Trade policies are finally starting to get serious consideration in Congress, and among Presidential candidates, for the first time since the 1993 NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) debates. Trade policy, by our federal government in the past 14 years, has been a disaster for the working people of America. Federal government trade policies have very seriously undermined the American Middle Class, weakened our economy, threatened our national security, crippled our self-reliance in war preparation, distorted our foreign policies and created social tensions been our economic classes.
The “so-called free trade,” ideology-driven, policy has been a radical experiment that fails the tests of being fair and balanced. While the alleged “free traders” use economic theories taught at American universities to justify these policies, the real force behind the “so-called free trade” agenda seems to be monetary greed by the largest corporations in the world including some formerly American ones. These corporations are loyal only to the power of international wealth. They are absolutely not acting in American national interests or as loyal American citizens. They are being motivated solely by greed instead of American patriotism.
Our government should be run by elected officeholders who only serve American interests. Officeholders should never place ideology or corporate greed over practical results in developing government policies. Since the current Bush was established in the White House, America lost 3 million manufacturing jobs. Our yearly trade deficit to foreign nations has exploded. It currently stands at around $800 billion a year and with Communist China alone at $233 billion!
We export $55 billion a year to Communist China mostly in raw materials, machine tools and similar products designed to help them grow their export industries and become stronger economic competitors. In return, we import $288 billion mostly in finished consumer goods. This trade has financed the rapid military growth of the Communist Chinese military. It has costs astronomical numbers of good paying American jobs. American trade policies toward Communist China have weakened the export position of American manufactured good in other nations around the world.
The Chinese market was going to be a huge consumer of American manufacturers when the policy was first designed or so the American people were told. It has instead been only a cheap pool of labor for American corporations seeking ever larger profits by fleeing the American nation with their factories.
The Chinese example has been repeated in nation after nation like Taiwan, Korea, Jordan, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, Guatemala, etc. The list has been growing rapidly along with our trade deficits. The number of shipping containers rolling into the United States without proper inspection is a serious threat to national security. The “so-called free traders” ignore the national security threat posed by runaway, largely unregulated foreign trade.
Some newer members of Congress are finally fighting strongly against the policies of these “so-called free traders.” Recently, I heard Congressman Phil Hare (17th Congressional District of Illinois) call himself a ”fair trader,” as he explained the crippling impact of unfair “so-called free trade” on the communities he represents like Moline, Galesburg and Decatur. Congressman Hare supports trade but stated he will not support “fast-tracking” of new trade agreements or any trade policies that result in the outsourcing of good jobs from his District. I want to know why Republican members of Congress like Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee are not standing with Hare instead of against him on this issue!
Congressman Michael Michaud (2nd Congressional District of Maine) has long been a leader in the movement for fair and balanced trade that protects the jobs of American workers. Unlike most other members of Congress, Congressman Michaud worked in a mill in Maine before being elected to Congress. This writer had the pleasure of hearing Congressman Michaud speak to some auto workers in Washington, D.C. in 2006. He should be one of the main role models for every member of Congress especially on trade and worker issues. With luck, Michaud will someday be on a Democratic Presidential ticket.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (9th Congressional District of Ohio) is a real expert on trade policy. Kaptur often says she supports “free trade among free people.” The wisdom of this remark cannot be overstated! Communist China is not a free nation. It is not a democracy. It still has a closed and regulated economy. Japan is a democracy but still does not truly have an economy open freely to imports. Kaptur explained on the floor of Congress examples of trade barriers imposed by the auto industry in Japan that keeps American goods out of the country. She discussed the negative impact of “so-called free trade” on the Mexican peasants. Congresswoman Kaptur explained how labor union organizers and workers are killed in South American nations that Bush wants to include in new “so-called free trade agreements.”
President Bush has been pushing “so-called free trade deals” with nations that kill labor union leaders and organizers, have almost no excess income to buy American goods and no desire to have imported American manufactured products compete with their domestic producers. Nations agreeing to these deals offer only low, low wages along with lax or non-existent environmental and worker safety laws to large corporations. They are ideal locations to locate factories that exploit and abuse workers. Child labor and prison labor are often readily available. There is zero benefit to American workers in these deals. America should not permit imports from these nations much less give them favorable access to our markets.
The federal government needs to change our trade and tax policies to punish corporations (and their officers) who export manufacturing facilities. We need more protection from unfair trade. Our trade policies and tariffs should be changed to bring imports and exports into a rough balance. Trade policies should be designed to maintain or improve the living standards and economic security of American workers. Selling foreign goods in America should be a privilege given only as a reward to our closest allies and when it serves our national interest. Free trade between other developed nations, who are democracies that return the privilege equally, is fine. In all other cases, it should be rather rare. It is time to demand our elected officeholders hold these views or be replaced.