The Damage From Free Trade Helped Elect Trump

It seems that lots of media/political/business people “on the coasts” don’t get how big a deal trade played in Tuesday’s election.

Sold On Free Trade

In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” — protecting wages and key industries and — is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.

Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)

Entire Regions Bled Dry

In the decades since entire regions have been bled dry of ways to make a living, their cities and towns and downtowns left behind to crumble, their aging former factory workers scrambling for WalMart jobs and turning to opiates for relief.

Take a few days and drive around the regions once known for manufacturing or steel production. See what this kind of “free trade” has done to them,

As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.

Bled dry. First by “trade,” then by Wall Street-owned chains and banks then by the Wall Street collapse that sucked away the remaining assets. And then Wall Street got bailed out by their taxes but they didn’t. These regions never got any help from the government, even as they watched the Wall Street types and executives and coastal elites living it up — on their money.

Wall Street was bailed out. But for decades this country allowed entire regions and populations to deteriorate and die, and inequality to soar, and didn’t do a thing about it. No one fixed it.

“I Alone Can Fix It”

Tuesday a lot of righteously angry people with nowhere else to turn got fed up, took things into their own hands and voted for the lying, insulting, women-groping demagogue who promised that he and he alone can fix it. “I am your voice … I alone can fix it.”

Pick a former manufacturing area, and look at how that area voted in Tuesday’s election. Key “swing” states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were hit hard by deindustrialization and little to nothing was done to help the people there. And they voted for Donald Trump because he promised to “fix” it.

Trade Mattered Where The Votes Mattered Most

Andrew Flowers, writing at the FiveThirtyEight polling analysis site in Might Chinese Trade Explain Trump’s Success?

Recent research has indicated that trade with China has been more disruptive than previously thought. MIT economist David Autor and co-authors have documented how rising Chinese imports wreaked havoc on competing U.S. industries. In total, their research found the surge of Chinese trade was responsible for the loss of more than 2 million jobs between 1999 and 2011. But, interestingly — and this is where Trump’s electoral map comes in — it had a concentrated geographic impact. States in the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast were where Chinese trade hit hardest. Take a look at these maps showing where the U.S. industries were most exposed…

Click through to see the maps. Flowers then explains, “At first look, this map sort of overlaps with Trump’s success. He has won or is currently leading in several manufacturing-heavy Midwestern states; anti-trade sentiment is rife there.”

Exit polling drives this home. CNN’s exit polls, for example, tell the story:

Rust belt states agree with Trump that trade costs jobs

Donald Trump made trade a key message in his campaign. He promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that he said were lost to trade deals.

Large shares of voters in key rust belt states key to Hillary Clinton’s electoral map agreed with Trump’s view that trade agreements have hurt American workers. And they overwhelmingly supported the billionaire businessman at the ballot box.

Half of Michigan’s electorate feel trade takes away jobs, and these folks supported Trump by a 57% to 36% split. The 31% who think it creates jobs backed Clinton by a 65% to 31% margin.

In Ohio, 47% of voters say trade hurts workers, and they lined up for Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The 46% who say it creates jobs or has no effect strongly backed Clinton.

And in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electorate agree that trade is bad for jobs. Some 62% supported Trump, while 34% backed Clinton. Among the 35% who feel trade is a job creator, Clinton was the favored candidate by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Trump Talked Trade From The First Day To The Last

Trump saw this and used it to propel his candidacy. Trump’s very first speech, announcing his candidacy, talked about trade — a lot.

“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.

[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.

… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.

He went on to tell those stories. And more. There’s much, much more about trade in that first speech. From that moment on in his campaign, he continued to talk about trade, in almost every speech, in the debates, and then in his final “closing argument.”

Trump’s final ad displays a picture of Bill Clinton and the word NAFTA as Trump says, “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals…” Then, as a deserted factory is displayed:

“The political establishment is responsible for the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world. The global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

There’s no question about it: Trump used trade to propel himself to power.

Not Just Trump And Not Just Here

This is going on around the world. Elite “neoliberal” economic policies are driving inequality while wiping out the middle class and entire regions. Right-wing politicians are taking advantage of the distress and offering scapegoats, using xenophobia and racism to gain political power — just like Trump did.

Trump’s surprise win echoes the surprise win of Brexit — Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union. That vote was driven largely by the economic damage that EU’s open border and free trade policies were doing to the British working-class.

