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This morning's New York Times edition supplied readers with a shallow, late-in-the-game endorsement of three Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that the labor movement and other progressive outfits have fought tooth and nail against on behalf of not only the American worker, but American enterprise as a whole.

Falling back on the bland, issueless argument that the FTAs represent compromise and bi-partisanship, the NYT writes:

Trade is good for the economy and for employment. It opens new markets for businesses and allows access to cheaper, often better products from abroad. But it also has a dark side for workers displaced by foreign competition.

So it is good to hear that Congressional Republicans and the White House have finally reached an agreement to pass both the long-delayed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and an expanded package of benefits for displaced workers. We hope this rare moment of cooperation — and the deal — will hold.

This introduction misleads, suggesting that job loss for Americans resulting from trade is the only facet of dark sidedness resulting from deals. In truth, the dark side of these deals for workers goes beyond job loss.  There is an element of worker safety, not just on the job, but when they go to sleep at night, that requires mention. This is especially true with respect to Colombia, where 15 trade union leaders have been killed since April.  NYT's argument that "Colombia promised new protections for its union workers" in exchange for this FTA recklessly glosses over the matter, ignoring the fact that the country has made this promise on multiple occasions to no avail.  

Not mentioned, of course, is that the Colombia deal alone could cost the U.S. 55,000 jobs.

The only explanation for the NYT's omission of any true dissenting opinions on this matter may be that the list of grievances from labor and other esteemed progressive voices is too long to parse.  Better to simply deploy the ThoughtBots of Acquiescence on this one, I suppose.  

The South Korea deal, by some estimations, will cost the U.S. 159,000 jobs.  This, combined with the 50,000+ from the Colombian deal, will make for an unmanageable TAA task.

The job losses, of course, could not come at a worse time.  Countless sectors have either bottomed out or are in drastic decline with respect to employment.  Manufacturing his its 20-month low this summer and technology lost over 100,000 jobs in 2010.  We are not only outsourcing previously held American jobs, we are simply creating jobs overseas outright.  If our trade history with China -- where we currently have a deficit in the trillions -- is any indication, nothing good can come of an FTA.

New York Times readers, in my estimation, expect more from a paper of record, the outfit that many view as the authority on matters of U.S. center-to-left opinion.  This morning's op-ed was not "fit to print."

And this, a Free Trade drawing too good not to share...

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Comment Preferences

  •  free trade is bad for America (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rocklawyer, Gooserock, allergywoman

    This country was founded on an economic policy of protective tariffs, a national bank to fund productive enterprise, and government investment in infrastructure.  It's what took us from a post-colonial backwater to surpassing British standards of living before the 19th Century was out.

    Free trade is the reason we have a Rust Belt.  Free trade is what killed the South's textile industry.  Free trade is the reason we have illegal immigration thanks to NAFTA and CAFTA.  Free trade is the reason we're in debt to East Asia.  Free trade is the reason we turned to debt and Wall Street to keep our standards of living up.  Free trade is the reason China is or will be our greatest rival: our corporate overlords just went and gave them our factories in return for boosting profit margins off of slave labor and nonexistent regulation.

    Do you know why they call it the American Dream? Because it only happens when you're asleep.

    by Visceral on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 12:16:02 PM PDT

    •  That was very well put n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      allergywoman
    •  Right to Work is the First Reason We Have Rust (0+ / 0-)

      belt. Factories were heading to the American South before they started leaving the South for Mexico and Asia.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 12:42:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  then ban them both (0+ / 0-)

        Maybe "race to the bottom" is a more inclusive term: encompassing the downward pressure on wages and benefits, the constant attacks on unions and any advocates for employees and consumers, cutting overhead (outsourcing) even to the point of inefficiency and greater cost to the consumer (all those subcontractors each taking a profit), global regulatory arbitrage, tax cuts in good times and bad, etc., etc.

