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Free trade agreements: A failed experiment.

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Message Robert Raitz
I have read many articles and comments here about how everyone is so excited about the minimum wage being raised. As one of the named legislative priorities of the up coming 110th congress, and its first hundred hours, it's a shoe in. Even DUBYA seems to be more or less acquiescing to it. As everyone has said, it's a good thing, and something that has needed to be done for quite some time. $5.15 is hardly enough money to starve on properly.

However, as many times as I stop in for a daily fix of progressive thinking and left-leaning political banter, I have yet to come upon anyone who has written about perhaps the biggest bane to the American worker, free trade agreements.

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is NOT actually about free trade. It is more about granting foreign investors rights and privileges that include relocating factories abroad, privatizing and deregulating essential services such as health care.

Any fool can tell that providing incentives to relocate jobs out of the country is a bad thing for workers. It's a great thing for the corporations, which is why it exists in the first place. NAFTA is bad enough, however, it doesn't exist in a vacuum.

It is just one of a few so-called free trade agreements. CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) is an expansion of NAFTA into the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. It was brought into being in a rather clandestine fashion, and was passed by a midnight vote in 2005.

These agreements, and others such as FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), OFTA (Oman Free Trade Agreement), MEFTA (Middle East Free Trade Area), AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), and proposed FTA's for Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador share one common thread, they are bad for workers. They insure that workers will remain on the sh*t end of the stick as far as wages and benefits are concerned.

Until such time as these travesties of trade are eliminated, we can be sure that companies will continue to outsource American jobs. As those jobs continue to ebb, our economy will continue to shrink as well. As that continues to happen, the middle class will continue to evaporate like rain on a hot Texas highway.

While I agree that raising the minimum wage will help some, it's not really going to help everyone. In order for that to happen, the new iteration of congress needs to re-think not only these free trade agreements, but our participation in the World Trade Organization. Until such time as that happens, we can be assured that the leaking of jobs to foreign countries will continue unabated.

Of course, it's not just the job leaks to foreign countries that are the problem. It's the fact that those job losses are felt throughout the economy...they truly do trickle down.

Oh sure, because of free trade agreements, you can walk into Wally World and buy a DVD player for $30.00. However, there is a hidden cost in that. People such as myself who repair electronic equipment are left without work because it's cheaper to buy a new $30.00 DVD player when the cheap, piece of sh*t made in China model blows up than it is to get it fixed. Goddess forbid, they should make a decent one in the first place.

For this reason alone, it is highly unlikely that anyone in this country, politicians or consumers, are going to support getting rid of free trade agreements. In much the same way Americans live for convenience, they also live to save a buck here and five there. It's all about the bottom line.

No one cares that by going for the cheapest bottom line figure, everyone suffers: the workers in China making the piece of sh*t DVD player, folks like me who would love to be able to fix more reliable units, the Wally World worker who is treated like sh*t, and everyone else who loses money so corporate entities can rake in indecent profits.

There is more to life than paying the smallest price possible for everything. Frankly, I'd rather pay a bit more for things if it means more of us will get to work. I know that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but after suffering under the weight of the DUBYA economy, I am ready for a change. Maybe one of these days, the free trade agreements will fall, and with them the World Trade Organization. I'm not going to hold my breath on that one, though. There are far too many people in this world who live to pay $30.00 for a DVD player, no matter how that player destroys the economy or the chances for American workers.

Blessed be!
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Harpist, unemployed blue collar worker, and Bush basher living deep in the heart of Texas.
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