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Jonathan Tasini: Kiss The Jobs and Wages Goodbye: Hello "Free Trade" Again

By Huffington Post
November 4, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the disastrous state of labor in the wake of the elections. Suffering from either a lack of sleep or simple brain lock, I neglected to include one of the most dangerous coming debacles: we have lost much of the ground built opposing so-called “free trade” agreements, which have played a central role in undermining jobs and wages here–and have caused the decline in wages across the planet. And it is now about to get worse, thanks to “bi-partisanship”.

I can almost guarantee–if I was a pollster, I’d use a fancy chart and put the certainty of this happening at 99 percent–that, in searching for areas of “bi-partisanship”, to show the voters and the country that the two parties have “heard” the message of the election, that so-called “free trade” will be one of the first things on the cooperation agenda. I would not be surprised to hear that declared within the next few weeks.

Here is my long-held view: our so-called “free trade” agreements are directly connected to the decline in wages–both because they encourage the movement of high-wage jobs to lower-wage countries (though, let’s be clear that such movement can happen without these trade deals–the deals just make it easier) AND because so-called “free trade” is based on the fundamental principle of the race to the bottom on wages.

The world of trade today is not based on the best product. It is based on wage and regulation arbitrage. That is, worldwide corporations are simply looking for the places to do business where they can get the cheapest wages and the lowest level of regulation possible (as in lax environmental standards, no labor standards and no protection for anything–except for capital and corporate intellectual property right). And they are clear: they do not care about creating jobs here.

And, simply on the question of do they work, Public Citizen destroyed the idea that so-called “free trade” agreements live up to their claims of increasing trade.

To outline what we face legislatively: First, the Nancy Pelosi-led House (and I invoke her name positively because she deserves credit for this) was the finger in the dike preventing the passage of the so-called “free trade” agreements with South Korean and Colombia (and Pelosi did that even when there were senior Democrats like Charles Rangel who were trying to do the bidding of corporate lobbyists). You can bet your life that the John Boehner-led Lobbyist Convention (what we once used to call the “House of Representatives”) will now press for the passage of those deals. While a smattering of Republicans in the past did oppose so-called “free trade”, their numbers have never been consequential. These deals will now pass the House. Absolutely guaranteed.

Take no comfort about the Senate. On trade, the Senate Democratic caucus has been, as a whole, much more inclined to support so-called “free trade”. I am not even sure whether Sherrod Brown–the main Senate sponsor of the TRADE Act, which would try to usher in a new sane era on trade–could muster enough votes to filibuster a so-called “free trade” deal. The House has been the bulwark. With the House gone, it’s over in the Senate. There will be no reason for the Senate leadership to hold these deals back.

And the president has not been an ally in this area. He has consistently, going back to the 2008 presidential primaries, referred to himself as a “free trader”. In his last State of the Union address, he said:

And that’s why we’ll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia.

As important, this is also terrible politics. I think it is understandable why people are angry. The truth is the people have been robbed by the entirely bankrupt system of the “free market”–and so-called “free trade” has been an important oil in that robbery. Rather than focus on the phony deficit “crisis”, the president and the Democrats should be talking about how to stop the robbery–and approving more so-called “free trade” agreements is, to put it mildly, off message.

If we want to “hear the message”, it is that everyone is sick and tired of being screwed by the big corporations and the top one percent of the wealthy in this country who care only about draining more of our national wealth into their own pockets.

Stan Greenburg and James Carville demonstrated, in an otherwise useless memo, that opposition to so-called “free trade” was an electoral winner:

There is a second message that centers on made in America, creating American jobs and opposing the Republicans who supports trade agreements and tax breaks for companies that ex-port American jobs. The message is strongest with older women and seniors and with inde-pendents. These can be used in a targeted way, while working in our next poll and focus groups to bring these two messages together.

My passion is “made in America,” working to support small businesses, American companies and new American industries. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDI-DATE) has pledged to support the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and protect the loophole for companies outsourcing American jobs. I have a different approach to give tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers and give tax subsidies for companies that create jobs right here in America.