Glenn Greenwald writes about this at the Intercept, in Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino-gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture that they regard, not without reason, as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, You can ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people some of the time, and ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to some of the people all the time, but you cannot ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people all of the time.

And here we are, with Trump soon to become President of the United States. Great. Just great.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

The Reality Of This Election Is Trump Or Clinton

The reality of this election is that this year two choices for president, and only two choices. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become president.

And this election is entirely about Donald Trump. You are either for him or against him, period. There is just no way around it.

Trump will have the keys to the FBI, NSA and Department of Justice. Imagine Chris Christie as Atty General and Rudolph Giuliani as Director of National Intelligence. Maybe Newt Gingrich running the FBI. Imagine Trump with the NSA surveillance apparatus under his control. All rubber-stamped by a Republican Congress. He’s already talked about firing all the generals, imagine what happens to the rest of government. our government will become entirely a support-Trump operation — not unlike how Putin runs Russia. Do you think you’ll be safe?

Trump promises a “deportation force” that will round up Muslim and Latino families — and do what with them? Black, Jewish and “mixed-race” families obviously are in line to be on that “Skittles” list. What happens to the rights of Gays and political “politically correct” opponents? His crowds chant “lock them up” about the news media. No, if you are someone who is reading this you won’t be safe if Trump wins.

If you think this is a just exaggerated talk or a joke, everyone also thought it was a joke that Trump could win the Republican nomination, or be anywhere close to becoming President. Yet he did and he is.

This is serious shit. Bernie Sanders is traveling around the country right now to spread this message:

“The stakes are much too high. This is not a personality contest. You are not voting for the senior class president at the local high school. You are voting for the most important public official in the world. The differences between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are day and night.”

If you do not want Donald Trump to become president you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you do not vote FOR Clinton you are voting to allow Trump to become president, period. You might not be able to stand Clinton, but you have to decide if you want Trump to be president, with all the consequences that brings. Because that is what it could mean if you do not show up and vote for Clinton.

My very first blog post ever was this July, 2002 post: Ralph Nader is a Scab,

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

Even if you are in a “safe” state you still have to vote for either Trump or Clinton. Not voting for Clinton to “send a message” keeps her “numbers” down nationally which, if things are close elsewhere could leave Trump with more votes nationally but lose the electoral college — like what happened to Gore. If that happens it encourages Trump’s neo-Nazi followers to take up arms.

In 2000 people voted for Ralph Nader to “send a message.” Solidarity was broken and Bush became president. No message was received and nothing was done about climate for 8 years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in an illegal war that brought lasting chaos to the Middle East. And our economy was ruined. A Trump win promises far, far worse consequences.

Watch Out For The Coming Corporate Tax-Break Trickery

One of the biggest fights coming up in the newly elected Congress next year will be “corporate tax reform.”

If you follow policy news you’ve been hearing that Congress wants to “reform” corporate taxes (again). When you hear talk of “reform” from our corporate-captured Congress it means you need to run as fast as you can — and organize. The way they use the word, it always means give them more and We, the People get less.

Senator Schumer Talking About Massive Break On Taxes Corporations Already Owe

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) might be Senate Majority Leader after the election. In a Tuesday CNBC interview he said he is hoping to work with Republican House Speaker Paul “Gut the Government” Ryan on “some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program.” In the interview Schumer said:

If you can get overseas money to come back here, even if it’s at a lower rate than the 35 it now comes back at, and you can use that money for a major constructive purpose such as infrastructure, if you did an infrastructure bank, for instance, you could get $100 billion in equity in the bank and get a trillion dollars of infrastructure.

When Schumer says “at a lower rate” he is talking about a “tax holiday” allowing corporations to pay less than the 35% tax rate they owe (minus deductions for taxes already paid overseas) on some $2.5 trillion of profits they have stashed in “overseas” tax havens. These corporations owe around $720 billion or so on those profits. So rewarding them for tax dodging with a lower tax rate means handing them up to hundreds of billions of dollars that the country needs for schools, health care and yes, infrastructure repair.

These tax-dodging, multinational corporations used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying taxes they owe. Meanwhile other corporations — usually smaller, domestic companies — paid their taxes. This gave the multinational corporations that used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying their taxes an advantage over the honest, domestic companies that did pay their taxes.

