In his upcoming State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama is expected to prioritize what is emerging as his legacy issue: combatting America's growing wealth inequality. Expect him to promote policies to create new middle-class jobs, especially in manufacturing, and counter the erosion of wages now undermining workers economy-wide.
But in the speech, Obama is also expected to highlight several major trade initiatives, including his priority Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a massive pact with 11 Asian and Latin American nations that Obama hopes to sign quickly. The business lobby is at full tilt pushing Obama to use the SOTU to call on Congress to pass Fast Track trade authority for the TPP.
The thing is that economists of all stripes agree that U.S. trade policy has been one of the major contributors to growing U.S. income inequality.
There really is no disagreement about that -- the only debate is about the degree of the effect. A study published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics -- an early supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on which TPP is modeled -- estimated that as much as 39 percent of the observed growth in U.S. wage inequality is attributable to trade trends. Other studies have posited greater and lesser contributions.
The TPP would replicate and expand to additional countries the trade agreement model established in the NAFTA. Twenty years of evidence of NAFTA's contribution to U.S. income inequality has become a major problem for Obama's push to get Congress to provide Fast Track authority for the massive TPP deal, described as NAFTA on steroids.
Not a single House Democrat would sponsor the legislation submitted two weeks ago to establish Fast Track. Last week, 17 Senate Democrats made their feelings known in letters to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). And last November, 151 House Democrats signed a letter saying they oppose Fast Track, arguing that lawmakers have been cut out of negotiations.
Congressional opposition to more-of-the-same trade deals has intensified as Obama's past SOTU trade promises have fallen flat. In contrast to Obama's 2011 SOTU promise that his only major past trade deal, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, would boost exports, in the agreement's first year, U.S. exports to Korea fell 10 percent, imports from Korea rose and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea exploded by 37 percent. This equates to a net loss of approximately 40,000 U.S. jobs.
The drop in exports to Korea added to last year's sluggish overall two percent U.S. export growth rate. Given current trends, the U.S. will not achieve the president's export-doubling plan until 2032 -- 18 years behind the 2014 deadline Obama set in his 2010 State of the Union speech.
This follows on the recent 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which fueled an explosion of the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and Canada to $181 billion by 2012, resulting in a net American loss of one million jobs. (The net job loss figure is derived from the U.S. government methodology employed to calculate the employment effects of trade flows.)
U.S. government data show that the average annual growth of our trade deficit has been 45 percent higher with Mexico and Canada than with countries that are not party to a NAFTA-style pact. U.S. manufacturing exports have grown at less than half the rate to Mexico and Canada since NAFTA than in the years before it. Before NAFTA, the U.S. had a small trade surplus with Mexico and a modest deficit with Canada.
While many focus on the number of U.S. jobs lost from NAFTA and similar pacts, the most significant effect has been a fundamental alteration in the composition of jobs available to the 63 percent of American workers without a college degree. And this has had a direct impact on income inequality.
Trade pact investment rules remove many of the risks otherwise associated with sending jobs offshore to where labor costs are drastically cheaper. The United States has lost millions of manufacturing jobs during the 20 years of NAFTA and decade-plus since Congress approved China's entry to the World Trade Organization. As a result, the wages most U.S. workers can earn have been severely degraded even as overall unemployment has been largely stable (excluding the Great Recession) as new low-paying service sector jobs have been created.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, two of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 experienced a wage reduction, most of them more than 20 percent. The list compiled by the Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance program of more than 845,000 specific American jobs lost to NAFTA and similar pacts reads like the funeral program for the middle class.
The implications for growing income inequality are broad. It is not only those American workers who lost a job to NAFTA or China trade who face downward wage pressure; as increasing numbers of workers displaced from manufacturing jobs joined the glut of workers competing for non-offshorable, low-skill jobs in sectors such as food service and retail, real wages have fallen in these growing sectors as well.
The U.S. government data is striking: The shift in employment from high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-paying service jobs has contributed to overall wage stagnation. The average U.S. wage has grown less than one percent annually in real terms since NAFTA was enacted even as worker productivity has risen more than three times. Since the January 1, 1994, implementation of NAFTA, the share of national income collected by the richest 10 percent has risen by 24 percent, while the top 1 percent's share has shot up by 58 percent.
Offshoring of American jobs is rapidly moving up the skills ladder, expanding the income inequality effect. Alan S. Blinder, a former Federal Reserve vice chair, Princeton economist and NAFTA supporter, says that one out of every four American jobs could be offshored in the foreseeable future. A study he co-authored found that the most offshorable industry is finance and insurance, not manufacturing. According to Binder's study, American workers with a four-year college degree and an annual salary above $75,000 are among those most vulnerable to having their jobs offshored.
