President Barack Obama recently toured the Midwest to promote a White House jobs initiatve. He hopes to curtail some of the momentum developed by his Republican opposition during the summer. His bus tour around the region has taken a great deal of flak from opposition groups who see it as yet another needless expense from a wasteful presidency. The expenses are of course no worse than those accumulated by any other sitting president – the argument is just a guise for thinly-veiled hatred of President Obama himself.
The jobs tour should not be attacked for being unnecessary or wasteful, particularly by Republicans. At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had spent nearly twice as many days on vacation and had spent a significantly larger amount than Obama on tours and campaigns around the country.
The jobs tour should be attacked on its merits. No region of the United States has been more devastated by the government’s pursuit of free trade at all costs than the Midwest. In spite of this, President Obama toured several states promoting a new free trade agreement that his administration hopes to sign with South Korea by the end of the year.
Regardless of party and regardless of circumstances, every president since Reagan has pursued a more open trading policy with the rest of the world. If the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is signed by President Obama, it will culminate a process that began years ago under President Bush. When President Clinton signed the United States into NAFTA and the WTO, he was merely tying together the loose ends left by his predecessor, the first President Bush.
Why is it that our leaders all want free trade?
The negative effects of unregulated international commerce are evident all around us. In developing countries, the working class is exploited for cheap labor in often grueling conditions. In developed countries, the working class (or rather, the former working class) sees their jobs sent overseas to cheap foreign labor markets.
President Obama is under the same free trader spell to which his predecessors also succumbed. He believes, or at least promotes the belief, that free trade creates jobs for Americans. In fact, just the opposite is true. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the North American Free Trade Agreement has cost the United States nearly net 700,000 jobs.
The agreement was supposed to create jobs in the United States, but what it actually did was move high-paying American jobs south of the border into the cheap labor markets in Mexico. At the same time, it allowed a flood of American agricultural products to bankrupt Mexican farmers. These farmers then began the first wave of illegal immigration across the border into the United States.
The so-called “job creator” that was to be NAFTA became a job destroyer on both sides of the border. It also created the United States’ greatest security risk by leading directly to massive increases in illegal immigration.
If the President wants to create jobs, he must understand what free trade agreements have done to this country. Every time the United States enters into a formal agreement with a developed country, it witnesses an immediate surge in the trade deficit and an immediate loss of jobs in highly skilled industries.
The White House even admits that KORUS would add nearly $24 billion to the annual trade deficit that already exists between the US and South Korea. Nonetheless, it still pursues the same listless and misguided policies that have cut legs out from under the American economy. This country has no hope to recover if our only hope is free trade.