This message framework for the election is helped by an attack on the Republican candidate for supporting trade agreements and tax breaks that lead to lost American jobs. Those at-tacks are very strong with white older women and seniors.

I am not for a message that opposes trade by targeting workers abroad i.e., “[Fill in the blank] is taking our jobs and we have to build everything here because we’re better” or words to that effect. In my humble opinion, that leads us down the same track that fosters anti-immigrant feelings and a moral superiority that does not do our country well.

I am for–and I believe many Americans will respond to–a message that says, “No more greed in American–whether it’s on Wall Street or in corporate trade. Vote against any candidate who will vote to let corporations attack our wages and pensions and the American Dream by forcing workers everywhere to work for slave wages.”

Over the past few election cycles, opposition to so-called “free trade” was an electoral winner. Public Citizen showed how in 2006 and 2008 Democratic gains came partly because of a rejection of the so-called “free trade” model.

In a new analysis by Public Citizen released today, the organization says:

House Democrats that ran on fair trade platforms in competitive and open-seat races were three times as likely to survive the GOP tidal wave than Democrats who ran against fair trade, according to a comprehensive 182-race, 70-page report released today by Public Citizen. The GOP tsunami obliterated many candidate-specific features of the midterm contests, but trade, job offshoring and/or government purchases of foreign-made goods were a stunningly persistent national focus of midterm election campaigns, with 205 candidates campaigning on these issues. A record number of 75 Republicans adopted some fair trade messaging as well, 43 of whom won their races. More than sixty races became “fair trade offs,” where both the Democrat and Republican ran on fair trade themes. Only 37 candidates campaigned in favor of more North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style trade agreements – about half of these candidates lost.

I have no reason to doubt the analysis–Public Citizen is quite on top of the issue and has done incredible work. BUT–

I think we are whistling in the dark here. We should be afraid–very afraid: The votes are not there to stop these deals from going through.

UNLESS:

We can make the real argument that the American Dream–and a decent livelihood for workers all across the planet is at stake. And that unless the Democratic Party understands this, it will not win elections in the future–and will not deserve to.

From The Huffington Post

14 Responses to Jonathan Tasini: Kiss The Jobs and Wages Goodbye: Hello "Free Trade" Again

  1. Carl Nemo

    November 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    A superb, spot-on editorial that nails our national plight right on the head. Of course our legislators aren’t going to come about and reverse the tide of “globalism gone wild”. That’s the point; ie., a great leveling in the cost of labor on a worldwide basis along with the destruction of the concept of the “nation-state”. The oligarchs that own everything within our field of vision lock, stock and barrel have little respect for labor and simply look at the people’s of the world as a resource to exploit. They seem to be winning too.

    Americans won’t wake up until the majority of our burgeoning “underclass” are living in tarpaper shacks spearing rats with fire-hardened sticks; I.E., no jobs, their currency bust, nothing to sell to other nations while living under a state of martial law with a dictator for life and having to suffer the indignities of their local law enforcment and military agencies now morphed into a national police force moving about enforcing the edicts of the “New World Order”. I’m not joking or paranoid. Wake up people ! : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine

      November 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      Oh contraire, Carl –

      Just another diatribe against the “rich and greedy”. The statement in the article “and have caused the decline in wages across the planet” is plain wrong. Do you think the Chinese wokers are making LESS money than they were before we starting buying everything they could make? What about the Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese… pick one? No, their standard of living has escalated nicely since they entered the “global marketplace”. Tell you what, pull up pictures of world cities in 1970 and compare them with pictures of those cities today after years of enhanced world trade. In fact, look only at world cities now, comparing those in “free market” countries with those in “controlled market” countries and determine for yourself which appear more prosperous. I don’t think you would even need to look at financial data to easily see which have the best business climates, infrastructure, automobiles, available food, etc. Thus, the argument cannot be that global free trade impoverishes everyone more and more as it goes along.

