Wednesday, August 02, 2006

He just Rubins me the wrong way

I'm not sure what to make about this: via Ezra, Robert Rubin has recently had a bit of a Road-to-Damascus conversion when it comes to globalization:
it's a big deal when Robert Rubin changes the subject and begins to talk about income inequality as "a deeply troubling fact of American economic life" that threatens the trading system, even the stability of "capitalist, democratic society." More startling, Rubin now freely acknowledges what the American establishment for many years denied or dismissed as inconsequential--globalization's role in generating the thirty-year stagnation of US wages, squeezing middle-class families and below, while directing income growth mainly to the upper brackets. A lot of Americans already knew this. Critics of "free trade" have been saying as much for years. But when Bob Rubin says it, his words can move politicians, if not financial markets.
This post can be considered another in the long line of "The left is always right about everything, always" series. Rubin was, as much as anyone, at the helm of American capitalism during the 1990s, and his policies and the rhetoric of Democratic centrists flat-out mocked and belittled the people - like Greider - who criticized the American government's abandoning of the working class to the vicissitudes of the global market.

The left spend the decade of the 1990s trying to get anyone, anywhere, to listen to sweet reason when it came to the problems with globalization. In Seattle, 1999, the press and politicians finally started listening, even if they still assumed we were all stuid/crazy. But now that the worst of the pro-globalization cheerleaders - Rubin, Krugman, and others - are finally coming around, you'll pardon me if I'm not ready to make nice. The 1990s were a lost decade for the global poor, who had already had two lost decades before that. We'll be entering the fourth lost decade for Africa soon, and only now are the Rubins of the world admitting that something is rotten in Washington.

My reaction to Rubin is basically my reaction to the Generals who called for Rumsfeld's resignation a while back - "What were you doing when you could have stopped this mess?" It would have been nice if they'd come around when they were actually in power. I assume Rubin's conversion will have just as lasting an effect as those Generals, as well.

Rather than listen to the people who are only now coming around to the facts, why don't we shun Rubin like he deserves, and instead go to the people who were right all along?


adam said...

Perhaps because though people like Rubin may no longer have direct power over issues like this, they retain an authority that the people who were right all along still don't have?

I'm not happy about the latter fact - that the protests of thousands, representing millions, can be so easily misrepresented as marginal and ignored by policymakers irks me to no end. But if the word of someone like Rubin has more weight, and he's come round to a more sensible viewpoint, I'm not so bitter as not to accept an unlikely ally.

john said...

A good point, but:

Rubin wasn't just more influential, he was a central voice in the chorus that marginalized the people who he now is moving towards agreement with.

To use an extreme example, even if George Bush came out tomorrow saying that Iraq was a disaster and that the US should leave, I would still demand he be impeached.

Same with Rubin. When he was in charge, he opposed sensible policies. The fact that he's come around is nice in an abstract sense, but I still don't trust him.

macadavy said...

'The Fog of War' didn't win my sympathy for what Robert McNamara did in Vietnam. Rubin's waking up to smell the coffee now is a little late to say the least: