Tag Archives: free trade

California Fighting Back on Colombia Free Trade Act

By Tim Robertson, California Fair Trade Coalition

Since 2005, more than half the trade unionists murdered in the world have been killed in Colombia. That's more in Colombia alone than in the other 190+ countries combined. Just last year, 51 more trade unionists were murdered bringing the total since 1986 to over 2700. Unfortunately, President Obama is ignoring these facts to push for the long-stalled Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a relic of the Bush Administration, in a move that can only be seen as an affront to his union base.

Not only is Colombia the most dangerous place in the world for union activity, an implied complicity with Colombia's government, in particular the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), has led to an approximate 96% impunity rating. Could you imagine the U.S. response if over the course of 2010, there were one CEO murder per week in Colombia with little investigation and few convictions or punishments? It certainly wouldn't be to liberalize trade rules.

Sadly, the President knows and understands the plight of unionists, peasant leaders, Afro-Colobians, and other organizers in Colombia. He even campaigned against the FTA because of such violence.

Since then, nothing has changed in Colombia, with 47 union assassinations in 2009 in addition to the 51 from 2010, more than even in 2007 when the FTA was initially negotiated (ironically, some view FTAs as incentives for good behavior). The President shouldn’t support a corporate-first FTA with Colombia, while glossing over the violence he lamented during the election.

That's why the AFL-CIO, the California Labor Federation, the California Democratic Party, and most major unions are calling on their members to stand up and fight to stop the President's free trade expansion plans. Along with FTAs with South Korea and Panama, the Colombia FTA constitute the President's extension of the Bush-era trade agenda which is poised to cost more American jobs, and endanger the lives and livelihoods of our brothers and sisters around the world.

California, with its 53 Members of Congress, is key to stopping these FTAs and protecting worker power both in the U.S. and abroad. Unfortunately, they will easily pass if our representatives don't hear from us, which is why the California Fair Trade Coalition is hosting two organizational calls this Tuesday, May 24, and distributing info and lobbying guides to arm activists to stop the corporate takeover of trade.

Joining the call will be Sacramento Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Bill Camp, to discuss his personal experiences with union violence in Colombia. Other speakers include a brief guide to lobbying and organizing on trade issues by the California Fair Trade Coalition.

All three FTAs could be introduced to the House within weeks. If we're going to stop them, now is the time.

Please RSVP for the calls, Tuesday, May 24, so that we can ensure we have enough lines. Can't make it? Sign up here and we'll send you an info and lobby guide.

Free Trade vs Smart Trade, Edwards takes on the Supply-Siders

Since the days of Reagan, America has been chasing a Theory.

Since the Clinton era, and the rise of NAFTA and Global Free Trade, our “Corporate Leaders” have been conducting an unprecedented Social Experiment.

The Experiment: Economic Darwinism

The Test Subjects in this Experiment: none other than American Workers and our “more competitive” counterparts, overseas.

Supply-siders have argued that Economic Growth comes from empowering Corporate Interests to become “More Productive”, by whatever means necessary. Be it “Tax-Give-aways to the Wealthy”, or “Job-Give-aways to Poor Foreigners”, well that’s just fine with them, long is it results in Corporate Growth.

Supply-siders are happy to trade away American Dignity for the sake of short-term Profits: “American Workers just need some retraining. They just need to apply themselves.”

We just need to learn to Adapt”(to Global Markets?)

That’s the Theory, that’s the Spin.  What are the Results of this on-going plan to outsource the American Dream?

So what is Supply Side Economics, and how did these Theorists manage to trump the classical Keynesian school of thought?  (John Maynard Keynes Theories ushered in the Middle Class Boom of the last century, by the way.)

Investopedia Says

Supply-side theorists advocate income tax reduction because it increases private investment in corporations, facilities, and equipment

Understanding Supply-Side Economics

by David Harper, CFA

Supply-side economics is better known to some as “Reaganomics”, or the “trickle-down” policy espoused by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. He popularized the controversial idea that greater tax cuts for investors and entrepreneurs provides incentives to save and invest and produce economic benefits that trickle down into the overall economy. In this article, we summarize the basic theory behind supply-side economics.

