First Published in DelawareLiberal Blog by ProgressivePopulist on March 25, 2014
One of my favorite investigative reporters, David Cay Johnston
observes that our foreign trade deals in the last couple of decades
figure in a big way in the systemic weakness of our domestic economy.
Particularly hard hit by really bad trade deals are the non-college
educated in the workforce.
Here's how that seems to work. While
the economy overall is somewhat positively impacted by our trade
agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO, the evidence in the
manufacturing and family farm sectors we all know is quite the
contrary. The loss and exporting of manufacturing jobs has impacted 100
million U.S. workers and 170,000 family farms, which are by and large
non-college educated and include a significant share of minority
These are people who were at the heart of our middle
class, the drivers of the consumer economy in the U.S.A. If they are
not among the 5 million left unemployed with the manufacturing jobs
eliminated or exported via NAFTA and the WTO by 2010, they are
suffering from the wage gap and income inequality we are experiencing
today. Half of those jobs went to China.
And speaking of income
inequality, the immigration debate raging today would be much less a
factor in the national conversation if it were not for the impact of
NAFTA on our neighbor to the south, Mexico. In 1992, just before NAFTA,
we had 3.9 million undocumented within our borders, mostly from
Mexico. By 2011 they numbered 11.1 million. It is impossible to not
correlate the impact of NAFTA on this increase, starting in 1994. The
NAFTA agreement in Mexico resulted in 2.5 million small/tenant farmers
being dislocated by corporate farming (Monsanto?) and either driven to
the tar paper shanty towns outside of Mexico City or across our border
I was heartened by Bill Clinton's observation at the
African conference he keynoted in Wilmington a few days back.
Remember, he was a huge cheerleader for the NAFTA agreement. He said
that it is important when we are dealing with African nations that any
deal we set up with them take into account that the farming populace
there not be dislocated from their source of family income from the
land. I've always admired his intellect and am very happy that he
learned from our mistakes and unintended consequences on the citizens
whose governments make trade deals.
Then of course we also have to
account for the impact of these agreements on our trade deficits, which
were mostly surpluses before these pacts with counties such as Canada,
China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. By 2013 the trade deficit
accounted for 3% of our GDP, at around $500 million.
much applauded decline in the trade deficit increases is accounted for
almost entirely by the petroleum industry. Examples of bad trad deals?
How many U.S. cars were purchased last year in South Korea? Around
15,000. And S. Korean cars sold in the U.S.A.? 1.3 million ! Clearly
this new trade deal isn't working to our benefit.
It is time to
ask, why do smart Americans make such stupid trade deals? Unintended
consequences? Maybe. Or maybe the corporate and multinational lobby
is so damned persuasive (Think $$$$$ persuasive) compared to fair trade,
labor such brilliant analysts as Public Citizen that the deck is
stacked against us non-corporate citizens. With new trade agreements
pending such as TPP, It is time to learn from past mistakes and make
damned sure our congressional representatives robustly research and
debate the contents of old trade deals and new trade proposals alike and
vote to rebuild our manufacturing base and middle class. These are the
job creators, not the 1%.