By Jack Jodell, Aug. 10, 2011
PART TWO OF A TWO-PART SERIES
THE DOW PLUNGED ANOTHER 634 POINTS MONDAY…
NAFTA had been signed into law, but the millions of new American jobs its proponents promised would be created from it somehow never materialized. Instead, the agreement decimated Mexican border farmers and caused a huge migration of Mexicans, many or most of them undocumented, to begin flooding across our southern border in hopes of finding economic opportunity here. The unintended net result was a LOWERING of wage levels in the U,S. In 997, for example, the average construction job in Los Angeles paid roughly $19 per hour. Today, as a direct result of the influx of cheap illegal labor that NAFTA caused, that same job pays just over half of what it did before. According to international economist Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, the treaty has added to our already whopping trade imbalance. Not only that, but based on data covering 192 different U,S, industries from both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U,S, Census Bureau, he has determined that WE LOST AN ASTOUNDING 879, 280 MANUFACTURING JOBS OVER THE PAST 10 UEARS DUE TO NAFTA! According to a study released by the Carnegie Foundation, since NAFTA was adopted, Mexico gained 500,000 manufacturing jobs but LOST 1.3 MILLION agricultural jobs! As Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s trade policy expert says, “…this was never an agreement about selling more goods to Mexico; it was about greasing the skids for U.S. investors to send manufacturing operations to Mexico.” So much for the free-traders’ MYTH about NAFTA creating millions of new, high pay jobs here!
As the Clinton presidency came to a close, his economic boom began to wane. Conservatives in the Republican Party united behind George W. Bush and DICK Cheney, and managed to steal back the White House for the GOP in 2000. Almost immediately, these conservatives began a push to eliminate Clinton’s tax increase. In response, Bush rolled back the marginal top rate to 35%, where it remains to this day, He justified it and indirectly criticized Clinton’s budget surplus by saying the federal government had no business hanging onto YOUR money (as if a federal surplus was immoral or somehow not a wise thing to have). He, like Reagan before him, also promised that these new tax cuts would create millions of new, high pay jobs for America. THEY DIDN’T, HOWEVER, JUST AS THEY DIDN’T DURING THE REAGAN ERA. It was a LIE. It didn’t stop him, though, aas he steamrolled it through the Senate on reconciliation. Again, conservatives were overjoyed; liberals and progressives were aghast; and it helped make the rich even richer and made the federal deficit start to grow again. So much for fiscal conservatism!
9/11 was a catastrophe for a great many reasons beyond the tragic loss of life it caused here. Not only did it eventually lead to 3 separate, unfunded wars, but also to a suspension of domestic civil liberties through newly-approved wiretapping and similar laws cleverly framed by neocons as the Patriot Act, a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, plus the officially-sanctioned use of torture and rendition for the very first time in our history. Worse yet, it enabled Bush to enjoy a basically rubber-stamp Congress for the next 6 years. Refusing to raise taxes (like every good Republican follower of ytust-funder Grover Norquist), Bush next pushed an expensive unfunded Medicare Prescription bill through Congress. In 2003 he also pushed through a second round of tax cuts and began the war in Iraq, funding support operations for it mainly through NON-BID military contracts which ” coincidentally” were also provided by heavy campaign contributors. Such outright graft and corruption had not been seen in Washington to that extent in many, many years. Yet the conservative GOP Congress rubber-stamped it all along, never ONCE questioning its effect on the deficit or our national debt.
On the home front, Bush and his backers turned a blind eye to the literally millions of undocumented workers who by now were pouring across our borders. He even defended the practice of hiring illegals at much lower pay rates by saying “they do jobs Americans won’t do.” That was a LIE, of course: his real aim was to further weaken and eventually destroy our labor unions, the nasty end result of which being that unskilled American workers were now forced to compete with much more poorly paid hungry illegal immigrants for employment. But Bush and the other conservatives didn’t care one bit: their wealthy backers were getting fabulously wealthier as a result.
The Bush/Cheney years were a time of laissez-faire lawlessness when it came to economic matters. The rich loved their hands-off approach to regulation, and little by little more and more government regulations began disappearing, and/or enforcement of them came to a halt. They also proclaimed their solid support for free, unrestricted trade with foreign nations. Numerous NAFTA-like trade deals sprang up, again being rubber stamped by the Republican Congress. At one point, Bush even defended the outright exporting of American jobs and factories to cheap, slave labor markets by saying “I have taken a position. The U.S. will reject protectionism. We won’t fear competition. We welcome xompetition.” That’s right – he supported the “right” of American companies to make their labor force have to compete for wages with some of the lowest-paid workers in the world. And he supported the “competition” of these same companies to sell their cheaply-ptoduced goods right BACK to American consumers at a much higher profit. As he spoke, though, both our budget deficit and our trade deficit were increasing to record levels. All of this was supported by wildly enthusiastic conservative Republicans. Meanwhile, the standard of living for the majority of Americans was starting to fall, as millions of American jobs went overseas and wages began to stgnate. In the fall of 2007, it all came to a head. Years of Wall Street deregulation had caused rampant irresponsible speculation, which culminated in a mortgage banking crisis. The economy was sliding into the worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression. Job creation, which had been anemic all throughout Bush’s administation DESPITE TWO ROUNDS OF TAX CUTS WHICH HAD PROMISED TO DELIVER MILLIONS OF GOOD PAYING NEW JOBS, slowed to a crawl and then massive layoffs began. REPUBLICAN LAISSEZ-FAIRE ECONOMICS AND REFUSAL TO RAISE TAXES HAD DESTROYED CLINTON’S BUDGET SURPLUS AND WAS THREATENING TO DESTROY THE ENTIRE COUNTRY AS WELL! We were heavily overextended in our trade deficit and were, for all practical purposes, nearly BROKE due to nearly three decades of Republican influence and mismanagement over the economy! With stocks plummeting as he was leaving office, Bush’s economic team paniced and called for an unprecedented massive government bailout of huge major Wall Street banks. Congress quickly approved this bailout.
