The stock market is at an all-time high, unemployment is near record lows, yet poll after poll shows American workers uneasy over job security and worried that they are losing out in a global economy.
The disconnect between the seemingly rosy economic data and the dour mood has caught the attention of some influential politicians who are concerned the middle class has soured on globalization, tingeing the debate on hot-button issues ranging from immigration to trade.
On the same day in June that Republican senators scuttled an immigration bill, many Democrats were applauding the demise of the fast-track trade authority that the Bush administration desperately wanted.
Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, sees a link.
"Both of those died because of problems that were extrinsic," the Massachusetts Democrat said, adding that many workers harbored "deep anger" over stagnant wages and widening income inequality, and were quick to pin the blame on illegal immigrants, China or regional trade deals like NAFTA.
As long as that malaise exists, lawmakers will have trouble tackling thorny trade or immigration issues, Frank said, and with an election year looming, he and his colleagues argue for policies that make globalization more palatable to the public.
"The globalization issue is one that is menacing to many," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "We want it to be promising to more."
Manufacturing job losses and recalls of potentially harmful Chinese-made goods have hardened negative attitudes. A recent survey from the Financial Services Forum found that 49 percent of Americans had a favorable view of globalization, down from 54 percent a year earlier. ...