Naomi Klein this week with some curious remarks – and interesting insight.
The echo was probably intentional. Bush is so desperate for the Hispanic vote that he has taken to shouting ” Vamos a ganar! We’re going to win!” during stump speeches in Ohio.
Of course he is desperate for the hispanic vote – what candidate wouldn’t be?
But the main purpose of the “Yes, American can” bus tour, of course, was to shift the attention of US voters away from the Iraq prison scandal towards the recovering job market.
I would imagine that the tour was planned well in advance of the Abu Ghraib pictures coming out. It should read ‘effect’ instead of ‘purpose’.
Here is an interesting figure though:
With more than 2 million Americans behind bars, the number of prison guards has exploded – from 270,317 in 2000 to 476,000 in 2002.
That’s quite a number of state-created jobs is it not? Hmm.
But here is where Klein gets serious:
There’s Sergeant Ivan Frederick, another prison guard, this time from rural Virginia. Before he joined what Van Jones, a prisoners’ rights lawyer, calls “America’s gulag economy”, Frederick had a decent job at the Bausch and Lomb factory in Mountain Lake, Maryland. But according to the New York Times, that factory shut down and moved to Mexico – one of the nearly 900,000 jobs that the Economic Policy Institute estimates have been lost since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force in 1994, the vast majority in manufacturing.
Free trade has turned the US labour market into an hourglass: plenty of jobs at the bottom, a fair bit at the top, but very little in the middle. At the same time, getting from the bottom to the top has become increasingly difficult, with tuition fees at state colleges up by more than 50% since 1990.
And that’s where the US military comes in: the army has positioned itself as the bridge across America’s growing class chasm: money for tuition in exchange for military service. Call it the Nafta draft.
I have lots of anecodotal experiences of this, many Americans I have known have told me of this choice – to do your time in the military to get cheaper education. It sounds like a curious position, in what is supposed to be a market economy. The State is essentially bargaining with its citizens – and I think the phrase ‘Nafta draft’ is apt.