So why should Congress reward tax-dodging, multinational corporations by letting them keep some of the taxes they dodged, thereby punishing the domestic corporations that did the right thing for the country? See if you can guess why. (Hint: the tax-dodging corporations have “captured” Congress using a portion of that money.)

Revenue Neutral?

The corporations are also trying to sell “tax reform.” This “reform” is really just another huge corporate tax cut that is explained as a “revenue neutral” deal to “cut corporate tax loopholes” and use the resulting revenue to cut the corporate tax rate. The term “revenue neutral” means the tax revenue coming to the government stays the same. “Revenue neutral” sounds like a good deal but in reality it’s just a trick. It means taxes go up for some companies but way, way down for others. Guess which companies lose out. (Hint: it won’t be the giant multinational corporations that have captured Congress.)

The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. It has fallen to only 10 percent of the burden. That is a drop of two-thirds. See if you can guess who pays that two-thirds difference. (Hint: it isn’t corporations or their wealthy owners. It is cuts to schools, infrastructure, health care and all the things that used to make our lives better. This is one part of the economic squeeze everyone feels.)

On top of that they are also trying to sell a scheme that lets them off the hook for profits made outside of the country. See if you can guess how fast every corporation moves its profit centers and production out of the country if that passes. (Hint: every single corporation will move every job, factory, profit center etc out of the country if that passes.)

What Budget Deficit And Debt?

Our country has a budget deficit and a large debt caused by tax cuts and wars. The current hysteria over deficits is driven by corporate-and-billionaire-funded PR “think tanks” that pump out propaganda and hysteria 24/7/4/12. Can you guess what 24/7/4/12 means? (Hint: 24 hours, 7 days, 4 weeks, 12 months of the year.)

With a budget deficit and a large debt the fact is that a “revenue neutral” tax reform for corporations who have already had their tax rates cut and cut and cut is the very last thing the country needs to do. What we need to do instead is close that loophole that lets giant, multinational corporations hide $2.5 trillion in profits in “overseas” tax shelters, and make them pay the $720 billion or so of taxes they owe now, plus the $90-100 billion or so of taxes they will dodge every year after. Period.

Revenue neutral, Schumerutral. Just make these giant, tax-dodging, multinational corporations pay what they owe. Don’t reward them for tax-dodging. And restore the 52% corporate tax rate instead of cutting it even further.

PS Take a look at this Fact Sheet: Corporate Tax Rates from Americans for Tax Fairness.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

President Tells Congress TPP Is Coming Their Way. What Will Clinton Do?

One day after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton strongly underscored her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a speech in Detroit, President Obama officially started the clock on a lame-duck congressional vote on that agreement.

Politico has the story, headlined “Obama puts Congress on notice: TPP is coming“:

The White House put Congress on notice Friday morning that it will be sending lawmakers a bill to implement President Barack Obama’s landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a move intended to infuse new energy into efforts to ratify the flatlining trade pact.

The submission of the draft Statement of Administration Action establishes a 30-day minimum before the administration can present the legislation, but it is unlikely to do so amid the heated rhetoric of a presidential campaign that has depicted free trade deals as major job killers.

Continue reading

Clinton Should Tell Obama To Withdraw TPP To Save Her Presidency

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but is having trouble convincing people to believe her. Imagine the trouble Hillary Clinton will have trying to build support for her effort to govern the country if TPP is ratified before her inauguration.

According to Politico’s Wednesday Morning Trade, the Obama administration is launching a “TPP blitz” push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week said the administration is planning at least 30 trade events by the end of the month. That effort, similar to last year’s “all of Cabinet” push for trade promotion authority, is expected to shift to Capitol Hill in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.

In spite of the opposition of much of the public, both presidential candidates, all of labor, almost all Democrats, all progressive-aligned consumer, human rights, environmental and other organizations and even the Tea Party right, what is happening here is that Wall Street, the multinational corporations, most Republicans and unfortunately President Obama are preparing to insult democracy by pushing to ratify TPP. This undermine’s Clinton’s credibility while campaigning for election, and if it passes it harms her ability to govern if she is elected.

There is something Clinton can do to bolster her credibility on the TPP. Clinton on Thursday is giving an economic speech near Detroit. This speech is an opportunity for Clinton to put this behind her for good. She should loudly call on President Obama to withdraw TPP now, and call on Democrats to vote against the TPP if he does not do that.

