are never merely free enterprise but invariably require the collusion of politicians.
The middle-class America that we have known was not a great civilization, but it had a solid, homely virtue—it was a good country for the common man. Its prosperity and freedom were more abundant and widely shared than had ever been seen in history. When we have lost that, we will indeed inhabit a bleak and unlovely land.
[Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling America Out, by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) 277 pp., $24.95]