Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Worker’s Rights Organizations Rank the World

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is the world’s largest trade union federation. Recently, it examined the legal and general working environments of 139 countries, “based on 97 indicators. That includes rights like freedom of association (being able to form a union), collective bargaining, and the right to strike. Top ranking countries (‘Irregular Violation of Rights’) generally observe these liberties, while those at the bottom don't (‘No guarantee of rights’).”, May 28th.
As we watch income polarization in the United States squeeze the middle class downwards, expanding the under-earning bottom segment as the wealth at the narrowest segment at the top rises dramatically, it becomes useful to examine exactly how we work and how much we work. Unlike many nations in Europe, while there are a few U.S. overtime rules for wage-based compensation, there is no statutory limit to how many hours an employer can require an American worker to put in, how many days per week or when those services need to be done. But while the average 1700 hours average per year for U.S. workers is significantly higher than workers in Europe, Asian hours can make even the U.S. number look small by comparison.
On the other hand, looking at how workers are treated when they work provides an entirely different perspective. The ITUC examined worker’s health, safety, working conditions, right to collectivize to protect working conditions, restrictions on employers’ ability to fire workers who protest treatment on the job, how labor laws are enforced, etc. The result of that examination (The ITUC Global Rights Index,  a report issued on May 19th) produced five (plus) categories of national-average working environments.
1 – Irregular violations of rights: 18 countries including Denmark and Uruguay
2 – Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan and Switzerland
3 – Regular violations of rights: 33 countries including Chile and Ghana
4 – Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Kenya and the USA
5 – No guarantee of rights: 24 countries including Belarus, Bangladesh and Qatar
5+ - No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 8 countries including Central African Republic and Somalia.
Huh? The U.S. is in a cluster of third world countries, separated far from most of the rest of the developed world, and trailing countries like Chile and Ghana? We know the Great Recession and the resulting boost in unemployment statistics pushed the power to employers, and that union membership in the private sector is all but gone, but really? “Workers in countries with the rating of 4 have reported systematic violations. The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under continuous threat.” Whew! Really? The United States?
“[I]t’s no surprise that Qatar comes low in the ranking, where hundreds of workers are dying building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup… [But] ‘The U.S. has not ratified core labour standards set by international law,’ Makbule Sahan, the lead author of the report, wrote in an email. ‘Even though the country has an extremely high inequality rate and limited social protection, workers are repressed whenever they ask for better working conditions.’”
To those defending the income inequality factor in the United States, it’s all about global economic factors outside of our control – the lack of good jobs stemming from America’s inability to compete against global wages rates for comparable work. Still, those critics are precisely the forces that pressure Congress and state legislatures to cut spending, even at the expense of the education our work force needs to regain that competitive edge.
So how could we address this rather harsh reality? Assuming our government actually cared, which appears to be a stretch since our elected representatives treasure campaign contributions more than representing their constituents… given the spiraling cost of getting elected. Guess who has more money to contribute, employees or employers? Here’re my suggestions, which basically prioritize the welfare of most of us in ways that seem lost today:
One: Education at all levels needs to be prioritized with powerful government support to eliminate saddling post-secondary students with mortgage-sized student loans. Every penny that has been eliminated from education budgets over the last few years needs to be reinstated and embellished. We need new national laws to realign primary and secondary tenured seniority systems with a new priority favoring our best teachers. We need our students to rise in international reading and math scores, not continuously decline!
Two: Government incentives to private industry to foment domestic job-creation research and development as well as direct government support for such R&D activities needs to move way up the priority list, well ahead of our bloated military budget.
Three: No more deferred maintenance of our national and local infrastructure. What’s more, we need to expand what we have. Power, water, sewage, dams, levees, roads and highways, bridges, Internet lines, alternative energy, upgraded irrigation systems, desalinization and water recovery operations, etc. need to be the “best in class” in the world. This is an investment with a measurable rate of return, not spending money that just goes down the drain. And think of the jobs, jobs, jobs!
