Democratic senators and member of Congress joined hundreds of steelworkers, union faithful and environmentalists April 15 in a park across from the Capitol in denouncing President Obama's bid for fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
"I've never seen a trade agreement that is more secretive than this one," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told the crowd. "What are they hiding? What they're hiding is a huge shift from democratically elected governments to corporations all over the world, and that's why we're fighting."
Twenty years ago, half of Senate Democrats and 40 percent of House Democrats voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. This time proponents say a best-case scenario has them winning only 10 of the 46 Democrats -- and an even smaller percentage of House Democrats, despite aggressive lobbying by the usually passive White House.
So it appears that the Democrats in Name Only Who Bought into Slick Willie Clinton's promotion of NAFTA two decades ago have done an about-face--or perhaps were run out of office? As Economic Policy Institute founder Jeff Faux observed in a recent post, New Year's Day 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which "opened the door through which American workers were shoved, unprepared, into a brutal global competition for jobs that has cut their living standards and is destroying their future."
While Bill Clinton promised that the deal would bring "good-paying American jobs," NAFTA cost the U.S. a loss of 700,000 jobs. Clinton went on to outsource jobs to China, says Faux. "Clinton and his Republican successor, George Bush II, then used the NAFTA template to design the World Trade Organization, more than a dozen bilateral trade treaties, and the deal that opened the American market to China -- which alone has cost the U.S. another net 2.7 million jobs. The result has been 20 years of relentless outsourcing of jobs and technology."
As Richard McCormack observed in the American Prospect, between 2001 and 2009 the U.S. lost 42,400 factories and 32 percent of all manufacturing jobs -- a devastating drop that the "lamestream media" has failed to cover. The last time fewer than 12 million people worked in the manufacturing sector was in 1941.
Love your iPhone, iWatch, iPad or iWhatever? I'd love them a lot more if they were Made In the USA. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, most of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold in 2011 were made overseas. That year it earned more than $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google. Apple used to make its stuff here but by 2004 it turned to foreign manufacturing. Guess whose idea that was -- Tim Cook, the guy who replaced Steve Jobs as CEO.
While U.S. car production is nearing all-time highs, we imported a record $138 billion in car parts last year, compared to only $31.7 billion in parts in 1990.
Not only is employment at U.S. car-parts makers down 36% from 2000, employing about 537,000 workers, but outsourcing has resulted in decreased wages for American workers making car parts AND cars. In 2014, the average hourly wage for production and other nonsupervisory workers at car-parts makers was $19.91, down 23% from a decade earlier in inflation-adjusted terms along with a 22% decline to $27.83 at car makers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Kevin Hobbs, president of the United Auto Workers local representing workers at the American Axle plant where pay starts at $10 an hour, said members struggle to meet basic living expenses. You know the declining power of unions has reached near bottom when union members make the same wages as fast-food workers.
When GE moved its assembly of water heaters from Chinese contractors to its factory in Louisville, wages at the new plant were $13 an hour and assembly workers at Whirlpool's Ohio plant typically earn $12.40 to $16.50 per hour -- a huge pay cut from the $32 an hour that used to be typical for U.S. workers, which is STILL way lower than the typical $48 an hour wage in Germany.
Speaking of Germany, nearly four million small and medium-sized companies drive Europe's biggest economy, make everything from prosthetic limbs to church organs. Most are family owned. European leaders note Germany's resilience. Although the U.K. is Europe's fastest-growing major economy, with GDP rising 2.7 percent last year, its trade deficit has ballooned by 30 percent since David Cameron was elected prime minister in 2010.
Eager to create manufacturing jobs and cut the $145 billion gap -- the biggest in the European Union -- Cameron invoked Germany. "I want Britain to have its own version of the German Mittelstand -- a backbone of medium-sized firms which export, innovate, generate new jobs," he told the British Chambers of Commerce.
We need the next President-to-be to campaign on paying American workers what they're worth. In my mind, this is the most important Presidential election since FDR's.