Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Rant: Obama Doubles Down on Clinton’s Bad Globalization Bets

It ought to be plainly apparent by now that globalization is the worst thing that ever happened to America’s working and middle classes. Hailed by big business and Wall Street as an engine of economic growth, the free trade policies of the past 30 years have instead lined the pockets of the rich while destroying America’s manufacturing base. The corporations love it because the fewer the trade barriers, the more American workers find themselves in direct competition with their foreign counterparts who do the same work at a fraction of the wages.

Along these lines, one of the signature “accomplishments” of the administration of President Bill Clinton was getting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed back in 1993 during the first year of his presidency. The fact that more Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted to pass a measure pushed by a Democratic president should have been the biggest clue that it was a raw deal for the average American. Just like with the subsequent bipartisan votes on the Patriot Act, the Iraq War authorization and the TARP law, it is when both parties jointly agree regarding a particular piece of legislation that the rest of us need to keep a firm grip on our wallets.

The damage wrought by NAFTA was already very apparent years ago, as documented in a 2003 article entitled, “The High Price of Free Trade,” by Robert E. Scott:
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993, the rise in the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico through 2002 has caused the displacement of production that supported 879,280 U.S. jobs. Most of those lost jobs were high-wage positions in manufacturing industries. The loss of these jobs is just the most visible tip of NAFTA’s impact on the U.S. economy. In fact, NAFTA has also contributed to rising income inequality, suppressed real wages for production workers, weakened workers’ collective bargaining powers and ability to organize unions, and reduced fringe benefits.

NAFTA is a free trade and investment agreement that provided investors with a unique set of guarantees designed to stimulate foreign direct investment and the movement of factories within the hemisphere, especially from the United States to Canada and Mexico. Furthermore, no protections were contained in the core of the agreement to maintain labor or environmental standards. As a result, NAFTA tilted the economic playing field in favor of investors, and against workers and the environment, resulting in a hemispheric “race to the bottom” in wages and environmental quality.
The whole article is quite lengthy, but well worth a read. Given that such grave doubts have been raised for years about the so-called benefits of NAFTA, you would think that our “leaders” might pause to reflect before pushing any additional such measures. This should be particularly true when it comes to the Democrats, who are supposed to be the party that supports the working and middle classes. But of course, you would be wrong about that. Once again, we see the spectacle of President Obama selling out those who most ardently supported him, as reported this week by AFP:
US President Barack Obama sent long-stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress and pressed lawmakers to approve them "without delay" after years of hold-ups.

The pacts, signed under former president George W. Bush, are expected to boost US exports by $13 billion and benefit US agriculture and manufacturing, and will form part of Obama's plan to cut reduce unemployment.

"These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America," Obama said in a statement.

The move, instantly applauded by Obama's Republican foes and the US business community, came after a nearly three-year feud fed by market-access and labor worries and a fight over aid to US workers displaced by overseas competition.

There were immediate signs that the pacts could provide a rare moment of bipartisanship in deeply divided Washington.
Check out that last sentence. There is that awful phrase again, “bipartisanship.” Now you know why the inside-the-Beltway pundits are always harping on Obama that he needs to be more bipartisan. What they really mean is that if all the politicos get together in a big group hug, they’ll be able to provide cover for each other when they screw the masses on behalf of their corporate masters.

This past weekend I saw a video interview with a couple of Occupy DC protesters (the movement is still pretty small around these parts) who told the interviewer that they believe Obama should be reelected. Needless to say, I about threw up in my mouth when I heard that.

So let me just take a moment if I may to address the supporters of Occupy (Your City Here). What you are really fighting against is NOT a matter of Republican vs. Democrat; conservative vs. liberal; Fox News vs. The Daily Show; or any of that other phony left vs. right bullshit that is so skillfully used to keep you from noticing who the real enemy is. That enemy is not only the corporate and Wall Street criminals who crashed the economy and have been given free reign to strip mine the assets of the working and middle classes, but their political hand puppets of both parties, including and especially President Hopey-Changey himself.

Go back to the top of this page and read through this article again. Obama is clearly demonstrating for about the one-thousandth time since he took office that, to paraphrase the immortal words of George Carlin in describing all politicians, “HE DOESN”T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU.” Never did, never will. All he cares about is his stinking professional resume and the doors of opportunity to fame and wealth it opens for him. Until you wake up to that very basic fact, you might just as well put down your protest signs and go home, because you will never accomplish anything of substance as long as you continue to treat the man who is at present the one screwing you over the worst as if he is your savior.

