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Laura Flanders: Free Trade Is Not the Answer!


Laura Flanders: Free Trade Is Not the Answer!


(This is an adaptation of Tuesday’s F Word: the daily commentary from GRITtv.)

President Barack Obama delivered his take on the State of the Union last night and while Congress has bragged about bipartisan seating, it doesn’t matter where anyone sat because the profiteers who define what’s possible in our politics have already barred any serious solution to what ails us.

We know what the problem is: Jobs. 15 million still unemployed. A National Journal piece last week noted that the Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. And jobs had already been leaving - for three decades.

That’s a bipartisan problem - remember who passed NAFTA, which first opened the floodgates. As a commentator with the hardly radical Hoover Institute told the Journal - Instead of reinvesting the gains of globalization in improved plants or a higher quality of life work in the US, private companies privatized the profits and hired abroad. Driving down wages.

Now while cheap production’s boosting profits again, as Heidi Shierholz reminded GRITtv yesterday, CEOs are smiling, but communities are frozen, cold as ice. And again big business is promoting trade.

Abroad: “That’s where the customers are,” the president said last week, and with a jobs-tsar like Jeffrey Immelt, the GE CEO, at his side, we’re going to hear a lot more of that.

But trade has not fixed us - it’s fouled us up. The spoils have gone to shareholders, and to spending on jobs abroad - and spending on politics - thank you, Citizens United and the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result, government’s done nothing, neither through taxes nor through regulations. The traditional tools for evening the playing field - government regulation, economic planning, taxes - have all been turned toxic.

And while bailouts for banks are just fine, safety nets for the rest of us are trashed as socialism and waste. And in place of a community culture, those same profiteers have sold us a culture of greed and all things private - while denigrating government and all things public. (Think public workers, public spaces, public art…)

Obama is just the last in a line of Democratic presidents playing it safe, or making change small enough not to rock any powerful boat. But that’s what we’ve seen for thirty years. And playing safe hasn’t been safe at all - it’s played most Americans into a ditch.

Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv.

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