      The one thing the industrial revolution and its aftermath have done is take the world-wide poor from the countryside and moved them to the cities, increasing their standard of living as their prospects for employment and increased income have allowed. People working in factories elsewhere may only make – say – 5 dollars a day, but that – and their purchasing power – is more than before. The notion that they are somehow being robbed because they don’t make what an AFL-CIO union man makes is pure hokum. They are far better off than they were. One might reasonably ask, “should workers in the US not have been allowed to make $10, $15, $25 or more an hour during the last 3 decades, because the North Koreans (and billions of others) could not do so? By what logic would we argue against that if global economic equivalence is the yardstick of business and trade?

      What can be argued is that those foreign workers are willing to work for less than we will here in the US, at least until their wages rise to the level of ours or our unemployment compensation runs out. So, yes, our wages will recede, comparatively, to the point that US workers are globally competitive.

      The notion that business is conducted as a “social contract” is only valid regarding honest goods and services for honest remuneration, not that business is conducted to serve as a welfare mechanism. People are in business to earn a living.

      As a final point, there is no such thing in this country as FREE TRADE”.

  2. Carl Nemo

    November 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    “The notion that business is conducted as a “social contract” is [only valid regarding honest goods and services for honest remuneration,] not that business is conducted to serve as a welfare mechanism. People are in business to earn a living.” …extract from post, my brackets

    I never alluded that everyone on the planet should be making a bloated union wage as found within the AFL-CIO and many of their affiliates. Foreign workers get less because that’s all ‘captains’ of their new found “pirate capitalism” will allow them make. There’s no unions to represent Chinese, Indian, Malaysian or wherever else is home to manufacturing serfs. They are not producing honest goods and services along with remuneration of the same value. They keep the yuan pegged at an artificially low value intentionally in order to wring out their trading partners in the world marketplace. Many Chinese workers make the equivalent of about $1.00 an hour…say what?! China’s properity has been intentionally synthesized courtesy of the West at a price to their citizens resulting in a massively skewed balance of trade along with a gutted manufacturing base.

    I guess Almandine, I’m a selfish sob because I don’t give a rats butt about the Chinese, Indians, Malaysians or anyone else doing better at our expense. A globalist I am not!

    Since WWII starting with the Marshall Plan with the rebuilding of Europe and the same with Japan; “We the People” have been bled white taxwise in order to help once sworn enemies rebuild their infrastructure, whom if the tables were reversed would have reduced the American people to abject slaves. Even today if the Chinese prevailed in a nuclear exchange and then proceeded to round up survivors from North America, our people would end up as slaves in mines, the women in state runned brothels and other such nightmarish indignities.

    They have no respect for intellectual property, human rights or life and many of the companies that helped them get a leg up in the markets with either goods, services and manufacturing technology have been given the boot or outstaged by their Chinese patrons who’ve either copied or stolen that which has been all too easily handed to them. Without the greedy Western enablers (businessmen) with a globalist bent, they would still be eating rat meat and rice.

    If the U.S. had not engaged China starting in the 70’s at the behest of David Rockefeller & Co. along with other basketcase nations they’d still be living on communes, heating their huts with methane from pig manure while marching the streets waving little red flags and worshiping Chairman Mao or some other societally acceptable monster. I believe the Chairman says in his “Little Red Book”…”power comes from the muzzle of a gun” which pretty much sums up their business model too. / : |

    I loathe our leadership in both government and business for compromising our manufacturing base and our national security all for a “few dollars more”. To me they are traitors and deserve the ultimate sanction for doing so.

    Myself and many other Americans are still loyal to their nation state known as the United States of America and not to some globalist scheme for turning planet earth into one big kumbaya; but very unfree plantation, efficient markets be damned! : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine

      November 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      A worthy retort, no doubt. And I am glad you got straight to the heart of the matter… govt and business has colluded as traitors to undermine US sovereignty. As to your post… who could say it better? Hats off, my friend!

      Now, just don’t go back to all that mealy mouthed crap about outsourcing,
      etc. All those others in the world who deserve to make as good a living as we, don’t deserve to be shit on. They have self-respect and family, too.

