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Mexico: Land of Dire Straits and Reaganomics

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For more than the last four decades Mexicans have been risking their lives to migrate in larger numbers every year into the United States, escaping life below the poverty level and seeking better pay. Why has Mexico failed to develop its own people?

On September 23, 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times, a convoy of three vans packed with at least 76 Mexicans sped through the San Ysidro, California, border crossing, prompting police to open fire at the overloaded vehicles, making them crash. Police shut down the nation's largest border check point, calling it a crime scene. All 76 immigrants were detained or arrested. Most of them will probably find a better method to enter the U.S. next time.

Every year, some half million Mexicans leave their families, communities, and towns to risk their lives trying to enter the U.S. Mostly they seek, at best, the U.S. minimum wage, which can mean as much as 40% more than what they might make in Mexico if they are lucky to find a job in their own country. Per year, they send more than a billion dollars back to their families in Mexico, who depend on the remittances to survive.

Is the U.S. to Blame for This Failure in Mexico?

Is the U.S. at least partly to blame for Mexico's political and economic disaster? Or is America's recent economic and military catastrophes the fault of some other country, such as Saudi Arabia or even Mexico? Who is the victim? Is Mexico some passive roadkill on the global highway? Not completely. Each country has its element of self-determination, otherwise what's the point in calling it a sovereign country? But U.S. policies have pushed Mexico to the brink--and Mexico has returned the favor. The two countries dance to the same macabre song taking them both down.

How Could the U.S. Possibly Contribute to Mexico's Failure?

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The powerful forces of financial institutions, mostly influenced by the U.S.--like the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)--have imposed neoliberal--Reaganomic--policies on third-world countries like Mexico. This argument stands on some solid ground, especially in light of cases like Chile, where the CIA supported a coup against the popular Allende regime in 1973 in order to prop up a government sympathetic to U.S. corporate interests.

The U.S. has applied such neoliberal colonizing tactics in many countries, though, without much success. Most recently, this process failed miserably in Iraq after an unprecedented preemptive bombing and invasion--motivated by the prospect of gaining access to the oil reserves (and justified falsely by claims of WMDs, terrorism, dictatorship, and other lame excuses). In carrying out these bellicose acts, the Bush-Cheney administration took neoliberal policies to a new extreme, what Naomi Klein calls the Shock Doctrine.

The term "neoliberalsm" can be confusing and misleading. Political strategists have presented economic liberalism, or neoliberalism, to the middle class in branding terms like "Reaganomics" or "Coca-Cola," as if it were some friendly, good-tasting sugar-water as compared to "rightwing." However, economic liberalism--neoliberalism--is rightwing and not friendly to the working class. Over the last forty years, it has shifted the distribution of wealth from the middle class to the elite wealthy class.

In some ways, the largely U.S.-promoted NAFTA program--a neoliberal policy--ultimately affected Mexico negatively as early as its first year, when wages dropped 40 to 50% while the cost of living rose by some 80%.

Likewise, NAFTA also affected the U.S. negatively by moving U.S. manufacturing jobs south of the border. At least in the short term, the cheaper blue collar labor in Mexico did help to maintain U.S. industry status quo and profits, especially the automobile sector. In the long run, though, cheap labor in Mexico was not enough to prop up a lagging, stogy industry that failed to innovate.

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On the other hand, Japanese automakers now dominate the U.S. market because they constantly change. Japanese improvements and innovations (kaizen) include government supported developments of their own work force and adapting to market needs such as fuel-efficient vehicles.

The key determining factor is how U.S. policy makers --mostly neocons--drank pitchers full of Reaganomics (neoliberalism) like Kool-Aid. Japan did not implement neoliberal policies, which include relying on the notion of wealth trickling down from the rich and allegedly wise elite. Many of Japan's industries are supported and guided by its government's MITI (Minister of International Trade and Industry), which ensure that certain industries (keiretsu) dominate. Likewise, in Germany and France, government plays a key role in maintaining the social infrastructure (transportation, education, healthcare), and in maintaining a stable economy. On the other hand, in America, many political leaders present this type of policy as an evil socialism to be avoided like Satan.

Mexico Especially Vulnerable to Reaganomics

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Mark Biskeborn is a novelist: Mojave Winds, A Sufi's Ghost, Mexican Trade. Short Stories: California & Beyond. Poetry & Essays. For more details: See Mark's stories on or wherever books are (more...)

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