The Global Elite and the American Worker

Kuala Lumpur Skyline. Creative Commons via
Kuala Lumpur Skyline. Creative Commons via

The Jan/Feb issue of The Atlantic features an article by Chrystia Freeland, where she writes about “The Rise of the New Global Elite.” Freeland outlines how they differ from past American robber barons and their relationship with the American Worker in the context of both globalization and the current economic environment in the United States.

In an interview with a CFO, Freeland briefly highlights the need for the American Worker to adjust to the forces of globalization and the “Rise of the Rest”:

I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he’s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,” he told me. “So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.”

In the United States, the issue of of outsourcing is a hotly debated issue and indeed has played a role in political discussions of America’s anxiety of a “superpower in decline” to California’s 2010 gubernatorial election. The missing larger context is the not the immediate fear of “exporting jobs” but rather that there is a Rise of the Rest.

The picture above is the skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – a city of 1.6 million people. It may not be a New York, Chicago or Los Angeles (yet) but it can hold its own in the international stage as a center of business and commerce. With a work force that is very much educated, multi-lingual as well as English speaking, the people of Kuala Lumpur are just one example of the new multi-polar world. They also represent why the United States needs to adapt to the forces of globalism and economic openness that is has long advocated for.

American companies can either adapt or they can will be overtaken by foreign companies. The American companies are adapting, but what of the American Worker? And what will be the role of the U.S. government to help lead their people to these new realities?






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