The grandfather of modern free trade economics, Paul Samuelson, published a startling 2004 academic paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that shows mathematically how the offshoring of higher-paid jobs to low-wage countries can cause U.S. workers to lose more from reduced wages than they gain from cheaper imported goods. Trade theory states that while those specific workers who lose their jobs due to imports may suffer, the vast majority of us gain from trade "liberalization" because we can buy cheaper imported goods. Except, as job offshoring has moved up the wage level, this is no longer necessarily true.
When the Center for Economic and Policy Research applied the actual data to the trade theory, they discovered that when one compares the lower prices of cheaper goods to the income lost from low-wage competition under our current policy, the trade-related losses in wages hitting the vast majority of American workers outweigh the gains in cheaper priced goods from trade. U.S. workers without college degrees (the vast majority) lost an amount equal to 12.2 percent of their wages, so for a worker earning $25,000 a year, the loss would be more than $3,000 per year.
The 20-year record of NAFTA shows that deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership would contribute to income inequality as more middle-class jobs are lost. Either Obama can prioritize a battle against income inequality or he can push more NAFTA-style trade agreements and the trade authority to railroad them through Congress, but he cannot do both.
Link to original article from Huffington Post
More information is available at http://www.citizen.org/fast-track.
Civil rights veteran John Lewis, D-Ga.; Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Al Green, D-Texas; Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.; joined 200 others who were arrested as part of a “civil disobedience” event in front of the U.S. capitol.
As Republicans hold the government hostage and threaten to wreak economic havoc with the looming debt-ceiling showdown, some progressives on the Hill are worried that the strong-arm tactics will lead to an agreement on so-called “entitlement reform.” That’s Washington parlance for cuts to the nation’s most significant social programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
This weekend, the White House came courting to Congress, showing evidence and secret intelligence to make the case for military action. What was remarkably lacking, however, throughout all the pomp and circumstance, was any other tool in their intervention toolkit.
August 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Publicly associated with Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, this march brought more than 250,000 people to the nation’s capital.
Republicans bellyached for years that government must shrink. It had to be smaller. Cut the budget come hell or high water, they yammered. Well, darn if the sequester hasn’t brought hell and high water to Republican districts across America. Now Republican lawmakers can’t stop carping about how small government shouldn’t occur in their districts. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till you vote to kill it?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to strengthen Social Security by making the wealthiest Americans pay the same payroll tax that nearly everyone else already pays.
Under the Act, the Department of Labor would work collaboratively with local and state governments, non-profits, and the private-sector to fund community-based “fast track” jobs. This work could include renovating housing and schools, weatherizing homes, fixing our aging infrastructure, expanding access to broadband and wireless Internet, neighborhood beautification projects, or other community initiatives in the health and education sectors.
Congratulations on your second inauguration. Let’s talk about drugs.
As it happens, today’s festivities fall on Martin Luther King Day. This isn’t the first time you and Dr. King have encountered one another on the calendar. You first accepted your party’s nomination for the presidency on the 45th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Hundreds of small farmers and advocates for organic seed growers gathered outside the White House Thursday, calling on President Obama and other lawmakers to come to their aid as they continue their fight against Monsanto, one of the world's largest, most powerful—and to them sinister—industrial agriculture corporations
I don't claim to know exactly what's going on with #IdleNoMore, the surging movement of indigenous activists that started late last year in Canada and is now spreading across the continent, but I sense that it's every bit as important as the Occupy movement that transfixed the world a year ago; it feels like it wells up from the same kind of long-postponed and deeply-felt passion that powered the Arab spring.
The historic re-election of President Obama must not be followed by historic damage to the nation’s social safety net.
We call on the President and Congress to reject any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Rather than undermining those vital social programs, elected officials must protect them.
The Electoral College - the way we pick our president and vice president - is all about cheap labor. When it was put into place in 1789, it was to give slaveholders a greater national voice - part of a compromise with the slave states to keep them in the union. So back then, it was all about cheap labor - slavery.
The RNC-funded Strategic Allied Consulting, run by checkered GOP operative Nathan Sproul, is under criminal investigation in Florida for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms to election officials. (Sproul is still running voter-canvassing operations for conservatives in thirty states.) Sproul’s associate Colin Small, who had worked for Strategic Allied Consulting and as “Grassroots Field Director at the Republican National Committee,” was charged last week with eight felony counts and five misdemeanors for trashing voter registration forms in Virginia.