Four: Increase financial regulation and environmental quality, and fight anything that tilts the playing field in favor of rich incumbents back towards average workers. Kill the mythology that environmental regulation kills jobs (it does quite the opposite). Big coal fought hard in W. Virginia, claiming jobs will die, but for the power plants that accepted the need to “clean up,” life goes on and money is still flowing into their coffers with no jobs lost!
Five: Replace the workers’ rights lost in the anti-union movement with new federal standards that increase minimum wages and protect workers from absurd working conditions.
We are rapidly reaching a “use it or lose it” tipping point in national power and economic viability. Fail to invest in  the future, improve the lot for “most of us” and correct the income imbalance we have today, and we can kiss this country’s stature and power in the world goodbye. The choice is ours, and we really need to stop the recent legislative trends that everyone else in the world can see are weakening the United States in ways that soon will be irreparable.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if the rest of the world can see these weakening trends, why can’t we?!

The 13% Solution

Let’s define terms. There’s fat and then there’s obese, but what does that mean? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, while there are technical definitions of obesity involving a body mass index formula, the shorthanded view uses are waistline measurement (“abdominal obesity”): “Guidelines generally define abdominal obesity in women as a waist size 35 inches or higher, and in men as a waist size of 40 inches or higher.” The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, led a study (published in Lancet) that aggregated over 1700 surveys in 188 nations from 1980 to 2013. Their mission: track global overweight and obesity rates.
The biggest non-loser in the race, with roughly 5% of the world’s population, was the United States of Fat America. We have a stunning 13% of the world’s overweight population (more than any other country), although as percentage of our own total population, we pale in comparison with statistics from the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 percent of men and 65 percent of women are heavy… China and India combined have about 15 percent [of the world’s heavies].”, May 28th. In Europe, the U.K. can boast that 2 out of 3 of its adult population are overweight; it tips the scales as the fattest European nation.
Two billion fatties! Wonder if the planet is spinning as fast as it used to. “’It's pretty grim,’ said Christopher Murray [from the above Institute,] ‘When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is.’… Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. He said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.
“[In mid-May], the World Health Organization established a high-level commission tasked with ending childhood obesity… ‘Our children are getting fatter,’ Dr. Margaret Chan, [World Health Organization]'s director-general, said bluntly during a speech at the agency's annual meeting in Geneva. ‘Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death.’ Earlier this year, WHO said that no more than 5 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.”
Think about it. Walking to talk to someone versus reaching for the now-all-pervasive cell phone. Fizzy sugar-laden soft drinks are everywhere. Folks shift from vegies to animal protein (with a tad o’ fat along the way) as their incomes rise. Folks ride in cars when they used to walk. Machines till the fields and increasingly do the heavy lifting.
The Centers for Disease Control tell us that 34.9% of American adults are technically obese. The CDC also tells us: “By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.5% in Colorado to 34.7% in Louisiana in 2012. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Nine states and the District of Columbia had prevalence between 20-25%. Thirteen states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had a prevalence equal to or greater than 30%... Higher prevalence of adult obesity was found in the Midwest (29.5%) and the South (29.4%). Lower prevalence was observed in the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (25.1%).” Guess folks in the South love to sit around and chew the fat!
It’s all adding well over $150 billion to our annual healthcare costs, but just think how much money the processed foods and soft drink industry is making… and how our lovely GOP comrades in the House want to let school districts go back to processed foods and sugary drinks if they can’t afford the healthy stuff: “The House Appropriations Committee on [May 29th] passed an agriculture budget bill that included nearly $21 billion for child nutrition that would allow schools to opt out of White House nutritional guidelines passed in 2012. The vote was 31 to 18.
