An earlier posting touched on some of these issues, and this is the resulting column that ran recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Miss.
OXFORD, Miss. – I didn’t make it to the recent Donald Trump
rally in Jackson, Miss., but I’m sure my ears would have perked up as soon as
the Republican presidential candidate began attacking NAFTA and the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
“We will rebuild roads and bridges and infrastructure, and
we will do it with our companies and our steel and our labor,” Trump told the
cheering, chanting crowd. “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever
To add fuel to a long-simmering fire, one of England’s top
“Brexit” leaders, Nigel Farage also took the stage and urged American voters to
do like his fellow Brits and take their nation back from the “big banks” and
the professional “political class.” The British vote to exit the European Union
was in part a rejection of EU neoliberal policies that push free trade for
corporations and “austerity” for citizens.
At this point, I might’ve had to pinch myself and ask: Is this
a Republican rally? A fair question given the fact that the Republican Party
has long been the party of “big banks” and big corporations.
It’s a topsy-turvy world this 2016 presidential election. On
one hand you’ve got a populism-spouting billionaire real estate and casino
magnate who’s also a former reality TV star. On the other, you’ve got Hillary
Clinton, a Wall Street-friendly millionaire Democrat (net worth estimated in
the neighborhood of $40 million) who once ardently championed the TPP but now
says she opposes it.
Like NAFTA, the TPP agreement pretends to represent modern
global reality, a world where capital should flow freely across barrier-less
borders. Only problem is, the jobs flow with it toward bottom-feeder countries
where low wages, sweatshops, and miserable workplace and environmental
conditions are the rule.
The drain on jobs can work both ways. NAFTA dumped so much
subsidized U.S. products onto Mexico that it displaced an estimated 1.3 million
Mexican farmers, the same farmers and their progeny whom Trump rails against in
his speeches. Back home in the States, NAFTA cost Americans millions of jobs
that went overseas, most of them in manufacturing.
Mississippi was one of the states hardest hit by NAFTA, a
1994 trade deal that then-President Bill Clinton was only able to secure after
arm-twisting fellow Democrats with promises of labor protections that were
TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids, and indeed it
takes trade deals to a whole new level by allowing corporations to sue
governments that pass laws and regulations that might inhibit profits.
Furthermore, those suits are argued in special courts where the corporations
have a powerful say in who presides. This is the kind of deal—enthusiastically
supported by President Barack Obama—you get when the dealmakers meet in secret
without input from the public.
It’s a sign of the tragic decline of the modern-day
Democratic Party that its leaders have become champions of jobs-killing trade
deals that also force untold millions of migrant workers to leave their native
countries in search of work and survival. Those migrant workers are victims of
the very trade deals that Trump denounces even as he also denounces the migrant
One of Hillary Clinton’s closest political friends, Virginia
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the quintessential Clinton insider, told POLITICO this
summer that she’ll switch again on TPP once the election’s over and support it.
“Yes,” he said when asked if she’d switch. “Listen, she was in support of it.
There were specific things in it she wants fixed.” When a public outcry
resulted, including a denial from the Clinton camp, McAuliffe did some of his
own switching and insisted he only was saying what he wanted Clinton to do, not
what she will do.
The Associated Press recently noted that “Republican Donald
Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton (are) the two least-popular presidential
nominees in the history of modern polling.” Indeed, a recent GenForward poll
shows that as many as 72 percent of young people in the country feel neither
major political party is doing a good job looking out for their interests. This
includes whites, Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans.
Who can blame them? Saddled with unprecedented college debt
and an uncertain future with limited options, they don’t know where to turn.
Trump talks big about being the “greatest jobs president,”
but his record as a business executive includes a long, dismal trail of
citations, lawsuits and liens for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and
failure to pay workers and subcontractors.
Hillary Clinton’s husband railed against free-trade
agreements as a candidate for president, then he became their biggest champion.
Given her own record of switching back and forth, and those recent comments by
major Clintonista McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton has given us little reason to
believe she’ll be any different than Bill.