With three weeks left to Election Day, civil rights organizations and union lawyers are getting ready to overcome voter suppression. An anonymous “family foundation” is paying for billboards warning against voter fraud, like this one in a minority neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. Clear Channel, which owns the space, says the anonymity violates its policies but it will not take the ads down.
The former presidential candidate, who is nearing death, warned of the folly of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. Americans came to agree with him -- but only when it was too late. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 1972, George McGovern kicked off his ill-fated presidential bid by focusing on his opposition to the ruinous war in Vietnam. "I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan.
If groups like Working America can build an awareness of economic issues among swing voters, it could be a game-changer. She's asking them to sign up as a member with Working America, which simply means giving her a phone number and email address to match the street address she already has. She also asks for a donation, either a monthly contribution or a few dollars on the spot, to keep Working America going.
Concerned people from the U.S. and numerous other countries will join in a global campaign event Saturday to call for a ban of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking." More than 150 events, on five continents, are planned for this weekend’s “Global Frackdown” -- a day of action against fracking -- coupled with the promotion of the expansion of clean, sustainable energy options.
With less than two months until Election Day, one of the challenges facing Democrats at the voting booth has plagued them for decades: how to play well in the South.
Hey, Mitt, why start with the 47 percent? Fully 100 percent of the nation’s 500 biggest corporations are dependent on various kinds of corporate welfare – subsidies, giveaways, bailouts, waivers, and other dazzling preferences – while many pay no tax at all on very substantial profits (see their familiar names – General Electric, Pepco, Verizon etc. – here).
"As goes the South, so goes the nation." - W.E.B. DuBois. With the nation's eyes on party conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, the media is cramming to get a handle on the Southern political landscape. The resulting punditry has ranged from thoughtful analysis of changes in the South to rants blaming the region for all (or most) of the nation's ills.
Sister Simone Campbell, whose social justice organization, Network, sponsored the Nuns on the Bus tour protesting the Republican budget, gave Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan the what-for from the podium of Wednesday night's Democratic National Convention, leading my colleague, Joshua Holland, to tweet that she had rapped Ryan's knuckles. Ryan set himself up for the ire of the kind of nuns who minister to the poor when he tried to wrap his draconian budget in the magisterium of Mother Church.
Proudly liberal activist Tim Carpenter, who toiled in Orange County for more than 20 years before resettling in Massachusetts and co-founding Progressive Democrats of America, has made a career of standing staunchly to the left of mainstream Democrats, relentlessly beckoning and cajoling others to come a little closer.
Conservatives force the deficit issue, ignoring job creation, and insisting that tax increases on the rich wouldn't generate enough revenue to balance the budget. They're way off. But it takes a little arithmetic to put it all together. In the following analysis, data has been taken from a variety of sources, some of which may overlap or slightly disagree, but all of which lead to the conclusion that withheld revenue, not excessive spending, is the problem.
CODEPINK will be with PDA at Progressive Central
“And the Republicans are particularly bad when it comes to women’s rights. I can’t be quiet while the GOP tries to take away the reproductive rights my parents’ generation worked so hard for.”
America was born with a great soul, a moral view of Democracy in which citizens care about their fellow citizens and join together to take responsibility not just for themselves but for each other, for America as a union, a joint enterprise. The government’s job was to carry out that moral vision and to do so it created what we call The Public, the provision of basic protection and empowerment for all.
This election season there are two dominant stories about the much-discussed "Latino vote." One, that President Obama enjoys a strong advantage among Hispanic voters. But two, it may not matter much because, even though Latino communities are growing fast, they have yet to be a major force at the ballot box.
Curious how many Democrats live on your block? Just download the Obama campaign's new mobile app. The app, released last week, includes a Google map for canvassers that recognizes your current location and marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags.
Ending four months of speculation and mystery, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Saturday chose House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate.
Romney announced the pick in Norfolk, Va., the first stop on a four-day campaign bus tour through Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, all swing states that President Barack Obama won in 2008.
An amazing dialogue about class, race and movement-building by five progressive journalists and activist scholars.
The most politically partisan—and politically activist—Supreme Court in modern American history has already assumed that, when it comes to electioneering, corporations have pretty much the same rights as human beings.
The failed effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is widely seen as a crisis for the labor movement, and a pivotal moment in the 2012 U.S. presidential-election season.
Will high-level Obama officials who leak for political gain be punished on equal terms with actual whistleblowers?
In April, Jamie Dimon–the swaggering chief of JPMorgan Chase–scoffed at critics who warned that his bank's high-flying investment division was dangerously overextended and risking collapse: “A complete tempest in a teapot,” scoffed Dimon.
My solution is: get outraged. Campaigners marched in Copenhagen under the banner "System Change, Not Climate Change." On the eve of Rio+20, that message again will rise, but slogans and proposals and will mean nothing without the requisite power standing behind them.