The Argument That Supply Creates Its Own Demand

In economics we review the supply and demand curves. The left-hand chart below illustrates a simplified macroeconomic equilibrium: aggregate demand and aggregate supply intersect to determine overall output and price levels. (In this example, output may be gross domestic product and the price level may be the Consumer Price Index.) The right-hand chart illustrates the supply-side premise: an increase in supply (i.e. production of goods and services) will increase output and lower prices.

Supply-side actually goes further and claims that demand is largely irrelevant. It says that over-production and under-production are not really sustainable phenomena. Supply-siders argue that when companies temporarily “over-produce”, excess inventory will be created, prices will subsequently fall and consumers will increase their purchases to offset the excess supply


Supply-side economics has a colorful history. Some economists view supply-side as a half-baked economic theory – economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman even called its founders “cranks” in a book dedicated to attacking the theory (“Peddling Prosperity”)…

Indeed Paul Krugman had some very interesting things to say about Global Trade and Outsourcing today. The USA has just passed a new threshold on imports:

NY Times

Trouble With Trade

Dec 28, 2007


But recently we crossed an important watershed: we now import more manufactured goods from the third world than from other advanced economies. That is, a majority of our industrial trade is now with countries that are much poorer than we are and that pay their workers much lower wages.

Let’s talk for a moment about the economics.

Trade between high-wage countries tends to be a modest win for all, or almost all, concerned. When a free-trade pact made it possible to integrate the U.S. and Canadian auto industries in the 1960s, each country’s industry concentrated on producing a narrower range of products at larger scale. The result was an all-round, broadly shared rise in productivity and wages.

By contrast, trade between countries at very different levels of economic development tends to create large classes of losers as well as winners.

Although the outsourcing of some high-tech jobs to India has made headlines, on balance, highly educated workers in the United States benefit from higher wages and expanded job opportunities because of trade. For example, ThinkPad notebook computers are now made by a Chinese company, Lenovo, but a lot of Lenovo’s research and development is conducted in North Carolina.

But workers with less formal education either see their jobs shipped overseas or find their wages driven down by the ripple effect as other workers with similar qualifications crowd into their industries and look for employment to replace the jobs they lost to foreign competition. And lower prices at Wal-Mart aren’t sufficient compensation.

The trouble now is that these effects may no longer be as modest as they were, because imports of manufactured goods from the third world have grown dramaticallyfrom just 2.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1990 to 6 percent in 2006.

And the biggest growth in imports has come from countries with very low wages. The original “newly industrializing economies” exporting manufactured goods – South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore – paid wages that were about 25 percent of U.S. levels in 1990. Since then, however, the sources of our imports have shifted to Mexico, where wages are only 11 percent of the U.S. level, and China, where they’re only about 3 percent or 4 percent.

The highly educated workers who clearly benefit from growing trade with third-world economies are a minority, greatly outnumbered by those who probably lose.

As I said, I’m not a protectionist. For the sake of the world as a whole, I hope that we respond to the trouble with trade not by shutting trade down, but by doing things like strengthening the social safety net. But those who are worried about trade have a point, and deserve some respect.

Krugman seems worried about the effect of NAFTA, and the continuing trend for more Outsourcing. And Krugman seems to be advocating the same kind of Social Safety Net and Worker Dignity, that John Edwards has been calling for too. In short, Smart Trade and Fair Trade (high wage for high wage) seem to be among this progressive thinker’s priorities too.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked a very straight-forward Question at a recent Presidential Candidate Debate:

Wolf Blitzer: Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA, knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?



Good Question! Why aren’t more people asking this?

The Results of this decade-long NAFTA Experiment, has been much MORE painful than one would expect for such a well-reasoned Intellectual Exercise.

There were about a Million Reasons, Why this Free Trade Give-Away failed Ordinary Americans! (It seems that having workers “Learn to Adapt” sounds great on paper — but in the real world –NOT so much!)