Progressive groups are asking her to do just that, calling people to sign a petition telling Clinton: “Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP.”

Clinton Opposes TPP, But …

Clinton has stated her opposition to TPP, but has not asked Democrats to join her in opposition, particularly during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election. This is one reason that Clinton continues to have a credibility problem on TPP.

Donald Trump repeatedly tells audiences that Clinton isn’t really against TPP; she is just saying it for votes. He says she will “betray” us. This is Trump in his Monday “economy” speech in Detroit:

The next betrayal will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton’s closest friend, Terry McAuliffe, confirmed what I have said on this from the beginning: If sent to the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton will enact the TPP. Guaranteed. Her donors will make sure of it.

Along with McAuliffe, who is the governor of Virginia, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue has said she will reverse herself. And it was Clinton delegates who blocked putting specific TPP opposition in the Democratic platform. So yes, there is a credibility problem.

Dan Balz, writes about her problem at The Washington Post, in “Clinton has yet to respond to Trump’s attack on globalism“:

Clinton came out against the agreement last year to put herself in alignment with Sen. Bernie Sanders … But in doing so, she put herself at odds with the views enunciated by her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president, and raised questions about whether her change of heart was mere political expedience.

Which is why her position on trade and global economics has remained suspect to those on the left…

Balz asks:

What does Clinton really think about this aspect of economic policy? How do her views today square with what she has thought and advocated during her public career? …

Those are issues about which she has so far been relatively silent. … Trump has presented her with a challenge; is she is prepared to take it up?

… In her responses to Trump’s Detroit speech, Clinton did not address what the GOP nominee said about trade. It’s difficult to believe that was an oversight.

… Does Clinton not owe the public a fuller explanation of her views on a topic that her rival has made central to his candidacy?

Passing TPP Would Destroy Clinton Presidency Before It Starts

Polling shows that Clinton continues to have a problem with “unfavorables” and credibility with the electorate. As of now it appears Clinton will almost certainly win the election – maybe even in a blowout. But this will not necessarily be due to overwhelming support of Clinton. Instead it will be at least partly because of the ugly words and actions of her reprehensible opponent. After the election, much of the public will likely remain divided, looking for signs that things will be OK after all under a Clinton presidency.

Imagine if TPP does come up for a vote in the lame-duck session and passes. The public, particularly progressives, will certainly feel betrayed. It will also bolster the opposition, who will say, “I told you so” because of Trump’s predictions of a betrayal on TPP. If that happens, it won’t matter that Clinton has said she opposes TPP. People will feel she just said it to get votes, and now that the election is over…

This is a terrible recipe for beginning a presidency of a divided country.

Progressive Groups Asking Clinton To Lead Opposition To Lame Duck TPP Vote

The Hill has the story on how progressives intend to “pressure Clinton on TPP ahead of economic speech“:

Progressive groups are urging Hillary Clinton to publicly announce that she opposes a lame-duck session vote on the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim trade deal.

After initially supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton reversed after Bernie Sanders made his opposition to the deal one of the cornerstones of his insurgent campaign for the presidency.

On Wednesday, the grassroots liberal groups Democracy for America and CREDO will begin circulating petitions urging Clinton to go further by making a public statement “urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame duck session of Congress.”
The groups would like Clinton to make that declaration in her policy address on the economy this Thursday outside of Detroit.

Buzzfeed rounded up some statements from progressive leaders, beginning with Democracy for America’s Robert Cruickshank:

“Right now, Donald Trump is running around the country using the specter of a lame-duck vote on the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership to divide Secretary Clinton from the millions of voters who agree with her that this disastrous trade deal has to be stopped,” Robert Cruickshank, a senior campaign manger at Democracy for America, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

CREDO’s Murshed Zahee also weighs in:

“Now we need her help to stop it from being jammed through Congress in a lame duck session. A personal and public statement from Secretary Clinton in opposition to a lame duck vote would provide huge momentum in the fight to stop the TPP once and for all,” CREDO’s political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Sign The Petition

You can add your own voice to this effort to get Clinton’s help stamping out TPP by adding your name to this CREDO petition:” Tell Sec. Clinton: Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP“: “Make a public statement urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.”

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Latest Senate Food Workers Victory Highlights Perils of Privatization

The long-abused cafeteria workers of the U.S. Senate, who risked their jobs to fight to earn a living wage only to have the private contractor that runs the cafeteria renege on an order to increase their pay, won a key victory this week.