Internationally renowned activist Medea Benjamin has written a compelling case against drones. One of the most fearful aspects is that drone technology is growing so rapidly in so many nations that soon the nations the US deems enemies will be using them against our forces and us.
Defense contractors already are preparing for the layoffs and plant closures that will occur if Congress fails to reach a deal on the federal deficit this year, triggering $600 billion in automatic Pentagon spending cuts.
“We are running towards a cliff, all telling each other like lemmings that somehow this isn’t going to happen,” said Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). “But the cliff is coming up.”
Washington, D.C.--Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) today released the following statement after the House passed H.R.4970, the House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act:
I would like to thank you for your support, and thank the tens of thousands of concerned Citizens for Kucinich who in the past few months have written, emailed and called to discuss my running for Congress in Washington State.
It’s official; George W Bush is a war criminal.
In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were yesterday (Fri) found guilty of war crimes.
In yet another seemingly faux pas moment for the former governor and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney tells a crowd of supporters in Alabama that he can relate to the plight of black individuals because his ancestors were slave owners in the 1800′s.
North Carolina's voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage, joining 29 other states and the rest of the South.
Democrats in Wisconsin have a month to persuade voters to unseat the governor, Scott Walker, in a recall election with Tom Barrett as Mr. Walker's opponent.
The city of Chicago today yanked a permit for the first demonstration planned for the weekend of the NATO summit in a dispute over where the National Nurses United can hold its rally May 18.
"France, Okay, But Could a Socialist Gain Power in the US? Here's How It Almost Happened" by Greg Mitchell of the Nation, and "François Hollande wins French presidential election" by Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian.
Nurses, Robin Hood and the band of merry women and men, and scores of friends
are strapping on their boots and preparing to head to Chicago Friday, May 18.
Since the housing bubble burst, Nevada has been plagued with record foreclosures, the nation’s steepest drop in home values and its highest unemployment rate.
Iowa, on the other hand, may have missed out on some of the boom but was spared the worst of the bust: its housing prices have stayed relatively stable, and it now has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the country.
American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam — and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.
How will U.S. EPA's oil and gas air rule affect the fracking industry? During today's OnPoint, Jim Pardo, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, discusses the broader impacts of the rule ....
Today marks one year since the death of Osama bin Laden. The CIA estimates there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Since ‘getting Bin Laden’ and defeating al Qaeda were the stated reasons the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, President Barack Obama should use the anniversary to announce the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
President Obama’s dramatic speech from Afghanistan should be parsed as a careful election-year orchestration of his plan to “wind down” the war. It is no accident that the speech came during the first-year commemoration of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the event providing Obama the rationale for ending American combat while placing hawks and political rivals on the defensive.
The student loan crisis finally reached center stage in Washington after the House GOP budget called for letting interest rates double on government-subsidized loans (and for deep cuts in Pell grants and other student support). If it passes, students who borrow the maximum will end up paying as much as $1,000 a year in added interest.
Women’s rights have always been a bit of an add-on for the left. At this spring’s Left Forum, only fifteen of 440 panels touched on any feminist issue, broadly understood. New Left Review is famous, at least in my apartment, for its high testosterone content (despite being edited by a woman); ditto Verso, the left’s flagship publishing house, where women authors are as rare as Siberian tigers.
Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state. It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.
Corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism against FCC order to post political ad data. News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.
With thousands of consumers expressing their concerns about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to corporations across America, even former supporters of ALEC are feeling the heat, and some are rushing to distance themselves from the organization. YUM! Brands (owners of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) became the 12th corporate member of ALEC to announce it is leaving the organization yesterday.
Our acceptance of death for those who can’t afford medical care is unique among the advanced industrialized nations of the world. This ethos allows people who don’t have enough money or enough medical insurance to die everyday. We remain blind to the humanistic healthcare ethos of other nations, that result in greatly reduced costs and superior outcomes.
The drug war has created a new Jim Crow system. Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.” Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.
Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.
So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that's now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"[I]t will come, but I shall not see it ... It is inevitable. We can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage. It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation."
Many on the American Right insist federal actions from the Civil War to recent banking regulations were encroachments on states’ rights and personal liberties, but underlying these claims – in the 1860s and today – is the greed of the richest 1 percent treating the 99 percent as chattel, writes Mark Ames.
Watching some of the news coming from Capitol Hill this week, two old music videos started buzzing around in our heads. One was the classic “I’m Just a Bill,” from Schoolhouse Rock, in which a beleaguered piece of legislation sits outside on the marble steps hoping to someday become a law.