“The Obama administration, hoping to combat rising childhood obesity, announced new rules in 2012 that added more fruits and green vegetables to school breakfasts and lunches; the rules also reduced the amount of salt and fat children consume at schools… About 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day.” New York Times, May 29th. These are the same guys trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act too? I wonder if their elephantasy-symbol will be replaced with the legendary pushmi-pullyu.
I’m Peter Dekom, and we might save a whole pile of other dollars just by having a lot of old people just die when they are “less old.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weeding Out the Competition

Medical marijuana (MMJ to the trade) is legal in 20 states and Canada. Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Washington and, yup, Uruguay. But marijuana in most of its incarnations, is still illegal to the U.S. federal government, and while there are various “guidelines” – like the August 29, 2013 memorandum from Deputy Attorney General James Cole to his federal prosecutors (U.S. Attorneys) – on deploying federal resources to prosecute marijuana related offenses, its use is still a federal crime.  The memo simply stated that under certain circumstances, it was not an “efficient use of federal resources” to pursue marijuana crimes, iterating that Congress still held marijuana to be an illicit controlled substance.
The memo is specific on what it will not tolerate: distribution to minors (even for medical reasons), use of federal lands, use on federal property, use where it is a violation of the relevant state law, DUI, anything were a gun is used (hey Westerners who carry guns to Starbucks and schools!) and lots of ambiguous stuff about linkage to criminal enterprise. The memo explains that the feds were previously focused on any large-scale operation but that in future investigations, the size of the enterprise alone would no longer be determinative. However, the memo also says that prosecution is always discretionary, and that these guidelines create no rights, and cannot be used as a defense to any civil or criminal prosecution. Huh? Confused? So is just about everyone who has to deal with this on a daily basis.
So every once and a while, a local U.S. attorney will go out and round up a few of the state-licensed purveyors of weed, file some charges and try to shut down these local facilities. It can be very haphazard as a number of local Bakersfield, California sellers (MMJ-legal) recently discovered.
You can bet that as much as Vegas casino-owner Sheldon Adelson wants online gambling banned, the big drug cartels fear legalization more than a division of well-armed Mexican federales. Why shouldn’t they continue to ply their trade with prices through the roof, benefiting from the risk-reward inherent in well-executed criminal activity? So what if a few folks have to die to make a point, and who cares if that drive-by takes out a few innocent victims. It’s the business that matters.
Colorado is pulling in more than $3 million a month in new, marijuana-based tax revenue since the drug became legal in January. Add this to the reduction in police efforts and the cut-back in prisoners in state facilities, the ability to fund new drug-rehab programs to cover drug abuse in general, and it’s hard to see why marijuana isn’t legal everywhere. It’s certainly almost as easy to obtain where it is strictly illegal (ask your local high school or college student for directions). Or you can continue to line the pockets of the drug lords who would pay big bucks to keep weed illegal.
Canada has another approach: only allow big processors/growers to have licenses and watch them like a hawk. Thus, in Canada, it is only legal to fulfill a medical marijuana prescription from these big (and wildly profitable) big boys. Easier for the authorities to track, but in the world of free market business, who decides who gets rich… and why?
“A court ordered the [Canadian] government to make marijuana available for medicinal purposes in 2000, but the first system for doing so created havoc. The government sold directly to approved consumers, but individuals were also permitted to grow for their own purposes or to turn over their growing to small operations. The free-for-all approach prompted a flood of complaints from police and local governments.
“So the Canadian government decided to create an extensive, heavily regulated system for growing and selling marijuana. The new rules allow users with prescriptions to buy only from one of the approved, large-scale, profit-seeking producers like Tweed [occupying an old Hershey’s chocolate factory in Smith Falls, Ontario], a move intended to shut down the thousands of informal growing operations scattered across the country.
“The requirements, which went into effect in April, are giving rise to what many are betting will be a lucrative new industry of legitimate producers. The government, which will collect taxes on the sales, estimates that the business could generate more than 3.1 billion Canadian dollars a year in sales within the next decade.” New York Times, May 24th.
