I shudder when I say this, but I agree with Donald Trump on something. American workers were sold out by their government. And not just by Republicans, as you might expect, but also – unwittingly – by Democrats.
I suspect the politicians behind a generation of lousy trade deals weren’t just stupid, though. I think they were lazy.
They relied on corporate lobbyists to do their math, and (surprise!) the lobbyists lied.
The lobbyists depicted NAFTA and other similar sell-outs as win-win propositions.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Those deals are often lose-lose.
Trump is wrong (as he so often is) when he claims America’s loss is Mexico’s gain.
In fact, NAFTA has caused havoc in both America and Mexico.
In America, manufacturing workers are laid off in droves as plants move to Mexico. In Mexico, cheap agricultural imports have virtually wiped out local farmers
For example, indigenous corn growers were left to starve (or emigrate!) as duty-free US corn flooded the Mexican market.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, the family farmers who used to be the backbone of the country’s rural economy were also forced off the land as factory farms took over.
The big winner? Global corporations.
It’s the kind of “free-trade” nightmare imposed on Jamaica by the IMF. Cheap US powdered milk has destroyed Jamaica’s dairy industry, for example.
It’s the kind of thinking that “opened China’s market” to US producers. And I’m sure you know how that is working out. A US trade deficit in the billions upon billions of dollars, for one thing. Millions of idle American workers for another.
What trade agreements do is launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages and working conditions, destroy good jobs and undermine the environment. They also endanger the health of US families because of inadequate food-safety standards in developing countries.
Free trade is a simple-minded concept with immensely complicated side effects. To American politicians it might look like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but history is demonstrating it’s the global corporations that get the gold, not “we the people.”
I suppose the politicians think that what’s good for corporations is good for everyone. That’s what they get paid (by lobbyists) to think.
It’s the kind of thinking that causes widespread misery.
It’s the kind of thinking that gives rise to monsters like Trump.