Listen, I know it’s hard to free your mind of all the propaganda that's been dumped into it your whole life that elections really matter and that there is a substantive difference between Republicans and Democrats. I was a political science major myself, and it took me nearly a quarter-of-a-century to wake up to the cold, hard reality that my vote doesn’t really count and that no matter who wins the result is the same. But it is an absolute necessity that you come to this realization if you have any hopes of avoiding being played for a sucker again the way so many were in 2008.

Many dumb fuck pundits have been looking down their noses at the recent protests and saying they lack a coherent message. Well, here is one issue that should immediately become a top priority of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This latest batch of free trade agreements should be forcefully and vociferously opposed by everyone who cares about economic justice in America. The message needs to be repeated over and over that free trade is only “free” for the elites, and it’s the rest of us who have to pay the very steep price for it.


  1. I hear ya Bill. And of course this is a theme that resonates internationally. It seems that whenever jobs are exported, it only generates unemployment locally, and sweat shops and environmental degradation for the so-called beneficiaries. Misery at home, misery abroad.

    However, it was just announced here that this month, 103,000 jobs were created in the USA ( - care to comment on that?

    Mariette (London, UK)

  2. BillHicksWannabe:

    Globalization may be the worst thing to happen to American workers, but is that not the proper fair thing to have happened?

    If some other human being at far end of the world is working harder, more qualified, and can work at lower wages, why does he have to starve while an American tries to get 5-20 times that much wage for the same work? Is that fair?

    I empathize with your ranting, but as your moral universe is pretty limited, I am finding it harder to take your raging seriously. In the wider set of moral concerns, you're not much better than Homer Simpson :)

    Some Orwell for your benefit:

    All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are “enlightened” all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our “enlightenment,” demands that the robbery shall continue. A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling’s understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases… It is true that Kipling does not understand the economic aspect of the relationship between the highbrow and the blimp. He does not see that the map is painted red chiefly in order that the coolie may be exploited. Instead of the coolie he sees the Indian Civil Servant; but even on that plane his grasp of function, of who protects whom, is very sound. He sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.


  3. @Mariette - check out my latest post. :)

  4. @Thomas Paine - globalization has largely been a disaster on the other end as well. Charles Bowden, in his remarkable book about Juarez called "Murder City," explained how cheap American agricultural products forced Mexican subsistence farmers off of their land so they had to go to work for exploitation wages in the new NAFTA-created factories along the border. Then, when the drug war escalated to insanely violent levels, they were the people often massacred in the crossfire.

    Globalization is merely the flip side of the coin of aggressive American military imperialism. Get rid of both, and the world as a whole would on average be much better off.

  5. Well, that's only half-true. There are two aspects of globalization: the products of US labor sold to foreign countries, and the products of foreign labor sold to the US.

    You're correct that the highly-subsidized mechanized US agriculture has had a devastating impact on some agriculture-heavy societies. I'm not disagreeing with you there.

    But for the other aspect, I would think that that the products of labor from poorer parts of the world should be encouraged, as it will reduce the poverty in the poorest of places.

    In your post, you are complaining that cheap foreign labor is replacing more expensive US labor. In other words, complaining that poor people outside US are getting paid at all (admittedly too little) and that that money should instead be given to US workers.

    In a sense, if you take the super-rich on who you pour so much scorn: they are simply maximizing their wealth for their families. You seem to be taking the position of maximizing the wealth of your country at the expense of other much poorer countries.

    A more admirable position than those of bankers, but hardly ethical in the true sense of the word.

  6. @TP - Beyond the globalization issue, I also deplore how the American economy is structured--the endless suburbs with their tract housing and shopping malls. America's natural resources were so abundant at one time that had we ordered our post-World War Two society more like Europe, the average person could have enjoyed a decent standard of living without exporting economic exploitation to the rest of the world.

    Anyway, that is all water under the bridge as it is far too late to turn back now. My only wish is that by pointing out to my fellow citizens how their livelihoods are being destroyed by the psychopaths they choose to lead them that MAYBE they might wake up to see the larger picture.


    I strongly recommend watching the video in the link above. Bill, I seem to recall you posting something about your father losing his job to Sir Walter Goldsmith but he sure knew what he was talking about. The vid is from 1994. Get a load of the cunt from the clinton regime.

  8. @C0ZMIK - egads, my head hurts. Goldsmith is the one who is right and, forget that flack Laura Andrea Tyson, there is CHARLIE ROSE singing NAFTA and free trade's praises. I love how Goldsmith has to tell Rose to temper his pro-NAFTA cheerleading by saying, "it's only been a few months." The world has certainly been turned upside down. :(