Enter Barack Obama, our current President. After 8 long years of a seemingly endless “war on terror” and an economic policy almost exclusively geared for the rich, voters overwhelmingly responded to his promises of change. He vowed to close down the notorious CIA prison at Guantanamo Bay. However, it still remains open to this day. He promised Wall Street reform, but was only able to get a weak bill through Congress, and behavior there has returned to what it was in 2007 and before. He promised to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, but he waited until the last minute and instead extended them for 2 more years due to intesne Teapublican opposition. He championed a public option for reforming health care that would give consumers a real choice and a way to provide real competition to the profit-obsessed insurance industry. Regrettably, this public option never came about, as conservative interests raised so much hell that Obama had to settle for a much weaker health care bill that basically favored the insurance industry in a number of ways. These conservative interests began a massive disinformation campaign to thwart the President’s every move. They referred to him as a socialist and a fascist. They began a campaign to question his birthplace in an effort to make him appear un-American. They even began a fictitious grassroots movement they called the Tea Party to scare seniors and low-information voters into voting for anti-tax, anti-government candidates mainly of Republican persuasion. As Obama had largely kept on a big number of Bush’s economic Cabinet appointees and in the process had rescued Wall Street but basically abandoned Main Street, he lost much of the support he had gained in 2008. Two years later, many of these liberals and progressives stayed home in the midterm elections. The conservative Republicans, pushed even further to the right by this influx of far-right Tea Party members, regained control of the House and began to say “no” to EVERY Obama or Democratic Party proposal.
When it came to extending the debt ceiling, something that had been done repeatedly during ALL previous administrations without question, these new Teapublicans began a deliberate attempt to deny that same consideration to Obama. They absolutely refused to compromise and steadfastly demanded the draconian slashing of funds to a gargantuan number of federal programs. Though nearly every major economist in the country said that budget cuts weren’t enough to curtail our massive debt problem, and that tax increases were an absolute necessity, these ultra conservatives refused to budge. Though the debt ceiling was raised at the very last moment, it came as a result of presidential capitulation on federal program spending and WITHOUT A SINGLE TAX INCREASE. Most sensible people, and the markets as well, reacted in horror to the total intransigence of the Tea Party-dominated Republicans. The markets, in particlar, were NOT happy with the refusal to raise taxes. They dropped like a rock. Take THAT, Grover Norquist! Standard and Poor, decrying Tea Party obstinacy and American political polarization, downgraded our credit rating from AAA to AA+. THANKS A LOT, YOU STUBBORN IDIOT TEA-PARTIERS! THANKS A LOT, MICHELE BACHMANN!
Capitalism has become corporatism. Its greed has become all-consuming and malignant. Workers have been reduced to mere expenses; mere commodities. Whereas in previous times, when productivity and worker output rose, some of that benefit would be shared with the laborer – but not any more. That is CRIMINAL!
VERY FEW Americans, especially in lower income brackets, have any skin in, or really believe in, the stock market. Their holdings are generally quite small, and a large and increasing number of people have no stock at all. The so-called “free market” aspect of capitalism has proven to be free only for a handful at the top, with all the rest being held hostage or becoming lost in the shuffle. Free market economics has NOT yielded a great deal of prosperity around much of the world. In fact, it has provided anxiety, misery, and economic subservience to many. Here in the United States, it has led to massive unemployment, the loss of millions of good jobs, higher costs, and an almost universally-felt drop in our standard of living. These capitalists can no longer blame unions, politicians, or anybody else for this phenomenon. They can, should, and MUST blame only themselves for protecting the interests of the uber-wealthy at the expense of those of everyone else.
“Free market” capitalism is failing us badly. It has provided little of value for the majority of the world, and is severe need of a major overhaul!
As I write this now, it appears that the PEOPLE have fallen just short in their attempt to strike back against corporations by recalling an unprecedented THREE far-right conservative Republicans in the state of Wisconsin. 2 of the 3 were defeated in primarily Republican districts, but the far right still holds the balance of power there by 1 seat. Perhaps this action by rank and file Wisconsin workers and voters will spread across the country to successfully overturn anti-worker initiatives in other states. Voter dissatisfaction with numerous far-right governors and legislatures is extremely high. Poor, working, and middle class families MUST stand up for their hard-won rights and MUST overcome this Republican attempt to subjugate them forever in economic bondage. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
One final question before I end today: MR. BOEHNER, WHERE ARE THE JOBS YOU PROMISED IF YOU BECAME SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE? YOU BECAME SPEAKER MORE THAN 7 MONTHS AGO, AND YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING ABOUT JOBS SINCE. Don’t even try to blame the President or his party for what YOU have failed yo do. Keep this up and you won’t be Speaker much longer! WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE JOBS, MR. BOEHNER? ISN’T IT TIME YOU STARTED KEEPING YOUR WORD?