We must be approaching the End Times. Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and North Carolina’s Mark Meadows now support President Obama’s effort to get “fast track” trade authority passed. Or, has Obama decided to further expand free market international trade — a long-term goal of the Republican Party?
On globalization, the two political parties are not Republicans vs. Democrats — they are a coalition of Republicans and Wall Street Democrats vs. progressive Democrats. A recent A C-T column (April 26) reported that even Republican Pat Buchanan complained about “Obama’s GOP collaborators.” If voters want to understand what has happened to America’s working class living standards, they should keep that article for permanent reference.
Buchanan’s most revealing statement was “Congressional Republicans who, for all their bravado about defying his usurpations, know on which side their bread is buttered. It’s the Wall Street-K Street side.” Conservative Republicans see globalization (not the same as fair market international trade) as a way to destroy unions and labor’s ability to demand a fair share of the benefits of improvements in technology and productivity. Free market international trade was never a Democratic goal prior to President Clinton.
Although Clinton did many good things for our country, NAFTA wasn’t one of them. He allowed himself to be conned by his Wall Street advisers into believing that corporations would become more profitable under NAFTA, and if he raised taxes on the top 1.2 percent of Americans, he would reduce the deficit. It worked, beautifully, but at the expense of America’s workers.
Obama is also listening to the wrong advisers. The reasons he gave for wanting fast track trade agreements are: We can’t ignore or stop globalization, exports are essential to U.S. job growth, and job growth will result in rising worker incomes.
Those who say that we are in a globalized economy and it can’t be reversed are guilty of a presumptive fallacy: they presume as fact what they are attempting to prove. “You can’t stop it because it’s already here.” But why can’t we stop and even reverse the globalization of our economy? Those who claim we can’t are members of the same crowd, Wall Street, who gave us globalization in the first place.
Of course, many of the jobs we lost are unrecoverable, especially when it comes to computers and the worldwide web. However, we can again have the kind of industrial policy we had for most of the past century when we created the middle class by protecting our industries that produce things like military hardware, toys, cars, textiles and furniture. We could place tariffs on products and services coming from countries that don’t share our nation’s respect for worker and consumer rights, or that are using unfair trade practices.
Some trading would cease, but desirable international trade would continue. We’re still the greatest consumer nation in the world, and the U.S. market is the world’s first choice to enter. In addition, our products that other nations desire — despite our higher wages, better working conditions and prohibitions of children working in factories — will still be exported. However, trade agreements would be specific and, contrary to today, our nation, not multinational corporations, would be in control of our economy’s impact on working class citizens.
To claim that free market international trade is essential to U.S. job growth defies our actual experiences with such trade agreements we’ve had to date, as Buchanan documented. Sure, many U.S. businesses depend on their exports for income, but, because of wage and work condition differentials, from assembly line workers to Ph.D scientists, we’ll always lose far more jobs than we gain.
Which brings us to the claim that growth in exports will lead to more jobs and higher wages. We’ve already seen the effects of globalization on working class wages and they’re disastrous. When government allows corporations and their investors to put their money wherever they wish, and then sell products back in the U.S. duty free — they become incredibly rich and workers’ wages stagnate or decline.
It happened after Clinton and the Republicans gave us NAFTA, and it’ll happen again if Obama and the Republicans give us fast track, even though he promises he’ll make sure it defends workers’ interests. He has demonstrated his genuine concern for workers and the middle class in other ways, but he’s mistaken if he thinks he can outsmart the legions of trade negotiators who represent the interests of corporations in our own and other nations.
Pat Buchanan was totally on target when he concluded “What the nation needs is not only a rejection of fast track, but also a trade policy that puts country before corporate profit, workers before Wall Street, and America first.”
Chuck Kelly is a retired management consultant living in Burnsville and is author of The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation and Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.