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WASHINGTON – Longtime Democrat Gene Seroka and the son of a Union of Teamsters member was not amused when in 2016 a reactionary presidential aspirant used the Port of Los Angeles, of which Seroka is director, as a place for a speech declaring: “Free trade sends our jobs overseas.” Seroka lives in a bustling reality – the volume of trade in her port has increased tenfold since 1985 – and not the blunt nostalgia of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) For some time before maritime commerce transformed the world.

“The blue age” – the oceans are “blue water” – is Gregg Easterbrook’s account of this transformation. It notes that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach generate 1.4 million of California’s 18 million jobs, around $ 400 billion in economic activity, and fees that fund much of those cities’ municipal governments. .

The port of Los Angeles, the largest in this country, ranks only 18th globally, although the traffic passing through it measured in TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) has fallen from 900,000 in 1994 to 9.4 million in 2018. Although a freeway was built for truck traffic entering and exiting the port, transporting a TEU through Los Angeles from the port costs more than transporting one. Shanghai TEU to port. Crane operators at the Port of Los Angeles who move containers earn up to $ 300,000 a year, which could offend Sanders, the tribune of the proletariat and bane of the rich.

As of Sunday, the global supply chain problem was evident as a record 73 ships waited offshore spaces to unload hundreds of thousands of containers at Seroka Port. Sanders must be appalled: Americans are getting what they want.

Weight has always moved more easily on water than on land, and much cheaper than in air. “At each stage of history”, Easterbrook says 95% of merchandise in commerce travels by water. He says the explosive growth in international waterborne trade has coincided with an increase in jobs and living standards “in almost all nations.”

He notes that when Sanders was a child, 60% of humanity lived in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on $ 1.90 a day. Today, thanks in large part to the free water trade that Sanders calls “a race to the bottom”, about 10% live in extreme poverty.

This drop in extreme poverty, to which Sanders seems either oblivious or indifferent, has occurred mainly in Asia. An Oxford economist calculates that during this century, 130,000 Chinese have been lifted out of such poverty every day. But trade brought the West cheap imports and competition – improved domestic products – which helped produce about 20 years with negligible inflation. This directly and primarily benefited American workers, the objects of Sanders’ rhetorical concern.

This was all made possible by a technology of 1956 that changed the world and which few people accustomed to digital wonders consider to be technology: large rectangular steel boxes – shipping containers. Meet the aptly named Ever Loading ship: it’s as long as four football fields, its crew of just 23 cycles around its deck, and it carries 8,000 containers.

In the 100 years from 1920 to 2020, Easterbrook says, “The world’s population has tripled, while global GDP has increased twenty-fold. “ The inflation-adjusted dollar value of world trade more than doubled over the quarter-century from 1994 to 2019. Since the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995, Easterbrook writes: “The United States has always led the West in job creation.” Today, the United States holds 11% of the world trade market. China, with four times the population of the United States, has 13%.

Although teaching Sanders economics is akin to tutoring a typhoon, Easterbrook notes that U.S. manufacturing employment, which peaked in 1979, fell by $ 5 million before Chinese imports fell. become important in 2001. And, “Research conducted by economists from Ball State University in Indiana and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” shows this net impact of trade with China: “The United States has lost about 1.5 million manufacturing jobs, which is hardly inconsequential, but far less than the minus 5 million manufacturing jobs that occurred entirely for domestic reasons. American. “ These reasons include technology-driven productivity improvements and the rise of the knowledge economy.

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