In November of 2014, Republicans grew their strength in Congress to levels unseen since 1946. What united the party and rallied the nation was the GOP’s declared resolve to stand up to an imperious president.
Give us powerful new majorities, said John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, and we shall halt these usurpations of Congressional power.
So, what is the first order of business now in the Ways and Means Committee of Paul Ryan and Senate Finance Committee of Orrin Hatch?
“The first thing we ought to do,” says Congressman Ryan, “is pass trade promotion authority.” Trade promotion authority, or “fast track,” is a synonym for Congress’s surrender of all rights to amend trade treaties, and a commitment to confine itself to a yes or no vote on whatever deal Obama brings home.
Watching the GOP’s reversion to form calls to mind the term the neoconservatives gave the French for refusing to join Bush II’s big march to Baghdad: “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”
With the huge Trans-Pacific Partnership in negotiations, President Obama wants Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to agree in advance not to tamper with it. “Hands off!” he demands. If this GOP agrees to this, it will, in its first great decision, be engaging in an act of self-castration.
Why would they do this?
Has President Obama’s record been so impressive the GOP should give up its constitutional power to amend trade treaties? As the liberal group Public Citizen notes, the biggest trade deal of Barack’s term, the U.S.-Korea trade pact modeled on NAFTA, has been another job-killer for American workers:
“Since the Obama administration used Fast Track to push a trade agreement with Korea, the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has grown 50 percent—which equates to 50,000 more American jobs lost. The U.S. had a $3 billion monthly trade deficit with Korea in October 2014—the highest monthly U.S. goods trade deficit with the country on record.”
Everywhere we hear that the issue of our time is the wage stagnation of the middle class.
But what has caused U.S. wages to stop rising for longer than any period in our history? What caused the inexorable growth of U.S. wages, from the Revolution to Reagan, to stop dead?
Like Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” the answer is right in front of us.
Wages are the price of labor and price is determined by supply and demand. Wages have fallen because the supply of labor has exploded.
Following the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, we threw open America’s doors to a flood of immigrants, legal and illegal.
Some forty-fifty million have poured in, an unprecedented expansion of the labor force.
As these immigrants—many uneducated, unskilled, unable to speak English well—entered the labor pool, they were willing to work for less than native-born Americans who needed higher wages to sustain their standard of living. In the service industries, manufacturing, construction, U.S. employers found themselves in a buyers’ market for workers right here in the USA.
Yet, over a million new low-wage workers pouring into the USA every year was not enough for our banksters and corporatists.
Thus, “free-trade” Republicans and their collaborators in the Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce decided to drop the U.S. labor force into a worldwide labor pool where the average wage was but a tiny fraction of an American living wage.
Like Dr. King, our transnational corporations had a dream—a dream of bypassing all U.S. regulations on wages and hours, health and safety, and the environment—a dream of getting rid of all those high-wage U.S. workers and their unions.
How to realize this dream?
Move production out of the United States, out from under the jurisdiction of U.S. law, into the Third World, and then bring your products back free of charge. To these folks, America is the best market to sell into, but, as a place to produce, give us China!
Mexicans, Latin Americans, East and South Asians, Chinese would all work for less than Americans, thus enabling corporate executives to take home fatter shares of far larger profits, in salaries, bonuses, benefits, stock options and soaring equity prices.
Like NAFTA and GATT, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an enabling act for multinationals to move freely to where it is cheapest to produce while securing access to where it is most profitable to sell.
A new Magna Carta—for the billionaires’ boys club.
For forty years, U.S. workers have seen factories close, jobs disappear and company towns become ghost towns, the “creative destruction” of Joe Schumpeter’s felicitous phrase.
Only the wholesale destruction was no accident, it was planned.
For scores of millions, the American dream is gone, sacrificed to the gods of the global economy—a new world economic order created by and for an elite whose 1,700 corporate jets were parked wingtip-to-wingtip last week while they partied in Davos.
That is why there may be a Syriza in all of our futures.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with permission from the author. (January, 2015)