      Let’s be All-Pro Americans for the best reasons, i.e., don’t steal our stuff, get out of our way, and leave us alone. We can take care of ourselves after that.

    • Almandine

      November 4, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      BTW Carl, Tasini is just another leftist, union type, Dem Congressional candidate, looking for a permanent govt handout.

      • Carl Nemo

        November 4, 2010 at 8:57 pm

        Hi Almandine,

        I hadn’t heard of Tasini or his political sentiments. It’s just that his article brought up a prescient issue which happens to chaff my hide; ie, ‘freetraders’, outsourcing etc.

        Thanks for your thoughts too. I always value what you write as being of the highest order. In fact one of the enjoyments I get out of this site is interfacing with you and others of similar caliber on this forum, but your comments always stand out. : )

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine

          November 5, 2010 at 11:02 am

          Interesting article that addresses much of our plight and reflects briefly on the corporatocracy and its enabling by the Fed.

          http://mises.org/daily/4798

  3. Carl Nemo

    November 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for the link concerning Ben Bernanke concerning ‘his’ financial shenanigans. Mr. Bernanke does not serve the interests of the United States and its citizens nor is he in control of the situation. He reports to shadowy banking oligarchs who’s roots lie in Europe with the Rothchilds of London and elsewhere. It’s these entities on the supplied chart that own “founders shares” in the Fed. It’s a club alright and “We the People” nor our leadership are in it. I’m going to supply a fascinating link concerning these shadow entities and it might help folks realize who’s pulling the levers to engineer the U.S. into a position of economic weakness for the facilitation of “One World Banking”; ie., the NWO. It’s all about who controls the world’s money supply therefore its citizens too.

    http://www.save-a-patriot.org/files/view/whofed.html …Note: the data is from 1976, but little to nothing has changed since the central banks of Europe, the U.S. and elswhere are monoliths that change very little over time, but they still control the “crooked casino” known as international banking.

    It’s a sobering link and one can instantly get the feeling as to how we and our leaders are manipulated by the money guys.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine

      November 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      What I find mind-numbing is the suggestion that US citizens are somehow responsible for the debts incurred by the Fed – a private entity.

      When the time comes, all that so-called US debt must be disavowed and those international bankers made to fend for themselves.

      In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson…

      • Almandine

        November 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        Perhaps that is why the spectre of a bank holiday is being floated… and the admonition that one might do well to make his own run on the bank before the Fed does.

      • Carl Nemo

        November 6, 2010 at 12:57 am

        Not so Almandine. Most people have no concept of the difference between being rich vs. wealthy. Rich people are the noveau riche'; ie., the people you see in “People Magazine” or other publications of that genre’, but the mega-wealthy you never view in such crass, pedestrian publications. In fact the average citizen has never heard their names. The wealthy class own title; ie., the deed to vast resources worldwide; ie., the very necessaries for poduction and consumption. So if everything goes ‘bust’ even at their hand, they still own title, on paper, to those resources necessary for suvivial of the citiznes of planet earth. They surely won’t ‘starve’. / : |

        These referenced “owners” of planet earth care less about debt or default thereof because they own, they “OWN”, they seemingly always win. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine

          November 6, 2010 at 9:15 am

          They may own it, but they want you to make good on their “debts” for toxic assets, GM, US T-bonds, China-owned US debt instruments, etc. You know the refrain… “every US citizen is now $44K in debt because of bailouts, QE, etc.” We may have to pay for resources, but to hell with the rest of it.

  4. eve

    November 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    “We the People” have been bled white tax-wise in order to help once sworn enemies rebuild their infrastructure, whom if the tables were reversed would have reduced the American people to abject slaves.
    -Carl Nemo

    That is exactly what is happening Carl.

    As for your mention of Rockefeller:

    “For more than a century, ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents Éto attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as “internationalists” and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”
    -David Rockefeller

  5. bogofree

    November 6, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I really do not view bankers involved in some monolithic conspiracy but I do believe they have mutual interests and cooperate on a certain level as all competitors do. So how can I profit from this? Go where the money goes.