Globalization and technology are routinely cited as drivers of inequality over the last four decades. While the relative importance of these causes is disputed, both are often viewed as natural and inevitable products of the working of the economy, rather than as the outcomes of deliberate policy. In fact, both the course of globalization and the distribution of rewards from technological innovation are very much the result of policy. Insofar as they have led to greater inequality, this has been the result of conscious policy choices. .... Instead of only putting manufacturing workers into competition with lower-paid workers in other countries, our trade deals could have been crafted to subject doctors, dentists, lawyers and other highly-paid professionals to international competition. As it stands, almost nothing has been done to remove the protectionist barriers that allow highly-educated professionals in the United States to earn far more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. This is clearest in the case of doctors. For the most part, it is impossible for foreign-trained physicians to practice in the United States unless they have completed a residency program in the United States. The number of residency slots, in turn, is strictly limited, as is the number of slots open for foreign medical students. While this is a quite blatantly protectionist restriction, it has persisted largely unquestioned through a long process of trade liberalization that has radically reduced or eliminated most of the barriers on trade in goods. The result is that doctors in the United States earn an average of more than $250,000 a year, more than twice as much as their counterparts in other wealthy countries. This costs the country roughly $100 billion a year in higher medical bills compared to a situation in which U.S. doctors received the same pay as doctors elsewhere. Economists, including trade economists, have largely chosen to ignore the barriers that sustain high professional pay at enormous economic cost. .... The pattern of gains from technology has been even more directly determined by policy than is the case with gains from trade. There has been a considerable strengthening and lengthening of patent and copyright and related protections over the last four decades. The laws have been changed to extend patents to new areas such as life forms, business methods, and software. Copyright duration has been extended from 55 years to 95 years. Perhaps even more important, the laws have become much more friendly to holders of these property claims to tilt legal proceedings in their favor, with courts becoming more patent-friendly and penalties for violations becoming harsher. And, the United States has placed stronger intellectual property (IP) rules at center of every trade agreement negotiated in the last quarter century. In this context, it would hardly be surprising if the development of "technology" was causing an upward redistribution of income. The people in a position to profit from stronger IP rules are almost exclusively the highly educated and those at the top end of the income distribution. It is almost definitional that stronger IP rules will result in an upward redistribution of income. .... -- June Zaccone National Jobs for All Coalition http://www.njfac.org
Monday, October 31, 2016
Posted by Chuck Bell at 11:44 AM
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
David R. Howell et al, "Reframing the Minimum-Wage Debate," is a terrific response to people who claim that a $15 minimum wage will lead to job losses. Howell and his colleagues have plenty of evidence that this is not true. But he also argues that we should not frame the minimum wage issue in terms of job losses, but in terms of the benefits a substantial increase brings to millions of workers. He also makes the simple point that political and business leaders don't care about job loss when they support new technologies or so-called free trade treaties. Howell also includes information about budget studies that, to me,show how inadequate even $15 is. But you may not need careful budget studies. All you have to do is think about this: a full year of work at $15 brings just over $30,000 a year. That's all. That's poverty by any meaningful standard--a phrase, by the way, that cannot be applied to official American poverty lines.
Submitted by Frank Stricker of NJFAC and Emeritus Professor of History, Cal State University, Dominguez Hills.
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Posted by Chuck Bell at 2:38 PM