Thomas Friedman to America: “We can’t learn anything from China”

Generally speaking, I don’t consider myself a huge Thomas Friedman fan. I caught a minute of him speaking on MSNBC this morning, though, and what he said really blew me away. It was extremely simple, but packed a wallop. As I can’t find the exact quote anywhere online, here’s the essence of what he said… “There’s not a damned thing that we can learn from China.”

Friedman, in declaring this, was essentially saying that we’ll never get our country back on the right track by competing with the Chinese on labor costs, and pushing for further deregulation. No, what we need to do, according to Friedman, is look to our own history, and do those same things now that worked for us in the past. We need to invest in education, provide the world’s best infrastructure, welcome immigrants, establish clear and fair rules to incentivize responsible investing, and federally fund research. I’ve never rushed out and bought a Friedman book before, but I think I’m going to get a copy of this one, which is entitled That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. [An excerpt can be found here.]

While this seems to make perfect sense to me, there are, of course, those among us who feel the answer lies not in investing in education and infrastructure, but in further cutting taxes on the wealthy. Sure, we were promised millions of jobs when the Bush tax cuts when through a decade ago, and they never materialized, but that doesn’t mean the idea behind them was wrong, according to some. It just means that we didn’t go far enough. What we need to really accelerate the American economy, they tell us, is for the federal government to truly untie the hands of “job creators” by allowing them to keep even more of the money they earn, and clearing away the ambiguity that comes along with those irksome health, safety and environmental regulations. What we need to do, in their opinion, is let the free, unbridled market lead us to the promised land. And one big thing standing between us and full employment, according to Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and others, is that damned minimum wage. Apparently, if not for the fact that we’re forced to pay people the excessive sum of $7.25 an hour, we’d be beating the hell out of the Chinese right now.

And that’s why I loved what Friedman had to say this morning… We can’t learn a damned thing from the Chinese.

Speaking of making $7.25 an hour, new government figures on poverty were released today. The following synopsis comes by way of our friends at Metafilter:

An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch. That represented 15.1 percent of the country. The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for afamily of four.

1-in-6 Americans now live below the poverty line. And, considering the poverty line is officially set at $22,113 for a family of four, which is ridiculously low, the real number of those living in poverty is probably much, much higher. But, as Bachmann says, things will likely turn around if we just had the freedom to pay them less.

Here, for those of you who are interested, is video of Friedman promoting his new book on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, between attempts to convince Joe Scarborough to run for the White House as an independent with Michael Bloomberg.

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  1. Edward
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Friedman’s whole “The Earth is Flat” thing really took off. Hopefully this will too. I have little faith in our leaders these days, however. And I don’t get the sense that the American people will ever get off their couches and take to the streets. Not as long as the corn syrup and reality TV keep flowing.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I’d love to see Joe Scarborough and Michael Bloomberg get into the race as Independents. All of the sane Republicans would drift over to support them, leaving the Republican party with not but the angry, racist, stupid Tea Partiers that comprise their base. Then, people would really begin to see the Republican party for what it truly is at its core.

  3. Kim
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I think the Tea Party said it best….. Let Them Die.

  4. Kim
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    In all seriousness, it’s shameful that we live in a country where this number of people live in poverty. And, to add insult to injury, we continue to cut the educational services we provide to their children. We’re creating a permanent underclass that has no ability to better its lot in life. In India they call them untouchables.

  5. Meta
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    See also:

    Paul Krugman on the Colbert Report.

  6. kjc
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ll have to check this out later. I’m not a Friedman fan either. I think he’s a total douche.

  7. Glen S.
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    @ Kim

    Here’s an example of America’s new “untouchables.”

  8. Mr. X
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    He’s still a douche, but he’s a douche that people actually listen to in D.C. And, on this point, he’s right. We don’t want to race to the bottom with China. That might be in the best interests of our CEO class, but it’s not in the best interests of the nation. The Bush tax cuts were irresponsible, and, more importantly, they didn’t work. It’s time to acknowledge that, turn this car around, and move on in another direction.

  9. Brainless
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Funny, Friedman said over and over again in “The Earth is Flat” that we are specifically NOT in a race to the bottom with China. That they are in a race to the top with us. And now this seems to be a bit of the opposite. Sounds like he’s reevaluated the Chinese to some degree.

  10. Meta
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Forty-six million people got by last year with less than $11,139 in annual income; or $22,314 for a family of four. In other words, 15 percent of Americans are getting by on less than $200 per week. Think of the cost of shelter, food, transportation, clothing, health care: $200 doesn’t go very far.

  11. Meta
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “Job creator” Bank of America, which is doing quite well financially, is laying off another 40,000. Maybe if we stop taxing them altogether they’ll hire back a few.–More-layoffs…who-s-next?&source=nletter-NEWS-FREEP-top_stories_8pm

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