Bottom line: marijuana is going to be legal in the United States, everywhere, in the not-too-distant future. We need to prepare and do it right. Colorado is pioneering systems to monitor and control this activity, but there is a long way to go. The feds are struggling with what to do. Republicans, the bastions of social conservatism, are equally torn apart. The libertarian wing agrees with the legalization movement; social conservatives opposed it.
The House of Representatives is even considering a proposal (with sponsors from both sides of the aisle) to defund federal enforcement efforts against businesses and individuals who are otherwise in full compliance with state-permitted MMJ usage. The Obama administration is ambivalent, sending mixed signals every day. Democrats are split but leaning heavily in favor of legalization. When California – the largest state in the union – expands from MMJ to full recreational use, the floodgates will open.
For the little kid, experiencing 300 seizures a day that can be reduced by 99% with a mild, non-high-producing dosage of marijuana derivative, providing that benefit is a serious federal felony anywhere. So desperate parents, willing to go to prison for their “baby,” get what they can get, not knowing if their dosage is correct. Growers, aiming for the illicit and profitable marketplace, don’t care if they use banned pesticides and toxic growing methods to maximize their yields. After all, who’s going to turn them into the authorities for selling impure weed?
It’s time to kill as much cartel business as we can, move the revenues from criminals to taxing authorities, fund as many drug-rehab facilities as we need, stop wasting our criminal justice dollars on weed and open up the medical profession to do what they know they need to do to use cannabis properly and effectively. The ban on marijuana is not remotely as effective as Prohibition was… and Prohibition was one of the stupidest efforts ever mounted in the United States. Hell as no fury like a self-righteous zealot on a self-appointed (sometimes blaming God) mission.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it’s time to stop the stupid waste and get real!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stupid Pet Tricks and Other Foreign Policy Missteps

The never-ending boycott of everything Cuban. It started back in 1960, a year after a military coup deposed Mafia-friendly Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar, a man with has hand in just about every economic activity in his elite-run country. Images from The Godfather float in the ether. Big decadent hotels and gambling palaces. He was a cruel man, greedy and decadent.
“Batista's increasingly corrupt and repressive government then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba's commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money in Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace—which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations—Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his anti-Communist secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 people. For several years until 1959, the Batista government received financial, military, and logistical support from the United States.” Wikipedia.
Then Castro’s rebels invaded and ripped apart the country. Batista fled. The mafia was shoved out the door. American interests were confiscated. The landed gentry, the urban rich, the well-educated professionals watched as their upscale lives were torn apart by the next dictator on the block, communist rebel/lawyer, Fidel Castro (and to a much lesser extent, his brother Raul). He decimated their ranks, confiscated their property, often resorting to the same kinds of brutality once attributed to the now departed Batista.
They fled in continuing droves to the United States, almost all to South Florida, heavily focused on Miami and environs. Cuba remained a thorn in America’s side, even fomenting the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that almost caused a war between the United States and the Soviet Union after the latter decided that having nuclear weapons in Cuba would be a great containment force against “American Imperialism.” Even after the missiles were withdrawn, tensions between the U.S. and Cuba never dissipated. Americans were banned from traveling to Cuba, and Cuba’s sugar exports (even their legendary cigars) were banned from American shores.
Meanwhile, this coterie of Cuban-Americans rose to become one of the most powerful ethnic communities in the United States. They embraced their new country to run some of America’s biggest companies (like Coca-Cola), successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and political powers with clear unanimity, tons of money and the savvy to know how to use their influence well-beyond their numbers. Generation after generation of Cuban Americans rapidly climbed the success ladder, well-educated and highly motivated. But the older Cuban émigrés perpetually cast a strong eye to their homeland, waiting for the Castro regime to topple to “go back home.”
