Flat Broke in the Free Market: How Globalization Fleeced Working People

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A powerful, accessible, and eye-opening analysis of the global economy.
Growing up in an African American working-class family in the Midwest, Jon Jeter watched the jobs undergirding a community disappear. As a journalist for the Washington Post (twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist), he reported on the freemarket reforms of the IMF and the World Bank, which in a single generation created a transnational underclass.Led by the United States, nations around the world stopped making things and starting buying them, imbibing a risky cocktail of deindustrialization, privatization, and anti-inflationary monetary policy. Jeter gives the consequences of abstract economic policies a human face, and shows how our chickens are coming home to roost in the form of the subprime mortgage scandal, the food crisis, and the fraying of traditional social bonds (marriage). From Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Soweto to Chicago’s South Side and Washington, DC, Jeter shows us how the economic prescriptions of “the Washington Consensus” have only deepened poverty—while countries like Chile and Venezuela have flouted the conventional wisdom and prospered.

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Editorial Reviews

John Perkins
“Flat Broke is a brilliant and much-needed assessment of how globalization, neoliberalism, the World Bank, IMF and the other tools of modern empire-building caused the current global economic crisis. And then Jeter goes deeper. He demonstrates that today's international resistance movements, led by a number of Latin American nations, offer hope for a future that will no longer exclude peasants, blue-collar workers, and the 3 billion people presently living below the poverty line—a sustainable and just future our children will want to inherit.”
Publishers Weekly

In an eloquent, no-holds-barred indictment of globalization, Jeter, former Washington Post bureau chief for southern Africa, weaves the narratives of prostitutes in Buenos Aires and cab drivers in Brazil, tomato sellers in Zambia and an upwardly mobile black woman in Chicago into an analysis of how globalization and free trade have transformed many of the world's manufacturing hubs into "global flea markets." There are true moments of heartbreak, particularly when Jeter shows how globalization has slowed progress in postapartheid South Africa and mingles with racism in Brazil, where employers and the state target poor black women for forced sterilization for the putative sake of a larger work force. "The ghetto is in its ascendancy," he writes, challenging free trade orthodoxy and its ability to reduce poverty with examples of nations like Chile which have rethought their attitudes toward globalization and are moving toward new strength and independence. Jeter's stinging criticisms are a catalyst for a truthful and painful discussion about who a "global economy" helps and who it destroys. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Journalist Jeter indicts globalization. As the Washington Post's former bureau chief in southern Africa and South America, Jeter covered the regimen of free trade, strong currencies and foreign investment preached by Western agencies to help developing nations break free of poverty. This is globalization, Jeter says, and it's been an unmitigated disaster. He spots compelling human stories in countries where the program hasn't delivered: the Zambian woman who sells tomatoes 12 hours per day, hoping to make enough to feed her family; the Argentine couple who drink tea for dinner so their kids can have the last of the food; the South African children killed in a fire caused by a candle, used by their parents for light because they couldn't afford electricity. But Jeter is uneven in his analysis, blaming this new globalized world for problems that existed before and independently of it. For example, the author devotes an entire chapter to the falling marriage rates of African-Americans, due in part to high unemployment rates among black men, which Jeter blames on free trade. Fair enough, but the Moynihan Report warned the nation of the disintegrating black family more than four decades ago. Fortunately, Jeter's condemnation avoids a misguided call for protectionism. Instead, he proposes that developing nations follow the model of Chile, which has beefed up business regulation and spent public money generously on its social safety net, from health care to education. By investing in its people, he suggests, a country can compete in the new global economy. Jeter overreaches, but he usefully exposes the underbelly of the free-market system. Author tour to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C.,Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393065077
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/11/2009
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Jeter was the Washington Post bureau chief for southern Africa from 1999 to 2003, and the Post’s bureau chief for South America from 2003 to 2004. He now lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant attack on capitalism

    In this brilliant, angry attack on globalisation, Jeter interviews men and women in Zambia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, the USA, Mexico and Venezuela. As he shows, 'the 20th century's twin imperialist movements, colonialism and globalisation' are both based on exploitation.

    Corporate profits are now at their largest share of world income since 1945, and wages at their smallest since 1929. Across the world, workers are working longer hours for less pay. 1.3 billion people live on a dollar a day or less, 3 billion on $2.

    Jeter asks, "How did we get here? Mostly, countries simply stopped making things and started buying them. Since 2000, the United States has lost 3 million manufacturing jobs; Brazil has lost 2 million since 1998, South Africa nearly 1 million."

    The US ruling class took $700 billion from the US working class to bail out bent bankers - the biggest transfer of wealth from poor to rich in the last hundred years: $2,300 for every person in the USA. As Jeter sums up, "Government transfers public property to private hands and private debt to public hands."

    He quotes US President William McKinley, "Under free trade, the trader is the master and the producer the slave." Jeter sums up, "the doctrinaire opening of industrial markets to all comers has laid waste to local economies." Deindustrialisation, bail-outs, privatisation and free trade are all part of the war on the working class.

    In this class war, the Democratic Party, like the Labour Party, side with capital against the peoples of the world. For example, Vice-President Al Gore threatened South Africa with sanctions if its government bypassed drug company patents, and President Obama promised to keep the embargo on Cuba and labelled Hugo Chavez an enemy of the USA.

    How can workers resist capital's attacks? Jeter tells the story of Hal Baskin, an organiser in Chicago: "So Baskin began rounding up skilled, jobless workers from the neighbourhood, marching to construction sites, and demanding jobs. If site managers refused, the protesters shut them down. Over a three-year period, police arrested Baskin six times for trespassing. But over that same period he and his band of demonstrators managed to land jobs paying an average of $31.55 an hour for 455 men and women."

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