Senator Dorgan @ Columbia

Thursday, October 19th, 2006 | All Things, Events, Friends

It had been a while since I was up on campus, and I was sad to see The West End – a.k.a. the ‘Stend — gone, and in its place a not-yet opened bar/restaurant: “Havana Central at The West End” (part of the Havana Central chain of Cuban restaurants.) Ginsberg and Kerouac’s old haunt had been a popular gathering spot for Columbia undergrads — in part because of its notoriously lax ID-checking policies — since 1911. End of an era.

Up at the Teachers College, Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) was giving a talk on how the current economic policies and “free trade” agreements have worked against the interests of America’s middle class.

Dorgan was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 after serving two terms in the U.S. Senate and six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His public service career began at age 26, and he was the youngest constitutional officer in North Dakota’s history when he was appointed State Tax Commissioner by the Governor. He is the Ranking Member of the Senate Trade Subcommittee and in recent years has been a vocal opponent of most bills “liberalizing” trade policies between the USA and other countries.

His recently published book, Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America features such chapter titles as “Exporting Misery” and “A Star-Spangled Rut.” In it, he draws attention to America’s $2 billion a day trade deficit and argues that “free trade” agreements primarily create conditions favorable to shipping American jobs overseas. Current economic policy caters to the greed of corporations at the expense of American jobs, and in the long run, the United States’s economic health. Dorgan cited the number of American companies whose primary manufacturing jobs have moved to other continents — primarily: Asia — at a rate of three million over the past five years. As a result, no Fruit of the Loom underwear, Huffy bikes or Etch-a-Sketches are made in America any more. The companies that eliminate the American jobs benefit their bottom line by exploiting cheap, unorganized labor pools elsewhere, and receive additional tax breaks for doing so. Additionally, tax loopholes exist such as the ones that allow for companies nominally headquartered in the Cayman Islands to avoid income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, withholding tax or estate duty. Dorgan mentions in his book the infamous Ugland House, an unassuming five-story, white office building on the George Town waterfront that serves as the official address to 12,748 corporations.

Dorgan

Dorgan

Dorgan’s views conflict contrast most obviously with Thomas L. Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, who argues in his bestseller The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, that the forces of globalization are inevitable, and all societies must either adapt or be left behind. The unplanned cascade of technological and social shifts effectively leveled the economic world, allowing India, China and other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing. On this new playing field, misplaced focus on protecting domestic jobs is short-sighted: as the country’s scientific and engineering base erodes and American politicians peddle protectionist myths, the global economy is being “shaped less by the ponderous deliberations of finance ministers and more by the spontaneous explosion of energy” from eager Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs. Competing with low-skilled workers overseas should not be this country’s goal; rather governments should devote resources to assist workers in developing a skills base to succeed in this new “flattened” economy.

The authors argued their points on a recent PBS News Hour.

TC Arches

I slipped out of the book signing and after-reception to meet SC, JB, a few others in the Stern crew, CS and MB at Japonais. SYB kept me updated with periodic text messages from Shea where he was watching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Would our Mets be going to the World Series this year?

Alas, no.

There are 2 Comments ... Senator Dorgan @ Columbia

Qsoz
October 27, 2006

I really thought the Mets would pull it off, even in the bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, 2 strikes, bases loaded. :(

FMBJ
October 27, 2006

The senator is a dedicated public servant. And I think he is photogenic (1st picture), only that “something” doesn’t look quite natural (2nd picture). :) On a more serious side, ahem, I lean more towards Friedman’s views. Global competition may not be a bad idea after all since competition sparks progress as in war draws new and/or improved military technologies. It takes a powerful, monopolized tool to win a decisive victory. In this case, world’s scientific/technology leader + highly skilled workers + strong government and consumer supports. zzz….

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