Monday, March 14, 2016

Sanders and the Global Poor

With primary elections in several states tomorrow, it is my hope that Clinton pulls at least a little further ahead of Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders threatens such extreme harm to so many people that I cannot see any way for the good he would do to come close to justifying the harm done. Some of us cannot shrug with such indifference at reducing hundreds of millions of people to absolute squalor.

We see more evidence of Sanders' utter disregard for the world's poor and his ignorance of economics in his meeting with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Sanders wants to block immigrants from coming into the United States because, he says, it would lower wage rates and the Koch brothers would profit.

First, Sanders shows not an iota of concern for those being blocked from these jobs. He simply dismisses them, as if they are mere things. This is an attitude I find utterly contemptible (and which is shared by a depressingly large number of Sanders' supporters).

Second, Sanders' views on immigrant labor show a blatant contradiction. If Sanders were a normal  politician, I would say that he was contradicting himself to try to get votes from different groups. However, in this case, I think the more accurate description is that Sanders has no idea what he is talking about.

If we accept Sanders' argument for not letting additional workers into the country, then we should adopt Trump's plan to round up the immigrants that are here and throw them out of the country. After all, if new laborers would lower wages and allow the Koch brothers to profit, then the 11 million workers already here should be thought of as depressing wages and allowing the Koch brothers to profit as well.

However, the prevailing view is that those 11 million workers cannot be deported without doing severe harm to the economy. They are, in other words, providing a significant net benefit to the American economy. If this is the case, then there is reason to expect that additional workers would provide a significant net benefit as well.

In the same way that the 11 million immigrants are a net benefit to the American economy, the people lifted out of squalor around the world and made a part of the global work force are a net benefit to the global economy. These people are purchasing food, basic medical care, clothing, and shelter. In doing so, they are feeding and growing these industries - industries that serve the world's poor - industries that will suffer themselves when Sanders throws the local workers out of their local factories.

Note that, in making this argument, I am accepting Sanders' premise that these people are mere things who have value only insofar as they provide a benefit to others. The argument above claims that they do, in fact, provide a benefit to others.

We should be adding to this the fact that these are human beings, and their welfare is important quite independent of the degree to which they are useful to others. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of people in the world living on less than $2.00 per day has dropped from 50% to less than 20%. In absolute terms, we went from a time when 2 billion out of 4 billion people lived in absolute poverty, to a time when 1 billion out of nearly 7 billion live in absolute poverty.

I look at these facts, and I go, "Really? Wow! That's great!" I truly cannot think of any greater accomplishment in human society - ever.

This is a real improvement to the lives of real human beings. This matters. Those people are not mere 'things' whose only value comes from being a benefit to others.

The President of the United States has a great deal of power when it comes to trade. This means we can't elect Sanders as President and hope that a more intelligent and compassionate Congress will block his more destructive ideas. Sanders can do far more harm to far more of the world's poor far faster than anything that can come from, for example, the Republican denial of climate change.

Sanders' still brags about 25 years of opposition to the very plans that have brought about these changes. Yet, he refuses to even mention these benefits. He refuses to talk about those people as anything other than "potential job stealers". That is all they are to him. And that is all they are to many of his followers.

If the Koch brothers and others profit from this, then, instead of shutting down the systems that have provided such a benefit, we can keep those systems in place and tax those concentrations of wealth instead. With that tax money, we can provide even more benefits to the 1 billion people still in extreme poverty. We can provide food, clean water, basic medical care, capital improvements, training, and education.

Furthermore, let us not pretend that everybody has gained as a result of these policies. Some have been made worse off. We should be using some of that money to help those who are harmed - to smooth the transition to a world where fewer people live in extreme poverty.

It is for the sake of those hundreds of millions of people that Sanders and many of his followers care nothing about that I hope that Clinton will pull further ahead of Sanders tomorrow.  The human suffering that would come from a Sanders victory is too great to shrug off.

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