Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Neoliberals Without Mercy

If you're a Puerto Rican resident suffering through that territory's current manufactured, Greece-like debt crisis, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has some friendly advice for you:


In a blog-post that reads like it came straight from the devil's workshop of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Krugman says:
 And outmigration need not be such a terrible thing. There is much discussion of what’s wrong with Puerto Rico, but maybe we should, at least some of the time, just think of Puerto Rico as an ordinary region of the U.S.; at any given time, we expect some regions to be in relative and maybe even absolute decline, as the winds of technology and global trade shift. I wonder, in particular, whether Puerto Rico is suffering from the forces that seem to be leading to a general shortening of logistical chains and the “reshoring” of manufacturing to advanced economies.
Sure, just pack up and leave and travel more than a thousand miles by sea or by air with all your household possessions in a suitcase or trunk, in a pleasure-quest to that great job awaiting you on the mainland. Leave behind your family, your friends, your language, and your culture. 

Krugman doesn't even suggest, like odious American Enterprise Institute hack Michael Strain, that this not-terrible outmigration be subsidized by the government. And, as one commenter astutely replied to this multimillionaire columnist: "Moving from Puerto Rico to the mainland would be significantly harder than relocating from Princeton to New York City."

(Krugman recently devoted a couple of posts to the travails of packing up his papers and relocating from Princeton to the Big Apple. Outmigration must be a wonderful thing if you're rich and famous and can afford to hire a moving van.)

Krugman treats globalization and corporatism not as deliberate, sadistic man-made policies, but as natural winds and shifts. It's simply "logistics" that causes the detritus of humanity to drown while their livelihoods are passive-aggressively "reshored." Too bad Puerto Ricans don't live in an "advanced" economy like the rest of us, huh?

Among all the other things "wrong with Puerto Rico," Krugman also has a problem with its geography. It's inconveniently located right in the middle of the friggin' ocean! There aren't enough beaches. There is too much "inland" and too many people, who don't possess enough skills.  How can this crisis be, when even Appalachian rednecks from West Virginia know enough to move when the mines shut down! Why can't the Latinos pick up and leave when Big Pharma closes down its drug factories for the greener pastures of India?

Why can't Puerto Rican human capital get with the globalization program like the rest of the underclass?

What Krugman neglects to mention is that Puerto Ricans lack citizenship status, they're only represented by one non-voting Congress critter in the lower House, and are barred from voting in presidential elections. But he absolutely remembers to mention that "out-migrants" are usually young people, leaving the left-behind old folks depending on the government safety net.

Really. You have to read his post. It is pure Heritage Foundation, whence also came the Affordable Care Act. I'm even beginning to suspect that David Brooks might have hacked into Krugman's account in order to troll "those people."

I haven't been to the island in decades (my late husband had and still has family there) but three things stood out then: a tiny pocket of extreme wealth ( the beachfront condos were like fortresses, all their windows barred), a stunning amount of poverty, and a very obvious American military presence, particularly in the glitzy, touristy areas. That military presence is not so evident nowadays; thus the willingness of the neoliberal elites to give a giant middle finger to Puerto Rico. It's outlived its plunder possibilities. Cuba is no longer a looming Communist menace. The US Imperium has "pivoted" to the Middle East, Eastern Europe/Russia and China/Asia by encircling those chunks of real estate with ever more military bases.

Here's my published comment to The Conscience of a Liberal, actually in response to a reader named Nancy, who also seemed pretty miffed at Krugman.  (be sure to read the other comments, a few of which are critical):
I found the dismissive tone of this post offensive as well. It's indicative of the attitude of a super-power whose colonial outpost has outlived its usefulness for plunder and military "defense."
That Puerto Rico is now in such dire economic straits is no accident. This is a direct result of its diminished territorial status. But the elites will blame the unemployed, the retired, the old, the young, the geographical location (all of a sudden it's as inaccessible as Mars!), the lack of skills. It's the neoliberal way.

Residents of Puerto Rico might be citizens, but they are second class citizens. Despite being "represented" (in only the lower house of Congress) and invited to national political conventions, they are not allowed to vote in actual presidential elections. They are, however, military fodder. Puerto Rico is home to 10,000 veterans of the American armed forces.

