Thursday, May 1, 2008

NAFTA Short and Sweet

From the Economic Policy Institute:

'Despite its name, the primary purpose of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was not to facilitate trade among separate sovereign societies. Rather, it was to promote an integrated continental economy and establish the rules to govern it.

'Public officials and economists frequently claim that trade agreements "create more high-paying jobs for American workers." Trade is supposed to move workers from low-productivity, low-wage import-competing industries into high-productivity export jobs with better wages. Yet the reverse has been true for U.S. trade with Mexico since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994. In the United States workforce, NAFTA has contributed to the reduction of employment in high-wage, traded-goods industries, the growing inequality in wages, and the steadily declining demand for workers without a college education.'.

NAFTA has hit low-skill, low-educated US workers hardest. It has also hit low-skilled, low-educated Mexican workers hardest. That should give us a big, fat clue: Instead of waving their guns and hollering obscenities, US militiamen should be demanding the proof that US workers won't be facing their own long desert trek in the years to come.

All of us should be combining forces with workers across this hemisphere to demand job, wage, workplace safety, and environmental protections for everyone. Divide-and-conquer works for Monsanto, General Foods, and the Carlyle Group, but isn't going to float our boats.

The graph above, from the same source, doesn't tell all we need to know by a long shot, but it sure points us in the right direction. Again from the Economic Policy Institute:
'As a former foreign minister of Mexico once remarked, NAFTA was "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies." It should, therefore, be no surprise that NAFTA rules protect the interests of large corporate investors while undercutting workers' rights, environmental protections, and democratic accountability. Hence, NAFTA should be seen not as a stand-alone treaty, but as part of a long-term campaign by the conservative business interests in all three countries to rip up their respective domestic social contract.''

Demands from disgruntled wingers that we on the Left aren't criticizing Mexico for this diaspora of the desperate are reasonable enough. Mexican oligarchs are just as responsible as our own oligarchs. It's not immediately clear to me, however, what leverage I have over Mexican oligarchs. That is, the reason my focus stays on the USA is because I am a citizen of the USA. What's done in my name is my business, and to the extent that I have any leverage, however minuscule, it is with my own government, not the Mexican government.

Fences don't keep out hungry people. The border fence is a smoke screen, a full-employment plan for Republican construction cronies like Halliburton. It's not going to keep anything out except wildlife that have migrated across the desert in specific patterns for millennia. It's time to stop playing "pretend" and start acting like grown-ups. Some of our big boys have made a hell of a mess for the rest of us to clean up. I suggest we focus our attention on them, in the form of extended detention in CCA and Wackenhutt, and accounts payable for the cost of restorating a functioning US economy, cleaning up the desert, and paying damages to the victims of the Republicon bait-and-switch both here and in points further south. This includes the Bushes and the Clintons. For starters. Meanwhile, no more "free trade" deals. They're many things, but "free" isn't one of them.