A Financial Times/Harris poll released last week registers broad popular discontent with globalization and the direction of the economies in the rich countries of the world. Among the findings of the survey taken in six countries—the US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK are:
- Less than 20% of people in the UK, France, Spain, and the US think globalization is having a positive effect; in Italy and Germany less than 40% think it’s a positive force.
- More than 75% of people in every country, except Spain, think inequality between the rich and the poor is growing.
- In no country, except Italy, do people admire the heads of the largest corporations. Admiration is lowest in the UK and US.
- Large majorities in every country support higher taxes for the rich.
- Majorities in all European countries support pay caps for top corporate officials, but support for caps in the US is around 30%.
According to the FT:
A popular backlash against globalization and the leaders of the world’s largest companies is sweeping all the rich countries….
Large majorities of people in the US and Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalization.
Viewing globalization as an overwhelmingly negative force, citizens of the rich countries are looking for governments to cushion the blows they perceive have come from liberalization of their economies to trade with emerging countries….`
As if to confirm the public’s increasingly negative feelings about globalization, KPMG, the accounting firm, released a survey of 92 countries that shows a global drop in corporate tax rates last year, continuing a decade long trend. KPMG cites “competition for investment” as the reason for the decline. As a result, value-added taxes and other indirect levies paid by ordinary tax payers have risen to make up for revenue shortfalls. The cuts in corporate taxes are one measure of the way that globalization puts public services into competition.
An opening for labor?
To state the obvious: the depth and breadth of popular opposition to corporate globalization should be a call for labor to step forward as a voice for popular discontent and to find common cause with labor movements in other countries in that effort. Speaking up and linking up could help revitalize moribund labor movements by making them more relevant for today’s economy.