        Whatever is going on, the fact remains that you cannot sustain a First World society - much less achieve the world's highest standard of living - by systematically impoverishing your own citizens.  The neoliberals and their lackeys on the political right are basically arguing that the poorer we get, the higher our standards of living will get as supply increases thanks to lower costs and prices fall to reflect wages.  It's an absurd argument - the Great Depression proved it wrong then and the Great Depression 2.0 is proving it wrong now - even before you address its sheer cynicism: the unmitigated lies of people whose only concern is maximizing their profit margins by any and all means.

        Do you know why they call it the American Dream? Because it only happens when you're asleep.

        by Visceral on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 12:55:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Perhaps you need to rethink that (0+ / 0-)

      Demographically most affluent nations including the US are facing marginal, single digit growth or recession in the future; for the past decade, in fact, most global growth has come from developing nations and will continue to do so.

      The conventional wisdom is the capital flows from wealthy nations to poor, but recent economic history is quite the reverse, with the net transfer of assets from developing economies to developed in the form of loans to buy government debt. For example, since you mention it, $800B plus US Treasury debt to China.

      Developed economies increasingly compete for business from developing economies, so again let's use the example of your prototypical competitor China - the highest growth export market of the US.

      Well, one of the leading exports to China is Aircraft (check the facts and you will find it is the largest current market for aircraft). Whether Chinese by Airbus and Rolls-Royce or Boeing and GE or Pratt & Whitney will certainly be influenced by trade relations (and those who make active effort to promote it usually do better than those sitting on their asses complaining), but make no mistake who is competing for what.

      If you want to call China and enemy rather than an opportunity, I'm quite confident the Chairman of Airbus will cheer you on and amplify the message behind closed doors.

      I've little doubt the above represents the dissenting opinion here and I may get called all kinds of names on the other side of the screen, but I really think may liberals have not thought through these issues, are ignorant of the facts and argue political rhetoric over that simply does not square with the facts, and so I suggest you and other take a fresh look at this and think about HOW can the US go from a net importing nation to the export champion Mr. Obama suggests it should be.

      BTW, Korea is a net exporter to the US and part of this problem is the protectionist measures historically supported by Korean trade unions, which have much greater power than unions in the US. And what has this done for the US lately?

      The trade agreement would give the US trade negotiating leverage if it uses it.

      Whether these agreements would prove, ultimately, to be advantageous to US depends on how they are used, but if you want to make the case for a closed border, managed economy, you need only go a few miles North to the DPRK to see how good that is working for the citizens of the Hermit Kingdom.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 08:49:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  BTW (0+ / 0-)

      One of the things that took the US from a post colonial backwater to surpassing the UK at the turn of the century (debatable if it was sooner) was the huge influx of human resources from outside the US who immigrated to it exploiting the land and natural resources, as well as each other.

      Kind of interesting you target East Asians as the antagonists in your narrative when they contributed so much to the growth of prosperity in the US in the latter half of the 19th Century but got so little in return as they were shunned, discriminated against and legally prohibited from reaping any benefits.

      You know, just because they did not have white faces, they were denied the rights of citizenship, land ownership and basic human rights, and all this after the Civil War.

      Perhaps you should study the economics and history of the US in that period of phenomenal growth and compare it to the growth of China, India and environs today.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 09:10:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No surprise (0+ / 0-)

    Finding any newspaper opposing these deals is harder than finding a sane Republican.  And the Times has never been a friend of labor.

    “If you think I can be bought for five thousand dollars, I'm offended." Rick Perry.

    by Paleo on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 12:21:06 PM PDT

    •  Conservative Economics, Neocon on Defense. (0+ / 0-)

      Must be the arts section that makes them liberal.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 12:43:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Same stuff (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    Unfortunately these estimates of job losses from the FTAs keep getting passed along unquestioningly.  There's only one place that's made this calculation, the Economic Policy Institute.  I haven't seen any other study estimating a job loss or trying to put a number on it.

    I've commented in the past on just what's wrong with the EPI analysis (bogus assumptions and methodology) but there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in actually reading the paper let alone analyzing it critically.  Everyone just focuses on the final number that came out of that sausage factory and keeps churning it around.

    Here's a better support for the three FTAs from Progressive Economy.

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