Another Good Question is ‘Why isn’t anyone in the Media trying to seriously answer Wolf Blitzer’s Question?’

Well David Sirota HAS tried to answer it:

Was Ross Perot Right?

David Sirota

In 1993, the Clinton White House and an army of corporate lobbyists were selling NAFTA as a way to aid Mexican and American workers.

Perot, on the other hand, was predicting that because the deal included no basic labor standards, it would preserve a huge “wage differential between the United States and Mexico” that would result in “the giant sucking sound” of American jobs heading south of the border. Corporations, he said, would “close the factories in the U.S. [and] move the factories to Mexico [to] take advantage of the cheap labor.

The historical record is clear. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reports, “Real wages for most Mexicans today are lower than when NAFTA took effect.” Post-NAFTA, companies looking to exploit those low wages relocated factories to Mexico. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the net effect of NAFTA was the elimination of 1 million American jobs.

Well according to Carnegie, it looks like NAFTA was a Lose-Lose deal for BOTH the High-Wage Workers of America, and the Low-Wage Workers of Mexico!

So much for Supply-side Global Competition, raising ALL Boats! (which was one of Reagan’s favorite lines, by the way)

John Edwards is just NOT Talking about “raising all boats” — he’s providing the Smart Plans that will ACTUALLY help the “Middle Class Rise” and restore Dignity for ALL Workers.

“Smart Trade” policy makes use of our greatest assets, our Intelligence and our Innovation. (These have always been the keys to real Adaptive Changes in eras past!)

Smarter Trade that Puts Workers First

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by John Edwards

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Let me tell you, if a CEO thinks the right thing to do is to ship American jobs overseas, to destroy families and communities, then I challenge him to go and look those workers in the eye and have the guts to tell them to their face that they can’t compete. I’ve stood with these workers all across America – and let me tell you, they can compete, because they are the best workers in the world.

NAFTA was written by insiders in all three countries, and it served their interests – not the interests of regular workers. It included unprecedented rights for corporate investors, but no labor or environmental protections in its core text. And over the past 15 years, we have seen growing income inequality in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Well enough is enough. Americans have paid the price long enough. We need to change our fundamental approach to trade. We need to make American values the foundation of our trade deals, and we need to put workers back at their core.


We can and we must change this. I believe we need to follow three principles to make sure globalization works for everyone.

(1st) trade deals must benefit workers, not just big multinational corporations.

Today, our trade agreements are negotiated behind closed doors. The multinationals get their say, but when one goes to Congress it gets an up or down vote – no amendments are allowed. No wonder that corporations get unique protections, while workers don’t benefit. That’s wrong.

Imagine trade policies that actually put American workers first.

We need fair rules for workers, and we need strong protections for labor and the environment and against currency manipulation. If a deal is good for middle-class families, it’s good for America; if it’s not, it’s not.

(2nd) our trade policies should also lift up workers around the world.

This struggle over fair trade is about more that just what’s at stake for America’s workers – it’s also about what’s at stake for workers in every country. Making sure that workers around the globe are treated fairly and share in trade gains is the right thing to do morally, it’s the right thing to do economically, and it will make us much safer and more secure.

That’s what strong labor standards are all about. Making sure that workers have the right to organize and earn a fair wage will not only prevent a “race to the bottom” on labor rights – it will also help build a global middle class that shares in the gains from trade and creates markets for U.S. exports.

(3rd) we need to address more than just our trade policies in order to restore fairness and opportunity to workers.

I talked earlier about some of the adverse effects of globalization – stagnant wages and rising inequality.

To help regular Americans get ahead and stay ahead, we need to make sure our children get a quality education and have the chance to go to college.

We need to raise the minimum wage, strengthen unions, and help families build assets.

And the most important thing we can do to provide security to our workers is to guarantee universal health care in this country. I am proud to be the first major candidate to come out with a plan for universal health care.

We also need to invest resources to ensure that our country keeps its competitive edge in the world.

