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Expand The Debate: Jill Stein VS Obama On Stopping The Outsourcing Of American Jobs

by on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 11:26 am EDT in Economy, Election 2012, Labor, Politics, Trade Policy

During a time when tens of millions of Americans find themselves unemployed, and hundreds of thousands of American jobs continue to move to low-cost labor countries, there is perhaps no single issue more important to America’s economic viability than outsourcing. 

Obama, as a Presidential candidate in 2008, was consistent in naming what plagued the country’s job crisis: Free Trade deals.  

In 2008, candidate Obama pledged to rewrite NAFTA and explained the problems of Free Trade:

About NAFTA, Sen. Obama said in a Democratic primary forum in 2007: “I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now. And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street.”

About free trade, Sen. Obama said at the same 2007 forum: “… people don’t want a cheaper T-shirt if they’re losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt. And I think that’s something that all Americans could agree to.

As a Senator in 2005, Obama voted against Bush’s Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), citing the following as his reasons:

“There are real problems in the agreement itself. It does less to protect labor than previous trade agreements, and does little to address enforcement of basic environmental standards in the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic…

“So far, almost all of our energy and almost all of these trade agreements are about making life easier for the winners of globalization, while we do nothing as life gets harder for American workers.”

But then Obama was elected President and, despite his promises, made no efforts whatsoever to renegotiate NAFTA. Instead he pushed through THREE job-killing ‘Free Trade’ deals of his own — the kinds he always criticized. The Korean ‘Free Trade’ Deal alone is expected to cost 159,00 American jobs. These agreements were opposed by a major majority of Congressional Democrats, and Obama could only get these NAFTA equivalent deals passed with the help of the Tea Party GOP Freshmen in Congress.

The days of Obama assigning blame to ‘Free Trade’ agreements for the outsourcing of American jobs are long gone. In the Hofstra Presidential Debate, Obama blamed tax loopholes that provide incentive for corporations to outsource. Fair point, but keep in mind that he made this same argument repeatedly as a Candidate in 2008, and did absolutely NOTHING as President to push any bills through Congress to address this offshoring tax incentive.

So it was refreshing to hear Jill Stein speak to this issue in Democracy Now’s ‘Expand The Debate’ series:

So, if the question is how to stop the outsourcing of our jobs, it is very clear we need to stop expanding the Free Trade Agreements that send our jobs overseas, and which also undermine wages here at home by effectively threatening workers that if they don’t drop their wages and their benefits that their jobs are gone.

We saw the first Free Trade Agreement NAFTA enacted under Bill Clinton, a Democrat. We saw it carried out under George Bush. But then we saw Barack Obama expand three Free Trade Agreements, and is now negotiating a secret Free Trade Agreement — the Trans Pacific Partnership — that will continue to offshore jobs, undermine wages, and as well, this time compromise American sovereignty with an international corporate board that can rule on our laws and regulations and say whether or not they pass muster. 

This is an absolute outrage against American sovereignty, democracy, and our economy. We need to turn the Free Trade Agreements into Fair Trade Agreements.

And again, the Green New Deal will create the community-based jobs we need here supporting small businesses, worker cooperatives, public services, and public works to put people back to work right now for less than the cost of the first stimulus package.

When you actually assess Obama’s statements on trade, while factoring in his record as President, it is clear that he will continue to push job-killing ‘Free Trade’ Agreements — as will, of course, Mitt Romney. Jill Stein, conversely, intends to actually confront this most pressing crisis.

WATCH (Jill Stein starts at the 2:55 mark): 

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TRADE DEALS: Obama’s Freudian Slip: I Want To See Us Export More JOBS, … Ah, More Products

by on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 12:53 am EDT in Economy, Labor, Politics, Trade Policy

Sometimes hidden truths have a way of boomeranging back at the most inopportune times …

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Now Obama claims to have accidentally channeled his opponent on that slip, but what is Obama’s true record on crafting the kinds of trade deals that would increase the number of jobs here at home?

Economist Ian Fletcher, in his Huffington Post column, summed up Obama’s NAFTA-style ‘free trade’ agreement with Korea, which passed last year:

You think America has learned its lesson from NAFTA, which the Labor Department has estimated cost us 525,000 jobs? Think again.

Take the Korea agreement, for example. President Obama and the Republican leadership want it despite the fact that the Economic Policy Institute has estimated it will cost us 159,000 more jobs over the next five years.

Yes, you read that correctly. At a time when the president says that his number one economic priority is job creation, and has created an entire commission for that purpose, they’re going ahead with it anyway.

Even the official U.S. International Trade Commission has admitted that KORUS-FTA will cause significant job losses. And not just in low-end industries: the ITC foresees the electronic equipment manufacturing industry, with average wages of $30.38 in 2008, as a major victim.

The supposed logic of America swapping junk jobs for high-end jobs simply isn’t the way the economics really works out. Pace free-market mythology, there are actually well-understood reasons for this, if you dig a little into what economists already know.

Was this the Obama America voted for in 2008?

No. That Obama is at an undisclosed location somewhere. He campaigned against KORUS-FTA during the 2008 campaign. (It was originally negotiated, but not ratified by Congress, by Bush in 2007.) Among other things, that Obama said:

I strongly support the inclusion of meaningful, enforceable labor and environmental standards in all trade agreements. As president, I will work to ensure that the U.S. again leads the world in ensuring that consumer products produced across the world are done in a manner that supports workers, not undermines them.

