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America's Radical Transformation From a GM Economy to a Wal-Mart Economy

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I have differences of opinion on many issues. In no area are our differences stronger than trade policy.

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In 1960, Detroit was the richest city in America and General Motors was our largest private employer paying union workers a living wage with affordable health care and a secure retirement.

Today, Wal-Mart is our largest private employer paying nonunion workers starvation wages with little or no benefits and selling products made in China.

America's radical transformation from a GM economy to a Wal-Mart economy has decimated the middle class, turning Detroit into one of the poorest big cities in America and hollowing out communities across the country.

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No city in America has suffered more than Flint. Long before Flint's children were poisoned by contaminated drinking water, the city was poisoned by disastrous trade policies that allowed GM to eliminate more than 72,000 jobs and move several factories to Mexico.

Unfettered free trade turned this once-prosperous middle-class city, where residents could own a home, raise a family and retire with security, into a place where good jobs are scarce and extreme poverty is high. Today, a quarter of Flint residents have an annual income of less than $15,000 and 65% of the city's children live in poverty.

The decimation of Detroit, Flint and communities all over this country did not happen by accident. It is a direct result of disastrous trade deals that have allowed corporations to ship our jobs to low-wage countries.

Since I have been in Congress, I've helped lead the opposition to these trade agreements. Not only did I vote against them, I stood with workers on picket lines in opposition to them. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton sided with corporate America and supported almost all of them.

Here is the sad truth. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which was supported by Clinton, cost our nation 850,000 good paying jobs. It cost Michigan 43,000 jobs, Ohio 35,000 and Illinois another 35,000.

Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, also supported by Secretary Clinton, cost our country 3.2 million jobs, including 80,000 in Michigan, 106,000 in Ohio and 132,000 in Illinois. The agreement exploded our trade deficit with China to a record-breaking $365 billion last year and made it increasingly difficult to find a product that is not made in China.

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One of the major reasons why our middle class has been disappearing for the past 40 years is the decline of the manufacturing sector. Incredibly, over the past 15 years, we have lost nearly 60,000 factories and almost 5 million manufacturing jobs.

Not only has our trade policy cost us millions of decent paying jobs, it has led to a race to the bottom. American workers are forced to compete against desperate workers abroad who make pennies an hour. In Grand Rapids, 300 decent-paying jobs are being shipped to Monterrey, Mexico, where Dematic will pay workers an estimated $1.50 an hour. That's unacceptable.

It is easy for candidates to say what they want on the campaign trail. But voters must look at their record, rather than their rhetoric.

Throughout my political career I have stood with workers and demanded that corporate America invest in this country. Secretary Clinton's position has been very different.

Not only did she support the North American Free Trade Agreement and special trade status with China, she also supported disastrous trade deals with Vietnam, Colombia and Panama.

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)
 

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