The Big Lie About Free Trade: Turns Out It's American Workers Losing Jobs
Posted on: 2012-10-12 13:02:58
by Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders is by and large a socialist -- something we oppose. But in this particular letter, he hits the nail on the head. This letter was written ten years ago. Looking at our economy today, it was prescient.
Though I am a congressman from Vermont, it outrages me that Maytag Corp. will shut down production at its refrigerator factory in Galesburg, Ill., and lay off the plant's 1,600 workers by late 2004. Maytag is using the North America Free Trade Agreement, which I opposed, to move its plant to Mexico. In Mexico it will be able to hire workers at $2 an hour, rather than pay the average wage of $15.14 earned by workers in Galesburg. And the Newton, Iowa, appliance manufacturer is closing its Illinois plant despite recent concessions from the union and substantial sums of corporate welfare given it by city, county and state governments.
Illinois citizens should have no illusions that what is happening in Galesburg is unique. I can tell you that the same thing is happening in my state. In fact, it's happening in many regions of the country. In Vermont, in recent years, as a result of such disastrous trade policies as NAFTA, most-favored-nation status with China and permanent normal trade relations with China and other trade agreements, we have lost thousands of decent paying jobs in Shaftsbury, Newport, St. Johnsbury, East Ryegate, Island Pond, Randolph, Orleans, Bennington, Springfield and Windsor--among other communities.
The simple truth is that our nation's manufacturing base is collapsing. As unemployment rises, more and more Americans are searching for non-existent jobs. In the past two years we have lost just under 1.8 million factory jobs nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, at 16.5 million, we now have the lowest number of factory jobs in 40 years.
As the U.S. produces less and imports more, we have developed a huge trade deficit of more than $400 billion, including an $80 billion trade deficit with China. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, many of them at part-time or temporary jobs with minimal benefits. And yet, despite all of this, President Bush, almost all Republicans and many Democrats in Congress continue to spout the corporate line about how wonderful unfettered "free trade" is. And the establishment media continue, in editorial after editorial, to repeat that big lie.
The simple truth is that American workers cannot, and should not, be "competing" against desperate workers in developing countries who are forced to work for pennies an hour. This is creating a horrendous "race to the bottom." Aaron Kemp is a Maytag worker in Galesburg. He expressed a lot more understanding of our current trade policies than most member of Congress when he told a reporter; "This is heartbreaking. This is one of the most unpatriotic, most un-American things I can imagine a company doing. They want Americans to buy their products, but they don't want to put Americans to work making those products."
Clearly, we need fundamental changes in our trade policies. If the American economy is going to survive, if our workers are to earn a living wage, corporations are going to have to start reinvesting in the United States.
In Washington, everybody knows what the story is. President Bush and many members of Congress have received hundreds of millions in campaign contributions from the corporations that benefit from our free trade policies. They have taken those donations--and sold out American workers by giving their support to a trade policy that is destroying our economy. If the U.S. is going to survive as a great economic power, we must rebuild our manufacturing base and create jobs that pay workers a living wage with decent benefits.