Salvation from the Rising Tide?

Residents living in towns along the river were ordered to evacuate by the National Guard.

Just about everyone had left town, except for John, a great man of faith. "Those who flee are those of little faith. The Lord will save me," John told his pastor, who had glided up to John's front porch in a motorized boat.

"John, please," the pastor said. "Get on board. The river is rising fast." Even with the water chest-high, John refused, leaving his pastor no choice but to speed off to safety.

An hour passed and the water was up to John's neck. Just then, an old man rowed by John's house in a dinghy. The old man threw John a rope. "Grab the rope and I'll pull you aboard," the old man called out.

But John waved him off. "O ye of little faith. God will save me and then you all will see how great He is."

Ten minutes later, the water line was just under John's nose. Suddenly, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived overhead, dangling a hoist. "Grab the hoist or you will drown," a crewman shouted.

"Let me be. God will save me," John yelled. After John drowned and ascended to heaven, he understandably had a bone to pick with the Lord.

"Lord, I believed in you. I trusted my life in your hands. Why didn't you save me?"

God laughed. "John," the Lord said, "I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

You recall the remarks made recently by a senior ranking Bush administration economist about the "outsourcing" of American jobs and how he thought such labor market dislocations were ultimately good for America -- "in the long run," of course.

It sparked a predictable debate. In our "liberal" media, the "anti-globalization" protesters are lumped together with NAFTA-backing liberals, union-supporters, demagogues, cranks, communists and now Candidate Kerry, only to be ridiculed by conservative and liberal pundits alike. (See Thomas Sowell and Thomas Friedman columns if you want good examples of disdainful commentary about those who don't share their faith in American style global capitalism).

But despite our ignorance of the finer points made by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the New York Times ran an interesting article about free trade last week. The article, written by Challenge Magazine editor Jeff Madrick, noted that "free trade theory has a growing number of detractors, and one of their traditional concerns has understandably moved to center stage in this presidential election year. How much has the exporting of jobs to foreign nations contributed to the lack of jobs and the absence of wage growth in the current expansion at home?"

Madrick first genuflects before the god of free trade theory, acknowledging how the theory "strongly support(s) the case for outsourcing," drawing as it does on numerous economic studies, notably a 1972 study by Stephen Magee.

Magee's study purported to show that "the benefits of hypothetically eliminating all trade restrictions outweighed the costs of unemployment induced by international competition by a ratio of 100 to 1."

As it turns out, Magee "neglected crucial costs of job destruction, like the likelihood of displaced workers being paid a lower wage when they get new jobs," according to a 2003 economic monograph assembled by three prominent economists at the Upjohn Institute.

The Upjohn economists found a rather astonishing discrepancy between free trade theory and the reality of job destruction and its effects on workers. Though these economists remain advocates of free trade, Madrick reports, their "findings suggest at the very least that a sizable number of workers are inevitably hurt by free trade."

Bushenomics is based on the idea "a rising tide lifts all boats." Of course, such a philosophy doesn't bode well for those without boats.

Come November, we can either press Kerry to throw working-class Americans an economic lifeline or we can be like John, who told his rescuers to go away because God will save us.

The famous economist John Maynard Keynes once quipped: "in the long run, we're all dead." But, as one French economist put it, "Keynes is the one who is dead and we are caught up in the long run."

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff reporter and a syndicated columnist.

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