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The New Truth About Free Trade


The New Truth About Free Trade

Robert Reich

I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

The old-style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s increased worldwide demand for products made by American workers, and thereby helped push up American wages.

The new-style agreements increase worldwide demand for products made by American corporations all over the world, enhancing corporate and financial profits but keeping American wages down.


That you (Prof. Reich) for beginning this piece with a mea culpa, which resonates greatly with me.

Now let’s get back to work for Bernie and US.


It is important to deconstruct narratives that allege that what is good for, done for, and/or done by a small set of players somehow represents the WHOLE of America, that great amorphous ocean of “We.”

Thank you, Mr. Reich for pointing this out since the sales pitch that always accompanies these sellouts of the American worker are framed as the opposite: being good for the nation!

"Proponents say giant deals like the TPP are good for the growth of the United States economy. But that argument begs the question of whose growth they’re talking about.

“Almost all the growth goes to the richest 1 percent. The rest of us can buy some products cheaper than before, but most of those gains would are offset by wage losses.”

What’s more influential is what is NOT seen in the way of Think Tanks setting policies and campaign contributions ensuring their deployment:

“I’ve seen first-hand how effective Wall Street and big corporations are at wielding influence – using lobbyists, campaign donations, and subtle promises of future jobs to get the global deals they want.”

Here’s a short list of groups funded by the odious Koch Brothers and their billionaire boys’ club of covert donors:

Hoover Institute, Brookings Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato, The Federalist Society, and others.


The media continues to saturate us with “experts” who frame Obama’s TPP, TTIP and TISA as “the old style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s” when the issue was enabling international movement of goods and services. None of the experts ever mention that 80% of Obama’s deals enable transferring judicial authority from governments to corporations.


Thank you President’s Clinton/Obama. Much more effective in negotiating deals than Bush’s terms, this should focus attention on just how dangerous Hillary’s presidency would be for the United States. GOP offers little alternatives - as their “shrinking government”, has simply allowed the transfer of power to those who buy influence. Bernie Sanders offers the only alternative - and his prime impact will be to shape the debate for the next 4 years and educate the people to the possibilities of a democratic community working for the good of society - measuring success by the quality of life at the bottom rather than for the benefit of those at the top. This is changes to believe in - commit to - and condition yourself for a long term battle. A small rudder controls a large ship - but it doesn’t change direction quickly, the rudder must be kept in the hands of someome who knows where he is going and plans ahead. Vote Bernie Sanders - 2016

I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

while the end of ww2 brought many financial woes to europe, the immediate need for reconstruction, people in the u.s. of a, experienced an economic boom! gee, how many auto manufacturing plants, steel mills, grocery and other retailers all competing, not only for customers but for well-trained skilled as well as menial labor? this was a time when there were more jobs available than qualified people to fill them. we believed this nation had proven that capitalism and democracy worked hand-in-hand. “those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end!”

like reich, i was so naïve that when bill clinton presented his nafta plans, i believed it a program designed to lift all boats. gee, if workers in mexico, honduras, et al could enjoy a wage increase, i thought, we’d all see an increase in tourism and wholesale orders creating more jobs and wealth–spreading the “american dream” across national borders. but that’s not what happened, is it? the remaining big monopoly honchos did not wish to lift all boats, but rather to lower earnings all expectations for workers thus increasing income for the upper few.

The fact is, recent trade deals are less about trade and more about global investment.

when referring to this nation, i try to say always, the united states or uncle sam. when i say “america” i mean the militarized financial empire–like the difference between england, the nation and briton, the empire. it’s not only nafta, but automation which reduces job opportunities. “welcome to the machine!”

today’s economy, ruled by the big financial and insurance industry, now counts debt as profit. for example every time you fall to the impulse to hit wal*mart, (owned by golman sachs), credit card in hand hoping to “save” money on sale items, you inadvertently play into the owner’s hands. few, these days, pay those cards in full meaning your “savings” are lost in interest and other fees, while your growing debt is posted as expected profit on the p & l statement. these financial wizards made out like the bandits they are bundling junk bonds. the financial industry caused with malice and forethought the collapse of '08 and were rewarded with u.s. government bailouts.

In theory, the winners could fully compensate the losers and still come out ahead. But the winners don’t compensate the losers.

the very philosophy of capitalism makes us all competitors for jobs, greater income, bigger homes and a more lavish life-style. the “winners” truly believe that “nice guys finish last” and it’s better to work smarter than harder. they exploit both the earth and the human workforce worldwide telling us they create jobs when in truth they create poverty for the many and wealth for the already wealthy.

america now boasts the largest most powerful military this earth has ever witnessed.here in the 21st century u.s. workers most profitable industry for export is munitions. i would not be so proud in manufacturing death and destruction for profit. if we want a happier, healthier and more cooperative world community, we as a society must set new priorities–priorities that can sustain and nurture life, not exploit it for bragging rights.


Mr Reich,

Thank you for that initial clarification, “I used to believe in trade agreements”

I have been waiting these many years for an apology for your support in passing NAFTA.
Evidently this is as close as we will get.

I understand all too well the work one is required to do when attached officially to an administration. And how one’s mind and heart are at odds when one is forced to follow marching orders, that we KNOW are wrong.

But waiting for your apology on NAFTA is like waiting for Colin Powell’s apology for abdication
of the Powell Doctrine in the lead up to the Iraq war.

I lived through the disassembly of the American manufacturing work force under Mr Clinton and NAFTA.
We the workers all knew what NAFTA would encourage. This is the trust factor that Mr Clinton has passed
to Ms Clinton.

The two singular failures of NAFTA were the lack of any mention of a minimum wage and the lack of any trade tariffs to offset indentured servitude in over seas worker compensation.

If we are to allow a race to the bottom in foreign wage bases, then these Americian manufacturers must be met at the border with tariffs.

I watched as Digital Equipment immediately closed factories here, were given government assistance and tariff free incentive to open plants in Mexico via the Maquiladoras program, only to swiftly close those plants after reaping benefits only to ship those same factories to Vietnam or Indonesia under slave conditions.
Further, when Vietnam workers started to unionize, factories were shipped to Indonesia.

If Apple, et al are going to pay slave labor wages, they should be met with tariffs at the port of entry.
Product Pricing be damned.

I too used to believe in trade agreements, one’s that started with a focus on worker rights, environmental protections and minimum wage bases.

And I’m still waiting for your’s and Mr Powell’s admissions of misdirected allegiance.


Glass-Steagel was on my list as THE most nefarious Clinton signing.
It was on my list, I just was running long on my response.

I remember at the time, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”
Glass-Steagel had keep the banksters at bay for all these years, why, unless it benefited you, would one change that SPECIFIC law.

And now with the Volker Rule, so firmly presented by the best mind grasping the reality of the market, we still lack support for passage.

Functioning Democracy is a Lifetime Labor.


And this is why you’ve opposed Obama, loudly, for the last several years, right, Robert? For some reason, you forgot to mention Obama’s leading role in jamming the ruinous TPP down America’s very sore maw. Must have been an oversight…

Huh. No mention of the Clintons here, either. Another oversight. How unusual.

No matter. I’m sure that Reich will loudly oppose the offshoring Megathatcher, in his very next column… the one where he endorses Jill Stein. Because whatever else Robert Reich is, he’s a person of integrity.