As Andy Grove so presciently articulated in the July 1, 2010, issue of Businessweek, the economies of China, Singapore, Germany, Brazil and India have demonstrated “that a plan for job creation must be the number-one objective of state economic policy; and that the government must play a strategic role in setting the priorities and arraying the forces of organization necessary to achieve this goal.”
The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model—so successful in the 20th century—is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century. In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA’s results—a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%—are pathetic.
The “ash heap of history” line is a deliberate slap at President Bush’s statement that tyrants would end up on the ash heap of history, replaced by liberal democracies. So Stern is explicitly rejecting that, in favor of a kind of soft tyranny.
The second paragraph in that quote is refuted by the recent performance of the Japanese economy. Japan tried a very soft form of command economics in the post-war decades, in the form of its government-corporate partnerships, climbed to #2 in world economies behind the United States, only to have their bubble burst. Japan hasn’t recovered from that, and thanks to its demographics, may not. China is headed in a similar economic direction, but its demographics will eventually catch up in the form a shortage of women for the rising generation of men to marry.
None of that is relevant to the union man, Stern.
This should motivate leaders to rethink, rather than double down on an empirically failing free-market extremism. As painful and humbling as it may be, America needs to do what a once-dominant business or sports team would do when the tide turns: study the ingredients of its competitors’ success.
Nope. We just need to fire the current coach and get back to the fundamentals.
While we debate, Team China rolls on. Our delegation witnessed China’s people-oriented development in Chongqing, a city of 32 million in Western China, which is led by an aggressive and popular Communist Party leader—Bo Xilai. A skyline of cranes are building roughly 1.5 million square feet of usable floor space daily—including, our delegation was told, 700,000 units of public housing annually.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government can boast that it has established in Western China an economic zone for cloud computing and automotive and aerospace production resulting in 12.5% annual growth and 49% growth in annual tax revenue, with wages rising more than 10% a year.
Stern even says we need five-year plans from the government to foster growth. It’s as if the USSR’s five-year plans, its bloody brutality and eventual collapse, never happened. Or I guess in Stern’s mind, they just weren’t implemented by the right people.
Is it worth mentioning at this point that Stern didn’t lead any old run-of-the-mill union, but the very union that Barack Obama pledge to carry water for as president? Is it worth mentioning that President Obama installed this very same Andy Stern — a very frequent White House visitor since 2009 — on the debt commission?