After years of despoiling the island of Vieques with their bombs, the powerful US Navy was finally blockaded from their weapons testing grounds by both permanent residents and activists from the mainland. (Another reason that Big Uncle Sam is now thumbing his nose?) That was in 2003. The island, accessible from Puerto Rico proper by both ferry and plane, is now a growing (and comparatively affordable) tourist destination and has some of the top-rated beaches in the Caribbean. Its bioluminescent bay is one of the most famous and beautiful in the world.
But as the Daily News' Juan Gonzales has written, the American Imperium has left behind an unknown number of unexploded bombs in the waters off the island.
 Half the people of Vieques still live in poverty. The island has the highest cancer rate of any municipality in Puerto Rico. Studies by Puerto Rican scientists have found 34% of residents with toxic levels of mercury, 55% contaminated with lead, and 69% with arsenic.
Paul Krugman would probably tell them to move to New Jersey. Barack Obama is just telling them to drop dead.

The good news? Not that you'd know it if you get all your news and views from the New York Times, but there have been absolutely massive protests against austerity in Puerto Rico, and they've been going on for months. It seems that young people would prefer not to "outmigrate," after all. They'd much rather stay, and fight.



Meredith NYC said...

I didn’t really grasp Krugman’s post, but I knew it reeked of b.s.
He’s retiring from Princeton and migrating to Manhattan for his new gig at an institute for economic inequality, yet. So we should listen up. He even posted photos cleaning out his office books. MOST interesting!

Karen, this is a gem of a sentence you wrote....” It's simply "logistics" that causes the detritus of humanity to drown while their livelihoods are passive-aggressively "reshored."

Accept the huge forces of globalizations and tech, engineered by god, which no human can stop. Export jobs, import cheaper replacements or else---what? Economists like Krugman just study these natural phenomenon like the objective scientists they claim to be, protected by Princeton and the NY Times.

Well, citizens in every country aren’t drowning like Americans. Germany still kept more of its mfg, accepts unions, supports wages during downturns so workers can keep their skills, and pays for training. Even krugman has said they export quality products and have much better labor/management relations than we do. But he stopped there---don’t explain that too much, for fear of upsetting the balance of cluelessness.

And K talks about P.Rico’s “smaller ratio of coastline to area or to population.” This raised the b.s. of the post. He’s a geographer too.

I didn’t at first get the drop dead analogy with the idea that Pres Ford lost his job over that. But commenter Nancy set me straight, replying to my reply.

I said in part:

Even if Ford didn’t use those actual words, the headline conveyed his plain meaning---Drop Dead NY.
Today politicians, corporations, and pundit supporters can figuratively tell the whole nation to drop dead, even if not using those actual words, and they all keep their jobs. In fact, the more they insult the majority of average Americans in various ways, the more they attract billionaire political sponsors. Talk about ‘incentivizing’.

And the more the media commentators support them with various rationalizations, the safer they are in mainstream politics.

Banks are never told to drop dead, no matter what. The only ones losing their jobs have been average American workers--by the millions.

Meredith NYC said...

Also, the comments to Bruni’s column –the most ever--about the sunny side of corporations are worth a read. The column is worth a skim, just to appreciate the comments.

Now that marriage equality is blessed by the Court, Bruni can make his right turn on other matters, to stay in step with the conservative main stream. This is done adroitly by many pundits while they seem to applaud the liberal turn of powers that be. you suggested in your previous post, Karen.

This comment below to Bruni asks my question. Where is a NYT columnist for the Left?

Martin New York
And reading Bruni & Krugman & Collins & Kristof & Blow, eloquent & "liberal" though they may sometimes be, I contrast them with the people I talk to & read elsewhere, & with the Times readers who comment here, and I have to ask: why can't the Times afford to have at least one columnist from the Left?

4Runner said...

Yes, why doesn't the NYT have at least one columnist from the Left? And why isn't that columnist Karen Garcia? Perhaps we Sardonicksters need to start bombarding the public editor with those 2 questions.

Kat said...

Why not just get rid of columnists? They don't serve any real purpose. They could better spend the money on reporting. A columnist does not get where she or he does by opposing the Washington consensus.