Thom Hartmann: ‘Free Trade’ has always been a scam…

 

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From Thom Hartmann

The New Hampshire primary is now just one day away, and differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton couldn’t be clearer, especially when it comes to so-called free trade. While Secretary Clinton’s views on corporate-managed trade have changed a lot over the years, Bernie’s haven’t.

He opposes and has opposed every single one of the so-called free trade deals we’ve entered into since the 1980s. He also now says that he would reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, if elected president.

This is a big deal, and yet another sign that a Bernie Sanders presidency would do wonders for working Americans. Even so, the corporate media will probably still paint it as a dangerously radical move; an example of how Bernie Sanders is just too far out of the mainstream to be a viable candidate.

But here’s the thing: the idea that we can undo or reject bad so-called free trade agreements isn’t that radical. It’s actually pretty mainstream, or at least used to be.

In fact, back in 2008 even Hillary Clinton said she would consider opting out of NAFTA if, as president, she couldn’t renegotiate better terms for American workers and the environment. Hillary Clinton was right then, and if she came out and said that today she’d still be right.

The fact is that so-called free trade has been a complete and utter disaster, both for Americans workers and the American economy. NAFTA alone has led to the loss of at least 1 million jobs, a 12.2 percent decline in wages for working Americans, and an almost $200 billion and growing trade deficit with Mexico and Canada. The onset of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, meanwhile, has led to another massive trade deficit and, according to the Economic Policy Institute, killed off 3.2 million jobs. Newer so-called free trade deals have been just as disastrous. According to another study by the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. Korean Free Trade Deal that President Obama signed us onto back in 2012 has led to a loss of at least 75,000 jobs and created a trade deficit that’s hovered in the tens of billions of dollars. None of this is an accident. “Free trade” has always been a scam.

It’s not the “inevitable transition to a more globalized world” that its supporters say it is; it’s a blatant attempt by giant corporations to change the rules of the game so that they always come out on top. If the media were really honest, it’d start calling it “corporate-managed trade.”

And that’s a really important point, because for over 200 years in this country we had a trade policy that actually reflected the needs of the people as a whole and not just a handful of multinational corporations. It wasn’t corporate-managed trade; it was “We the People-managed trade.” First laid out in Alexander Hamilton’s famous 1791 Report on Manufactures, the idea behind this trade policy was simple: the ultimate source of wealth for all nations is for them to protect domestic industries through strong tariffs – and that those tariffs make goods produced by factories here at home cheaper than those made abroad. That’s what we did from the founding of the Republic until the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush years, and it’s what we need to do now if we want to rebuild the middle class.

Through so-called free trade, that’s really corporate-managed trade, we’re letting big business decide what’s important for our economy, and it’s destroying the lives of millions of hardworking Americans.

It’s time to put this failed experiment with free trade to rest once and for all.

The next president needs to end permanent trade relations with China, pull out of NAFTA and the WTO, and just say no to the TPP.

Then we need to once again do the same thing that Alexander Hamilton and George Washington did way back in 1791: come up with a trade policy that works for “We the People” instead of “they the corporations.”
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