WASHINGTON – Longtime Democrat Gene Seroka and the son of a Union of Teamsters member was not amused when in 2016 a reactionary presidential contender used the Port of Los Angeles, of which Seroka is the director , as the venue for a speech declaring: “Free trade sends our jobs overseas.”
Seroka lives in a bustling reality – the volume of trade in her port has increased tenfold since 1985 – and not the no-nostalgia of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) For some time before maritime commerce transformed the world.
“The Blue Age” – the oceans are “blue water” – is Gregg Easterbrook’s account of this transformation. It notes that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach generate 1.4 million of California’s 18 million jobs, around $ 400 billion in economic activity, and fees that fund much of those cities’ municipal governments. .
The port of Los Angeles, the largest in this country, ranks only 18th globally, although the traffic passing through it, measured in TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), has fallen from 900,000 in 1994 to 9 , 4 million in 2018.
Although a freeway was built for truck traffic in and out of the port, transporting a TEU through Los Angeles from the port costs more than transporting a TEU from Shanghai to the port. Crane operators at the Port of Los Angeles who move containers earn up to $ 300,000 a year, which could offend Sanders, the tribune of the proletariat and bane of the rich.
As of Sunday, the global supply chain problem was evident as a record 73 ships waited offshore spaces to unload hundreds of thousands of containers at Seroka Port. Sanders must be appalled: Americans are getting what they want.
Weight has always moved more easily on water than on land, and much cheaper than in air. “At every point in history,” says Easterbrook, 95% of merchandise in commerce travels by water. He says the explosive growth in international water trade has coincided with an increase in jobs and living standards “in almost every country.”
He notes that when Sanders was a child, 60% of humanity lived in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on $ 1.90 a day. Today, thanks in large part to free water trade that Sanders calls “a race to the bottom,” about 10% live in extreme poverty.
This drop in extreme poverty, to which Sanders seems either oblivious or indifferent, has occurred mainly in Asia. An Oxford economist calculates that during this century, 130,000 Chinese have been lifted out of such poverty every day.
But trade brought the West cheap imports and competition – improved domestic products – which helped produce about 20 years with negligible inflation. This directly and primarily benefited American workers, the objects of Sanders’ rhetorical concern.
This was all made possible by a technology of 1956 that changed the world and which few people accustomed to digital wonders consider to be technology: large rectangular steel boxes – shipping containers. Meet the aptly named Ever Loading ship: she is as long as four football fields, her crew of just 23 people cycle around her deck, and she carries 8,000 containers.
Over the 100 years from 1920 to 2020, says Easterbrook, “the world’s population has tripled, while global GDP has increased twenty-fold.” The inflation-adjusted dollar value of world trade more than doubled over the quarter-century from 1994 to 2019.
Since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995, writes Easterbrook, “the United States has always led the West in job creation.” Today, the United States holds 11% of the world trade market. China, with four times the US population, has 13%.
Although teaching Sanders economics is akin to tutoring a typhoon, Easterbrook notes that U.S. manufacturing employment, which peaked in 1979, fell by 5 million before Chinese imports became significant in 2001.
And, “Research by economists at Ball State University in Indiana and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” shows this net impact of trade with China: “The United States has lost about 1.5 million jobs. in manufacturing, resulting in 5 million manufacturing jobs that occurred entirely for US domestic reasons. These reasons include technology-driven productivity improvements and the rise of the knowledge economy.
Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, oversaw the drafting of the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill that he and like-minded progressives see not only consistent but essential to national well-being. So, as Congressional Democrats struggle to implement Sanders’ vision, keep in mind his misunderstanding and hostility to the most beneficial economic development in human experience: free trade through blue waters.