The Labor Department declared that the contractor had engaged in wage theft from 674 of its workers, deliberately misclassifying them so that they would earn less than their actual work entitled them to earn. The contractor also forced employees to do unpaid work “off the clock.” As a result, the multinational conglomerate Restaurant Associates and a subsidiary will have to give the workers back pay totaling $1,008,302.

Roll Call has more details, in “Senate Food Service Vendor Ordered to Pay $1 Million in Back Wages“:

Senate food service vendor Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus, improperly classified workers in order to pay them for lower-wage positions and required them to work overtime without compensation in violation of federal and local labor laws, the agency said in a news release. The contractors also failed to pay required health and other benefits.

“Workers in the restaurant industry are among the lowest-paid workers in our economy,” said the department’s Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil . “Most struggle to afford life’s basic expenses and pay their bills; they shouldn’t have to deal with paychecks that don’t accurately reflect their hard work and the wages to which they are legally entitled.”

The Privatization Scam

“Privatization” transfers something that We the People publicly own for OUR benefit, and hands it over to private interests so a few can make a profit for THEIR benefit. The scheme is sold with claims that privatization “saves money” because the private contracting company is “run like a business.” The bet is that no one will think through just how a private company might “save money” when they have to “run like a business” and make a profit that government doesn’t have to make.

Of course what happens is the private company “saves money” by laying off the government employees and hiring them back or replacing them at minimum wage with no benefits, then transferring the wage and benefit differential into a few pockets at the top of the company. But guess what? Now those workers make so little they qualify for government benefits, other poverty programs are strained, local stores are selling less, homes are foreclosed so local property values drop, the tax base is reduced … so the government didn’t “save money” at all, it just cut its own revenue and shifted spending from one part of the government to another – all at the expense of working people. And the money that was “saved” went into a few private pockets.

Beyond impoverishing workers with low wages, there are even worse ways private corporate contractors “save money,” such as cutting service, cutting quality, cutting corners, fighting unionization – all of which hurt the public that is supposed to be served. Plus, because it is “run like a business,” contracting corporations cut some of those corners by doing things like committing outright wage theft.

The Privatized Senate Cafeteria

In 2008 the U.S. Senate “saved money” by privatizing its food services. At the time California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses.”

The Senate cafeteria was, indeed, “run like a business.” The company paid low wages, fought against unionization efforts and engaged in various schemes to keep the workers down. After a while things got so bad that workers had to work two, even three jobs just to get by. Some of the workers were even homeless. In April 2015, the Washington Post reported on that:

For a week’s work at the Senate cafeteria — sweeping floors, mopping bathrooms, cleaning dishes, composting leftovers, transporting laundry — he says his take-home pay is about $360. And while he takes enormous pride in serving the country’s public servants, he is not sure these public servants are returning the favor.

“Our lawmakers, they don’t even realize what’s going on right beneath their feet,” he says. “They don’t have a clue.”

The usual ways to “run like a business” were not enough for the Senate cafeteria contractors. SO they added another way to “run like a business”: wage theft. When after months of protests the Senate cafeteria workers secured a wage agreement from Restaurant Associates, with the help of Good Jobs Nation and members of the Senate who voiced support for the workers, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the company immediately worked to undermine the agreement by reclassifying Senate cafeteria jobs so that the workers ended up not getting the wage increases the agreement called for. The jobs themselves did not change; Restaurant Associates changed what the jobs were called in order to justify not increasing the workers’ pay.

If This Is Happening Literally Right Under The Senate’s Nose …

The Huffington Post has a great quote from Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation. “This is symptomatic of a larger problem,” Geevarghese is quoted as saying. “If federal contractors believe they can get away with breaking federal laws right under the nose of lawmakers, imagine what they’re doing all across the U.S., where workers don’t have access to power and access to the media. I would argue that what we’re seeing in Washington is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The Washington Post report, “Senate workers will get $1 million in back pay after Labor Department probe,” highlights a wider need this wage theft ruling points to: a “Model Employer” policy of contracting with employers that pay good wages and recognize workers’ right to form a union. In the Post, Geevarghese notes that “the truth is the Labor Department cannot investigate every federal contractor in the U.S. – we need a systemic solution, not just case-by-case fixes.”