We need to create the jobs of the future right here in America and make sure our workers have the skills they need to fill them. We need to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent, invest in life sciences and biomedical research, strengthen math and science education, and create a new energy economy.

We need a new era in trade policy. We need “smart trade” policies that American workers can say yes to – trade policies that do more than pay lip service to their needs and that actually make sure prosperity is shared. Trade policies that are as innovative as the American people. And when I’m president, those are the trade policies we will have.

And let me be clear: we will make sure that these policies are in place before we pass a single new trade deal.

In my first year in office, I will spend time working with Congress to get our trade policies straight — policies which ensure that Americans workers finally begin to see benefits from the global economy. And then, when we negotiate new trade deals it won’t just be big multinational corporations whose interests are served – it will also be the interests of American workers, America’s communities, and our global environment.

Sounds like Edwards “gets this globalization problem”, doesn’t it! Globalization involves so much more than empowering the Supply-side of the Equation (the big multinational corporations)it also involves empowering the Demand-side too (ie. the workers and the consumers who actually make Economies tick)!

Edwards see the root of the problem, as Ross Perot correctly identified — it’s the “wage differential” between countries.

This is the root of the “competitive advantage” for all the ‘Wal-Marts’ of the World. But it is also the source of “Lose-Lose economic insecurity” for Workers on both sides of so many global Trade Deals! (even for Workers in other countries)

Here’s a few more examples showing that Edwards ‘gets it’:

John Edwards on Outsourcing



John Edwards to Steelworkers on Trade



John Edwards answers question about ‘Made in the USA’



June 17, 2007

Questioner: If you go into a store nowadays, everything is Made in China, and Japan. What can be done so that some of the stuff we buy is made in the good old U.S.A?

John Edwards:

“If you’re talking about ‘low wage jobs’, which is the kind of goods you’re talking about — that’s the reason they’re ‘being made somewhere else’ — because people are working for a fraction of what people work for in the United States of America.

What we have to do is:

Have Trade Agreements that are Fair.

Have Country of Origin labeling.

And then in the United States looking forward,

we got have the most educated, most innovative work force on the planet.

It’s absolutely crucial!

I saw what happened when the mill closed …

and all of a sudden their job’s gone —

it does something to a man or woman’s dignity when that happens

It’s not just money — it’s about self respect!

We need a President of the United States who understands that — who feels it!

These were really good men and women who worked in that mill with my Dad, who I think are worth every bit as much as any President of the United States, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And they deserve a chance when they are hit by Trade and Jobs going somewhere else. And we need a President who will stand up for them. That’s what we need.”

{loud applause}

If the American people aren’t smart enough, or brave enough, or quick enough to Adapt, and break out of this well worn track — called Free Trade and Outsourcing — well the raw forces of Global Competition, will ultimately destroy all memories of the American Dream, that our Constitution inspires!

Beware of Economic Darwinism — brought to you by Right Wing Priorities!

This subtle transfer of power primarily to an elite ruling class is well underway! The Losers in this Experiment are the hard working American Workers (and the desperate workers in other countries too).

To Supply-siders, such “wage-workers” are simply a cost of production, that must be minimized above all else.

To these “Free Traders”, Human Dignity has very little to do with it — it’s just Business!


Jan 30, 2006


The Future Of Outsourcing

How it’s transforming whole industries and changing the way we work

Globalization has been brutal to midwestern manufacturers

U.S. workers suddenly face a grave new threat, with even highly educated tech and service professionals having to compete against legions of hungry college grads in India, China, and the Philippines willing to work twice as hard for one-fifth the pay.

Workers’ fears have some grounding in fact. The prime motive of most corporate bean counters jumping on the offshoring bandwagon has been to take advantage of such “labor arbitrage” — the huge wage gap between industrialized and developing nations. And without doubt, big layoffs often accompany big outsourcing deals.

The changes can be harsh and deep. But a more enlightened, strategic view of global sourcing is starting to emerge as managers get a better fix on its potential. The new buzzword is “transformational outsourcing.” Many executives are discovering offshoring is really about corporate growth

“This isn’t about labor cost,” says Daniel Marovitz, technology managing director for Deutsche Bank’s global businesses. “The issue is that if you don’t do it, you won’t survive.”  …

The “transforming of whole industries” is underway … and the Captains of Industry have begun to re-frame their Supply-side Theories in terms of essential “Global Survival”!

