Mark Levinson

Mark Levinson is the chief economist of the Service Employees International Union.

Recent Articles

Mismeasuring Poverty

The way we determine who needs help blocks many poor people from receiving the assistance they need.

(Flickr/Wolfgang Lonien)
T he “facts” about poverty can be deceiving. In her magisterial book Behind the Beautiful Forevers , Katherine Boo tells the stories of the inhabitants of a Mumbai slum on the edge of a sewage lake who lack jobs, housing, running water, health care, education, and police protection. It is not unusual to see rats and frogs fried for dinner, feet covered with black fungus, and maggots breeding in wounds wrought by trash-picking. Yet, Boo writes, “almost no one in the slum was considered poor by official Indian benchmarks. … [They] were thus part of one of the most stirring success narratives in the modern history of global market capitalism.” Some success. Our government’s own count of the poor, while not denying their existence, also minimizes their number—not by undercounting them (though that’s a factor, too) but by setting the poverty bar so low that tens of millions of poor Americans are not accounted for. This miscategorization not only paints a picture of a more prosperous...

When the “Flat World” Shakes

End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation by Barry C. Lynn ( Doubleday, 312 pages, $26.00 ) The End of the Line is about the consequences of the “taking apart” of the modern corporation -- the outsourcing of operations to the far corners of the world by companies such as Wal-Mart, Dell, Cisco, General Electric, and General Motors. Most economists and American journalists see the role of these companies in the creation of an integrated global economy -- what Thomas L. Friedman calls a “flat world” -- as generally positive and, in any event, inexorable. Barry Lynn sees the making of disaster. What makes Lynn's book distinctive is that his critique is not based on the subsistence wages, lack of human rights, and appalling health and safety conditions in many workplaces around the world. Lynn challenges the dominant globalization perspective on its own terms and makes a compelling case that the Achilles heel of the global economy is precisely its most successful...

One-Sided World

In Defense of Globalization By Jagdish Bhagwati, Oxford University Press, 296 pages, $28.00 When N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, declared in February that the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries was a good thing, he was only saying what advocates of free trade have always believed. But his statement unnerved the leaders of both political parties because of its starkness and timing. While the economy has picked up in the past year, employment has been slow to respond. Private payrolls are running about 8 million workers below the path of the average recovery, and many people are wondering whether free-trade policies are working for them. No one has crusaded more zealously on behalf of free trade than Jagdish Bhagwati, professor of economics at Columbia University. In Defense of Globalization sums up his case, and for free-trade advocates under siege, it arrives not a minute too soon. The book is certainly engaging. While skewering anti-...