Magazine article Economic Trends

That Giant Sucking Sound

Magazine article Economic Trends

That Giant Sucking Sound

Article excerpt

Historians may decide that Ross Perot's greatest contribution to the American political landscape was not his prediction of the job losses NAFTA would cause, but his memorable description of the result he feared. "That giant sucking sound," he said, was the noise of U.S. jobs being pulled into Mexico. Since his phrase entered the political lexicon, it has been used to describe the draining of U.S. jobs into China and India, Mexican jobs into China and India, and even Western European jobs into Eastern Europe. It would be no surprise if the Chinese began using the same phrase to describe their country's loss of jobs to Vietnam.

Perot's intent was to warn the U.S. public about the pernicious effects he believed NAFTA would cause. His phrase resonated with the public: Everyone has heard that sucking sound, most often when something is being swept away (into a vacuum cleaner, say), or siphoned off (down a bathtub drain). Despite all of the passion NAFTA provoked in its supporters and detractors, economists are still divided about the agreements ultimate consequences for U.S. and Mexican employment.

Has the phrase outlived its usefulness? I think not: There are plenty more sucking sounds to worry about.

The loudest is the sound of earth's atmosphere sucking in the greenhouse gases that human inventions are spewing out. Although opinions differ about the effect of human activity on the global warming trend, few dispute the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Controlling these emissions presents an enormous political challenge for heads of state, who feel that accepting emission limits is tantamount to imposing limits on their citizens' employment and income growth. At the same time, we know that failure to find a solution could have disastrous consequences for life--humariy and otherwise-on the planet. So every time you drive a car, fly in a plane, enjoy cooling or warming indoors air, or consume products manufactured using coal, petroleum, or natural gas, remember to listen for the giant sucking sound of hydrocarbons being inhaled by earth's atmosphere.

Another worrisome sucking sound is caused by the speed with which we are siphoning off potable water from our lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. Climate change, urbanization, and global population growth are combining to create water shortages in many parts of the world. In the United States, several major metropolitan areas have undergone serious water shortages in recent years and been forced to impose rationing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.