I’m reminded of the great wit of John Edwards, to capture this insane chase, and re-frame the argument right back on these unchecked Corporate Interests:


John Edwards:

It doesn’t say life, liberty and the pursuit of endless corporate profit in the Declaration of Independence.





John Edwards IS Standing Up for Workers, right now!

Will the Workers “adapt”, and Stand Up for Edwards?

That Global Clock is Ticking …

Who Can Stop the Shape Shifters? Naomi Klein, You’re Freaking Me Out

(Crossposted at dailykos.com and thanks to all who got it on the recommended list all morning.)
Uncle Miltie Friedman wrote in 1982

Only a crisis?actual or perceived?produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.  That, I believe, is our basic function:  to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.

This is the statement that lies at the heart of what Naomi Klein calls “The Shock Doctrine” in her new, brilliant, courageous and genuinely frightening book on Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys’ repackaging of feudalism.  Shape shifters, she calls them.  (I’ve been a fan of Klein’s gift for wording things since I discovered her in 2004.)  From the atrocities in Chile that began on September 11, 1973 to Iraq to the Tsunami to Katrina, Friedmanomics has shape shifted, Klein says, into “disaster capitalism”.  But whatever shape it takes it remains committed to the unholy “policy trinity” of “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending.”

I am officially freaked out.  Naomi Klein’s book “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” is the perfect book to read for Halloween.  It will set your hair on fire.  The first chapter alone “The Torture Lab:Ewan Cameron, the CIA, and the Maniacal Quest to Erase and Remake the Human Mind” will have you running for a stake and a cross.  The descriptions of torture in the bowels of McGill University in the 1950’s that are still taught and practiced today are bone chilling.  The second chapter, “The Other Doctor Shock” focuses on Milton Friedman deep down in his  economics lab in the basement at the University of Chicago. It will fill you with dread as you watch him develop his science of selfishness with his Changelings from South America.  They waited restlessly for the world to fall out of love with John Maynard Keynes and one of his successors, John Kenneth Galbraith, and their annoying responsible and reasonable versions of capitalism.

But they finally got their chance and Chapters 3-5(States of Shock, Cleaning the Slate, and “Entirely Unrelated: How Ideology Was Cleansed of Its Crimes)  will have you sweating and looking behind your back furtively searching for green Ford Falcons coming to whisk you away, Ha Ha.  These are the tales of kidnappings, beatings, and killings of thousands of social workers, union leaders, college students, soup kitchen workers, musicians, artists; well, just about anybody who got together in a group to change things as simple as students protesting bus fares or doctors in clinics for the poor.  One doctor said that they told him “The poor won’t have any goody-goodies to look after them anymore” as they applied electric shocks to his gums, nipples, genitals, abdomen and ears.”  It was literally the idea of kindness that they wanted to destroy.

These are the chapters where Klein shows how Uncle Miltie and his Chicago Boys were complicit in the terror and death that came with the coups in South America in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  This is Klein’s most important achievement connecting the economic theories of Friedman to reigns of terror necessary to implement his theories.  Unlike the Nobel Committee that awarded Friedman a Nobel Prize for economics in 1976 and then a year later awarded Amnesty International the Nobel Peace Prize for exposing human rights violations in the countries that embraced Friedmanomics, Klein connects the two.  Friedman continued to claim that he only offered “technical advice” to Pinochet and others.  When he visited Pinochet after the coup of September 11, 1973, “he called the economic experiment ‘a miracle'”. If it was so great, then why did they need all the repression and cruelty? 