Castro still clings to life, a feeble man about to achieve his 88th birthday, who has passed the leadership baton in 2011 to his younger brother, Raul, although many believe that Fidel still calls all the shots. The Soviet Union is long gone, and Cuba is little threat to any American interest anywhere. Europeans and Canadians, not facing boycott restrictions, travel to Cuba’s wondrous beaches, buy cigars in scary quantities, and are beginning to snap up well-situated properties in Cuba’s nascent real estate market. Still, the older Cuban Americans seethe with hatred for the Castro regime.
“Miami is a North American city with a Latin American feel, and at Domino Park in Little Havana old men gather each day to recreate a small corner of their beloved homeland… Hunched over small tables, they wile away the afternoon playing dominos and chess, some wearing Panama hats, others donning baseball caps - a sartorial indicator of the dual allegiance of the Cuban-American community. Many of them are old and frail. Yet ask them about the communist Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, and the passions of their youth are easily aroused… ‘He's not a good man,’ says one elderly gentleman, referring to Fidel Castro. ‘He's killing people in Cuba, my country.’”, May 19th.
The boycott serves little remaining purpose. Other nations are gaining a competitive foothold in Cuba, denied to Americans, even as travel restrictions have loosened a bit over the years. In Cuba, everyone has relatives in the U.S., and generally Cubans adore Americans. The only legal export – defecting skilled baseball players – hardly makes an economic ripple. And as over half a century has passed since the Communist take-over, Cuba is an economic also-ran with widespread (but fairly evenly-distributed) poverty. Does the boycott still serve any justifiable U.S. interest?
Many believe it is precisely the U.S. boycott that has kept the Castros in power so long, providing a rallying point that has justified why Communist rule under the Castro lead foot was a “necessity.” It created a common element of “oppression” that unified the people of this small island nation. “More than 50 years on, however, the Castros are still in power. US critics of the embargo argue it has crippled the Cuban people rather than the government.
“‘We're beginning to realise not only the policy didn't work but it was just wrong and counterproductive,’ says Carlos Saladrigas, another prominent figure in the Cuban-American community… ‘The politics of passion is being replaced by the politics of affection,’ he says. He credits a generational change - the simple fact that so many émigrés have died off - and the mounting feeling that the embargo has failed.
 “In the slow thawing of relations between Washington and Havana, Nelson Mandela's memorial service last year became an inflection point. President Obama shook hands with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro - the first leader-to-leader contact since Bill Clinton had a similar brush-by with Fidel Castro at a UN summit in New York in 2000.” BBC.
American attitudes are changing. That little handshake would have been unthinkable a decade earlier. Saladrigas thinks it’s time to abandon the boycott. “Recent polls bolster his argument. One conducted by the Atlantic Council in February showed that 64% of Cubans living in South Florida favoured normalisation of relations with Cuba or more direct engagement. When the poll expanded to those of Cuban descent throughout Florida, 79% favoured normalisation or engagement.” BBC. Until recently, any Florida politician who embraced this policy was committing electability suicide. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop letting nationals from other countries eclipse the potential of American re-involvement in Cuba’s future.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if time heals all wounds… let it!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thai One On

Thailand was an oasis of stability, hampered only by a language no one outside of Thailand spoke. This land was never conquered by any foreign power… ever! Smart monarchs found stealthy ways to play regional French and British interests against each other in the 19th century to keep these colony-grabbing European powers from taking Thailand into their nefarious, resource-grabbing control. In World War II, they faced certain invasion by Japan, but they managed to thread the needle by becoming a Japanese ally during hostilities but immediately dissociating from the Land of the Rising Sun when the war ended… cozying up to the United States with a soft Thai smile afterwards.
Never particularly prosperous but with tons of food resources hanging off jungle trees or swimming in rivers, streams and an abundant ocean, Thailand did not have hordes of starving impoverished people scraping the bottom of the economic barrel. The land and the seas supported a sparse and well-distributed population… until late in the twentieth century when Bangkok’s urban sprawl brought all those massive urban problems – including poverty and instability – right into the Thai heartland. Rural poverty followed as farmers struggled in the fiercely competitive global marketplace. Lacking indigenous industry and culture-bound by an indecipherable language, Thailand watched as regional tiger-economies soared.. as they stagnated. When the Great Recession hit, Thailand was slammed with economic contraction, having never experienced the success that other regional powers experienced.
