International Free Trade:
By passing NAFTA and strengthening GATT, the Republican Congress and our conservative President Bill Clinton ratcheted class warfare up another notch. Despite their promises, unmanaged free world trade has been a disaster for working Americans.
So-called "Free" international trade (globalization) means that investors are free to pit workers of the world against each other by putting their money into whatever country has the lowest standards for protecting the environment, and for protecting worker incomes and job conditions.
Why a 5% job loss Hurts 100% of Workers
When investors close a manufacturing plant in the U.S., it hurts not only the workers who lose their jobs; it hurts all workers. It's not just 5% of our workforce who suffer, it's 100%. For two basic reasons:
That is why unmanaged world trade hurts workers even in jobs that can't be exported from the U.S.: trucking, retail, construction, the service industry, etc. Since conservatives have put so many people out of work, individual non-union workers have lost the power to negotiate for higher wages. If workers collectively try to form a union, they get fired. If they're already in a union, the union can't press for higher wages because the corporation might close down the plant and move elsewhere.
So, investors and corporate executives are screwing working Americans both individually and collectively. Conservative economists and politicians who profess surprise that wages haven't kept pace with inflation—while the economy and profits soar—have to be lying. Their duplicity and their denial of reality were, in essence, reflected in Business Week's question when it asked in a headline:
Because of articles like this, the real intent of unmanaged free trade is becoming obvious to everyone. The daily news accounts can't be covered up, even by conservative journalists. Only an orthodox hypocrite could claim that corporate CEOs didn't intend to use "free trade" as a cover for being able to "routinely threaten" their own workers. "If you unionize, we'll abandon you and your community and 'move production to Mexico or elsewhere.'"
The major intent of unmanaged free trade was never revealed to the American public. Business Week further reported that the U.S. Labor Department sat on the study out of fear the report would fuel skepticism toward expanding NAFTA. No wonder. Think of it:
If you don't want to admit the validity of this study, consider that Barron's lays bare all pretenses—when communicating to fellow conservatives—about the strategy and results of unmanaged free world trade. Under the head "Not To Worry: Even if the Jobless Rate Shrinks a Lot, Labor Is in Weak Position to Boost Inflation," it bragged that
The 'Nineties, need we remind you, are a period of insecurity and cost control, a time when workers feel lucky to have a job, let alone one that pays well. And consider another reason for believing that labor is in no position to impose "cost-push" inflation on the economy: the rise of Global competition.
When a General Truth becomes a Deliberate Lie
The legitimate benefits of free trade give Republicans and conservative Democrats yet another opportunity to tell an obvious lie—under the guise of a general truth. They sell American voters on the true advantages of free trade, but then insist that it be unmanaged. Unmanaged trade isn't free—it is ruthlessly controlled by conservative politicians and international corporations.
This means that employers can do whatever they want to employees, in this country or elsewhere, without adhering to any moral standards as to their treatment. What kind of morality allows corporations, through their paid conservatives in Congress, to create a climate in which working Americans feel "lucky just to have a job, let alone one that pays well?"
For insights into the kind of competition our "moral values" conservatives have forced on working Americans, look at Indonesia. It is no longer considered one of the worst abusers of workers, because it is in the process of becoming a more humane country—very, very slowly. The Wall Street Journal admitted in a headline that "Indonesia Is Striving To Prosper in Freedom, But Is Still Repressive." After it described a 24-year-old watch-factory worker who was murdered because she thought she deserved more than a dollar a day and was organizing a strike to get it, the Journal noted that
Average annual incomes [in Indonesia] have spurted to $650 a person—twice what they were a decade ago—as gross national product has expanded at an average clip of 6.8%. (October 11, 1994, A1)
What a jewel corporate America has in Indonesia:
When you review articles like this, remember—American corporate executives
Globalization is Good for Others
For another example of conservative hypocrisy when it comes to free trade, look to this country. One of America's most conservative groups betrayed its feelings about foreigners who compete with them and who threaten to lower their own standards of living. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Medical Groups Propose Restrictions On Foreign Doctors to Stem Oversupply":
The U.S. is creating a doctor glut that should be fixed in part by making it harder for foreign physicians to gain advanced training in this country, according to a panel of medical experts.…
Doctors, traditionally a very conservative group, overwhelmingly support the principle of free world trade in the abstract. But not, of course, for themselves:
Count on it: If the jobs of CEOs, bankers, economists, etc. could be done by qualified foreigners who would work for one-tenth of the money—just like our doctors—their cherished theory of unmanaged free trade would die in a heartbeat.
ECONOMICALLY SOUND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
If free trade is to function as intended, it must be managed so that investment goes to those parts of the world that have the best economic advantages and that respect workers as human beings with fundamental rights. In other words, investments should be made in those parts of the world that
The free market should not reward those immoral competitors who would compete purely on the basis of their willingness to treat their workers the most brutally. As it's now designed, that's exactly what it's been doing since its inception, and it's continuing today.
Republicans and conservative Democrats have totally and deliberately destroyed American workers' power to negotiate. No contest. That's it. Period. And if most professional and highly skilled people in the U.S. are not all that concerned about what's happened to working-class Americans—and even think that conservative economics might be a good thing—they had better watch out. They might be next to join in the fun of globalization, which is not the same thing as true free international trade.
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