But brave people tried to disprove this.  Orlando Letelier, who had been President Allende’s Ambassador to Washington when the coup occurred, exposed Pinochet and Friedman in an article for “The Nation” in 1976.  He said that the “establishment of a free private economy and control of inflation a la Friedman” cannot be done peacefully. It had to be enforced, and in the Chilean context that could be done only by the killing of thousands, the establishment of concentration camps all over the country, the jailing of more than 100,000 persons in three years… Regression for the majorities and ‘economic freedom’ for small privileged groups are in Chile two sides of the same coin.” And most chilling of all he wrote that there was “an inner harmony” between the “free market” and unlimited terror (Shock Doctrine: page 99). One month later he was blown up on his way to work in Washington D.C.

Aristocrats or Democrats, said Thomas Jefferson
“There is no humane way to rule people against their will”, Klein says paraphrasing Simone de Beauvoir.  It’s not just about excesses and abuses, but about an “all pervasive system.”  Sergio Tomasella, “a tobacco farmer and secretary-general of Argentina’s Agrarian Leagues who was tortured and imprisoned for 5 years” described what happened most eloquently when he testified on human rights abuses.

“Foreign monopolies impose crops on us, they impose chemicals that pollute our earth, impose technology and ideology.  All this through the oligarchy which owns the land and controls the politics.  But we must remember?the oligarchy is also controlled, by the very same monopolies, the very same Ford Motors, Monsanto, Philip Morris.  It’s the structure we have to change.  This is what I have come to denounce. That’s all.”


What we need is a good ad campaign
Klein quotes an ad in “Business Week” written by Burson- Marsteller who did PR for the Argentine Junta  in 1976.  “Few governments in history have been as encouraging to private investment…We are in a true social revolution, and we seek partners. We are unburdening ourselves of statism, and believe firmly in the all important role of the private sector.”  Victor Emmanuel, the Burson-Marsteller guy in charge of selling Argentina’s new Junta controlled economy said,  “A lot of innocent people were probably killed, but given the situation, immense force was required.”  Yes, Klein says, it takes cataclysmic change “when people, with their stubborn habits and insistent demands, are blasted out of the way” for the kind of freedom that Friedman longed for but the kind of freedom that has no love of democracy.

I’m going to stop here. I’m about a third of the way through the book.  I want to come back to the phrase that Naomi Klein picks out as the theme; “the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”  Which ideas are lying around now?  Which ones should we use for the coming deepening crisis?  Which presidential candidates have the right ideas for our times right now?

For my money, it’s Edwards with his fresh takes on the ideas that made  Democrats the party of “The four freedoms” and “the fighting faith”. How did we used to define freedom? What did we have faith in?  The free market?  No, we had faith in our work made with the sweat of our brows. We had faith in our ability to take risks and achieve much. We had faith in our community. We had faith in our family and its future.  We had faith in each other to be there in a crisis whether it was fire or flood or marauders. We had faith in our nation to preserve our freedom of thought and speech. Most of all, we had faith in ourselves to do the right thing but also that we could do the harder work of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Can we revive this fighting faith?

What are the ideas that inspire you?

Chinese processed food, lazy international reporting, and Bushie deregulation.

Did you have any idea that just within the last few years, glass noodles — the tasty, high-protein, transluscent noodles made from mung bean flour, which you can pick up in the international foods section of most groceries, or at a local ethnic market like Ranch 99 — were twice implicated in scandals of the type that has roiled the pet food market?

Neither did I, until I decided to go looking for info on the quality of such imports.  I found a whole slew of stories on the topic — but none in US news sources.

In a 2004 case, a company was producing noodles made from a cheaper, lower-protein substitute (corn starch), and then making them translucent through application of a lead-based whitening chemical.  In a 2006 case, another company used an industrial bleach to make their noodles more shelf stable.

Given the Bushies’ neutering of our regulatory agencies (see: MSHA’s complicity in the string of mine fires), what assurances do we have that products like this aren’t on our shelves, either from China or from companies here at home?  Remember Food Lion’s bleached meat?

Furthermore, given that glass noodles are on our shelves, and have been for years, why hasn’t the US media talked, at all, about these ’04 and ’06 cases?  Where’s Lou Dobbs, chief reporter on the trade-paranoia beat, when you need him?