Democratic Platform Demands “Model Employer”

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform calls for an executive order “or some other vehicle” directing the U.S. Government to spend taxpayer dollars on “Model Employers” and not on corporations that violate workers’ rights. From the platform:

Democrats support a model employer executive order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal. The one trillion dollars spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.

Sign This “Model Employer” Petition

Good Jobs Nation is calling next president to adopt a “Model Employer” policy of contracting with employers that pay good wages and recognize workers’ right to form a union. The organization is asking people to “Sign the Petition: the U.S. Must Stop Doing Business With Corporate Cheaters.

From the petition web page:

“Currently, the federal government is America’s leading low-wage job creator, funding more poverty jobs than McDonald’s and Wal-Mart combined. 60% of federal contract workers are women and 88% are women of color working contracted jobs in areas like food service, janitorial work, or landscaping.

A Model Employer Executive Order would begin to reverse the federal government’s low-wage contracting policies by providing as many as 21 million people– 8 million workers and their families who rely on low-wage jobs in the federally supported economy – with good jobs that provide a path into the middle class.”

Click here to sign the petition.


Isaiah J. Poole contributed to this article.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Exposing Trump’s Trade Appeal To Working-Class Voters For What It Is

Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.

Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.

That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Trump’s Trade Speech

Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.

From the speech:

The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.

But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.

Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.

Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.

[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)

Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.

President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.

Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”

“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”

[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”

Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears

Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.

Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.

Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.

Brexit Warning

The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.

Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:

Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.

This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.

Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”

Trump Is A Fraud On Trade

The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:

“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”

“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.

“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”

EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:

It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.

Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform

British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.

Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.

Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.

Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:

● Campaign for America’s Future: Sign our petitions to Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tell her she and other democrats to send Obama a message: Don’t undermine our nominee. No vote lame duck vote on TPP.

● CREDO Action: Sign the petition: The Democratic Party platform must include unequivocal opposition to the TPP

● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?

Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Is This The Return Of US ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ Serving Corporations?

Colombia is allowing local production of a generic form of a cancer drug that is ultraexpensive because of a government-granted monopoly handed to a giant, multinational pharmaceutical corporation. The U.S. government is stepping in on the corporation’s side with a modern form of “gunboat diplomacy” — even though the giant corporation isn’t even “American.”

In November 2014, a group of public health advocacy organizations called on the Colombian government to declare that the public interest warrants that the country can produce a generic version of the ultraexpensive cancer drug Gleevec, produced by the “Swiss” giant Novartis. According to a March, 2015 report in Intellectual Property Watch, “Colombia Asked To Declare Excessive Price For Cancer Drug Contrary To Public Interest, Grounds For Compulsory License“:

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New Rules On Corporate Secrecy Have Glaring Loopholes

Last week the Treasury Department released a new rule and several proposals they said are intended to address the problem of corruption and dirty money in secret U.S. shell companies. A White House press release claimed, “Today, the Administration announced several important steps to combat money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, and called upon Congress to take additional action to address these critical issues.” (A White House fact sheet is available here.)

The new rules initially appeared to be strong. But after examining the details several watchdog groups are warning that the new regulations and proposals leave open several glaring loopholes, and even practically provide instructions for how to get around the regulations.

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Clinton Commits: No TPP, Fundamentally Rethink Trade Policies

Going into the West Virginia primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out in opposition to a “lame duck” vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This takes her beyond her previous statements mildly opposing TPP. Clinton also made a strong statement criticizing our country’s trade agreements in general.

As reported in The Hill, in “Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session,” Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, “If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, “I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”

There has been concern that TPP will come up for a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, and before the next Congress is sworn in. This special session enables votes with little accountability to the public. Members who have been voted out can vote in ways that help them get lobbying jobs and members who were re-elected with corporate money can reward their donors.

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Are Fair Trade Policies “Extreme?” Is Clinton Ready For Trump On Trade?

Is it really “extreme” to think we should have fair trade policies?

The New York Times on Tuesday published a story by Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui, “Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes,” reporting that, “research to be unveiled this week by four leading academic economists suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.”

By “sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century” they mean millions and millions of manufacturing jobs, and more than 60,000 factories, all moved to China since 2000 to take advantage of China’s non-democracy that allows exploitation of workers and the environment. (But China doesn’t really “trade” with us by buying things, resulting in a record $365.7 billion trade deficit with China just last year.)

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