Enter a new and extremely unlikely populist hero, Thaksin Shinawatra, “a Thai business tycoon turned politician. He founded Advanced Info Service, Thailand's most successful mobile phone operator. He founded the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998 and became Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 until 2006 when he was overthrown in a military coup. Thaksin has since lived in self-imposed exile except for a brief visit to Thailand in 2008. He was convicted by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions of abusing his power to help his wife buy public land at an auction, and was sentenced to two years in jail. Various criminal charges also await him if he returns to Thailand. His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was the Prime Minister of Thailand from 2011 to 2014.” Wikipedia
Thaksin, himself one of the richest people in the world, became the symbol of hope for the impoverished masses, who felt that all the wealth was controlled by an increasingly powerful  gathering of elite families at the expense of the majority of the Thai people. Thaksin introduced healthcare reform, created micro-credit facilities for poor farmers (providing low-interest loans), and had a general policy of reducing poverty and redistributing wealth… the latter drawing the wrath of the incumbent wealthy powers. The 2008 coup was orchestrated by those powerful families, and the nation lurched into militarily-controlled conservatism.
When free elections returned in 2011, Thaksin’s shadow government, represented by his sister, returned with a vengeance. But the power elites and populist movements failed to co-exist peacefully. The Thai Supreme Court disqualified Yingluck, pushing her from office. A caretaker government took power. The clash of wills turned violent. Hundreds were killed or injured in six months of tumultuous anti-government protests. On May 20th, martial law was declared. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha called the factions together to discuss a compromise. “ ‘In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again ... and to reform the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power,’ Prayuth said in the televised address.
“The general made his broadcast after a meeting to which he had summoned the rival factions in Thailand's drawn-out political conflict, with the aim of finding a compromise to end six months of anti-government protests… But no progress was made and Prayuth wound up the gathering by announcing he was seizing power, according to a participant.
“The Thai armed forces have a long history of intervening in politics - there have been 18 previous successful or attempted coups since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, most recently when Thaksin was deposed in 2006… Hundreds of soldiers surrounded the meeting at Bangkok's Army Club shortly before the coup announcement and troops took away Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the protests against the pro-Thaksin government.” Reuters, May 22nd.
What do these opposing factions want? “The anti-government protesters want to rid the country of the influence of Thaksin, who they say is a corrupt crony capitalist who commandeered a fragile democracy and used taxpayers' money to buy votes with populist giveaways… They wanted a ‘neutral’ interim prime minister to oversee electoral reforms before any new vote. [On the other hand, the pro-Thaksin] government and its supporters said a general election that it would likely win was the best way forward and it had proposed polls on Aug. 3, to be followed by reforms.” Reuters.
And the Thai generals want these factions to figure it out, adding a little pressure along the way: “A spokesman for Thailand's coup leaders says the army will detain former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Cabinet members and anti-government protest leaders for up to a week to give them ‘time to think.’”, May 24th. Time out! Sit in the corner… but resolving income polarization with a simple middle ground isn’t so easy.
To those of us on the other side of the world, this is a “little conflict in a small nation” that doesn’t seem to impact us here in the United States. But Southeast Asia is the battleground where China is seeking to expand her influence and smaller nations are seeking to maintain independence outside of this monolith’s growing sphere of effective control. Thailand represents one more destabilizing conflict where the only solution is to grow its stagnant economy, opening up hope for those current disenfranchised by a system that, like the United States, appears to be tilting in favor of a minority of wealthy players at the top of the food chain.
I’m Peter Dekom, and perhaps we can recognize this recurring pattern of economic polarization that seems to be spreading all over the world.