Nice words. Unfortunately, none of them are reflected in KORUS-FTA, which contains no serious new provisions on these issues.

This agreement is essentially a NAFTA clone. It is, in fact, the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA, and the first since Canada with a developed country.

This agreement, like NAFTA and the dozen or so other free trade agreements America has signed since NAFTA, is fundamentally an offshoring agreement. That is, it is about making it easier for U.S.-based multinationals to move production overseas with confidence in the security of their investments in overseas plants.

VIDEO: Here Is What Unregulated, Non-Unionized Capitalism Looks Like: Apple’s iFactory In China

by on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm EDT in Economy, Labor, Politics

Suicide nets under every window.

Conservatives have long derided organized labor and business regulations as some sort of insidious ‘socialist’ cancer that stymies innovation, fleeces hardworking business owners, crushes prosperity and investment capital, and dampens economies with high inflation and high unemployment.

They contend that when corporations are left unburdened by oversight and regulations, to pursue their own profit-maximizing interests, that this will always — as if by an invisible magical hand — optimize the interests of the society in which they operate. 

Obscenely naive or deeply disingenuous, this ideology has been disproved over and over again, since the beginning of the industrial age. In a global economy, the moment a nation catches on — usually when its citizens’ quality of life deteriorates to the point of social unrest — and moves to remedy the situation with more regulations, and by easing organized labor restrictions, the corporations begin to look around to other developing countries for exploitative opportunities.

This now familiar business cycle is especially prominent in sectors that require an educated and highly skilled workforce. This is because higher education is generally funded, not by corporations or government, but by labor itself. This limits the supply of skilled labor, and forces corporations to compete with one another for these self-educated workers, thereby pushing wages upwards.

But unlike labor, who are restricted by national borders in search for employment, corporations are free to roam the world for cheap labor. And corporations have no loyalty to the citizens who reside within the countries they operate. Why pay a premium for an employee with a unique level of expertise, when potential employees with similar skill-sets are being grotesquely undervalued overseas? After all, a corporation’s charter commands it to exploit resources and labor as cheaply as is possible in order to maximize profits. 

At the moment, China happens to be one of those developing nations with a massive poverty-stricken population — ripe for corporate exploitation. 

And what better iconic ‘American’ corporation, but Apple — manufacturer of the world’s most beloved technology products and gadgets — to demonstrate this corporate flight towards labor-exploitative opportunities.

China is a country which conservatives would consider an ideal, unregulated, business-friendly environment. Rather than demanding China raise its labor standards, conservatives would rather weaken U.S. labor standards to be more like China. The conservative plan for bringing jobs home is little more than a race to the bottom. By union busting, cutting government jobs, and further deregulation, American workers will find themselves as powerless and exploitable as our counterparts in developing countries. This, they believe, will make America more ‘competitive.’ This is their ‘free market’ ideology, in a nutshell.

In the following video, ABC’s Nightline was granted unprecedented access to Apple’s factories (owned by FoxCon) inside China. When you see the conditions in which these employees operate, you realize why decent paying American jobs are disappearing, and, as Apple’s recently-deceased CEO admitted to President Obama, “they aren’t coming back.” You begin to understand why young Americans are now questioning whether it even makes economic sense to assume huge amounts of debt in pursuit of higher education.

If you take one thing away from this video, I hope it is that this is not merely an American problem. It is a world problem. The only way to raise the living standards of Americans will be to raise it for everyone else in the world, because this is truly a global economy. And that process begins with rewriting all of our trade deals in ways that empower workers in every single nation, across the world. 

Some highlights from Nightline’s reporting:

  • Apple’s Chinese employees work 12-hour shifts, broken up by two-hour meal breaks, and often seven days per week.
  • Employees work so long and so hard on the assembly line, that most eat their 70 cent meals at the company canteen quickly, so they can catch up on lost sleep at their work stations. (the video shows them all sleeping side-by-side during their lunch break)
  • Many employees live in dorm rooms, shared by seven other workers, and will each pay $17.50 per month for this. This allows Apple to have workers on-call 24-7, in case they ever need to quickly scale-up production, at a moment’s notice.
  • Most employees have left their families to work here.
  • Suicide nets‘ have been installed under the windows of all FoxCon employees to prevent them from killing themselves. A year ago, nine employees jumped to their deaths in the span of 3 months.
  • Last year, poorly ventilated aluminum ducts, which the company had been warned about by human rights groups (an accusation the company does not deny), caused two separate explosions in iPad polishing stations, killing four employees and injuring seventy-seven.
  • Literally thousands of people (over three thousand on this particular Monday) line up daily at FoxCon’s recruitment center, waiting hours on end, and many carrying suitcases. They are desperate to work there for $1.78 per hour. Demand for Apple products is so high, that FoxCon will hire 80% of them.
  • To help manage the controversy that erupted after the NY Times’ recent article, In China, Human Costs Are Built Into An iPod, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association. But Apple paid the group $250k to join, and also pays for all its pre-arranged — never by surprise — audits, leading many to believe there is a deep conflict of interest, and is little more than a ploy to whitewash their labor practices.
  • ABC revealed most all of the employees they spoke with complained about their low-pay, expensive lunch prices, and crowded dorms, but there was nothing they could do about it, as unions don’t exist there.

Sounds like a Conservative Utopia!