Learn from Latin America

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jorge Castañeda, who served as foreign minister of Mexico from 2000 to 2003 and is now professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University, argues that the U.S. should learn from Latin America and protect its middle class. 


Jorge Castaneda

Comments [11]

If it was affordable in 1970, why not now ?

Jack Jackson makes an excellent point.

In THEORY, we live in a more efficient US economy that produces more GDP per person than ever before.

IN Practice, many or most of us struggle to afford essentials which would have come easy to US citizens in our position
a generation or more ago.

So the REAL question is :

If we're so much more productive now,

(The Europeans should ask themselves the same question, rather than just bend over and assume Austerity is inevitable.
They COULD afford a very comfortable and secure lifestyle before the Euro,
why not now ?)

(Part of the answer might be that competing with people who earn 10 % of what you do, in countries where it costs 1/10th to live, is BAD for most people in
the US and EU who work for a living.
In THEORY, it could be a WIN-WIN for all,
but ONLY if transfer payments were made from those who gain to those who lose so nobody was worse off. In PRACTICE,
this almost NEVER happens (and if it does, it doesn't last long). Maybe, overall its a WIN-LOSE for most people.)

Dec. 13 2011 09:41 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn,NY

Hi, It is aid that Argentina, my country of origin, is losing its middle class. Inflation is high. Eugenia Renskoff

Dec. 13 2011 06:52 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Sorry, jgarbuz, your premise is for sh*t.

The US economy generates $15T in goods and services each year, yet the percentage of that total that the average wage earner can command is at it's lowest level since 1928. If average wage had held level with the growth in the economy, average wages would now be $108,000. Instead, the upper tier earners lay claim to far more of the product than their input justifies. That's a product of our tax system not their productivity which is itself a product of private campaign financing. We can fix it.

Dec. 13 2011 12:45 PM

Politicians and the media like to throw around the term "class war" whenever they talk about taxes rising for the rich. But since the early 80's the taxes on the wealthiest have dove and their share of wealth has skyrocketed correspondingly. The middle class the whole while has been slowly loosing ground. If this hasn't been "class war" I don't know what is!

Dec. 13 2011 12:02 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

jgarbuz, your thesis is based on certain assumptions about what is and is not possible. Extreme inequality has all kinds of negative ripple effects -- on health, crime, productivity, etc. -- that affect ALL, across the economic spectrum. You can try to be "content" with that if you want...And of course crime won't help; crime is fueling this phenomenon...

Dec. 13 2011 12:00 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Yes, fuva

The US cannot defy the laws of economics forever anymore than it can defy the laws of physics. We had a post WWI and particularly WWII surge, and a "middle class" came into existence, and spread even to the traditionally "oppressed" minorities in very recent decades, but that "golden age" is over. We just have to accept that the sky is NOT the limit anymore, and to learn to be more content with what we do still have. Or even less, if necessary. Grumbling won't help, nor will crime. Times change.

Dec. 13 2011 11:48 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

His thesis is right however. The likes of Pablo Escobar and the Mexican drug cartels may seem nihilistic - but when you grow up in a society where the system is inherently corrupt; kidnapping the wealthy and killing politicians isn't considered a bad thing -Republicans take note.

Dec. 13 2011 11:43 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

jgarbuz, sunshine, must it be this way? Dag...

Dec. 13 2011 11:42 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Difference between economic trajectory of Latin America and U.S. is the conquistadors in U.S. settled en masse, whereas they did not in Latin America; in Latin America socioeconomic power was held and controlled by a much smaller minority, making for greater/ more extreme inequality from the beginning.

Dec. 13 2011 11:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Latin America (and many other places) went through a lot of stuff that the US is only going through today. It learned a lot from those experiences of the 70's, '80s and '90s, and has finally managed to get much of its act together. By contrast, the US has gone into deep debt and has been stripped of manufacturing and the middle class, and is thus going through that harsh experience now.

But in general, since the dawn of civilization, "middle class" has always been a relatively rare and ephemeral phenomenon. It usually comes into existence when a particular civilization wins big wars and gets temporary trade and other advantages. Those advantages rarely last for very long, and post-WWII American experience of a broad middle class is one that is no different. As is normal, we will end up with a thinner middle class ruled by an even thinner elite. That is the physics of civilizations. We thought we were "exceptional," but we find out now that the laws of economics don't make long term exceptions.

Dec. 13 2011 11:38 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Latin America, like most non-British colonies, never had a history of democracy, universal education, rule of law, or a strong civil service - the pillars of creating an upwardly mobile middle-class. That has changed the last 15 years.

Dec. 13 2011 11:35 AM

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