Breitbart used some of my stuff about trade in 2016, quoting it out of context, and got it wrong. Trumpers think that China and other trade partners “outnegotiated” the US. But they didn’t. The trade deals were exactly what the corporate-controlled US negotiators wanted.
But it wasn’t the bad trade deals themselves that hurt us so much as the way they were used by American businesses to hurt us.
Here is what I mean. “Trade” is when places that can grow bananas exchange them for things that come from places that can grow corn, etc. But we call it “trade” when we close a factory here and open it in China, making the same things to sell in the same stores, because they get paid less there.
The thing is, that can be a good thing for all of us IF it is done in a way that benefits all of us. And it can be. If you take the resulting gains (the difference between what people here were paid vs what they’re paid there) and use those gains to give everyone here better jobs or a better life, then we all benefit. If you invest that money in better infrastructure here, a more efficient economy, etc, then we are all climbing a ladder. And also the Chinese (or other trade partners) benefit from getting the jobs. Then over time they can do the same thing to climb the same ladder. That’s a win-win.
But instead of doing it that way, what happened was a few already-wealthy people just pocketed those gains instead of sharing them by. They didn’t invest in better jobs, or in better infrastructure or education, etc. They just pocketed it.
Even worse, they used the lower-paid jobs there as leverage to force people here to accept lower wage jobs, “or else your job goes, too.” They intentionally created unemployment. Unions were busted.
How did this happen? You’d think in a democracy the government would work to ensure that We the People would benefit from deals our government made. Our government should have made sure the trade deals were used to help us. But it did the opposite.
This happened because our government was “captured.” Instead of doing things for all of us the government started only doing things that benefited the financial types at the expense of the rest of us. This problem was always around. But the real change happened starting in the 1970s, and the effect hit us in the 1980 election. “Free trade” and “tax cuts for the rich” and “cutting government” (which means cutting spending on infrastructure and education etc, as well as cutting the regulatory protections that kept big business from controlling everything) and the rest happened, and we are reaping the whirlwind since.
Trade can be used for good or bad. It isn’t “trade” that’s the problem.