Saturday, March 8, 2008

Professor Fletcher: NAFTA Economic Impacts and Anti Immigration Vehemence Against Latinos!

Professor Bill Fletcher Jr. from BlackCommentor.com:
One of the more interesting aspects of the current Presidential primary season is the renewed discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Implemented January 1, 1994, and by no coincidence sparking the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, NAFTA was a major step in the economic integration of the USA, Canada and Mexico under the domination of the USA. Sold to the US public as a means of addressing globalization and improving our chances of competing in the global market place, NAFTA was fervently opposed by various social movements and constituencies, particularly organized labor and environmental groups. Both groups, and others, were deeply suspicious of the motives and actuality of NAFTA. Their concerns, as it turns out, were largely justified. Though NAFTA did result in the introduction of some new jobs, what is critical is the net effect of NAFTA. If one factors in losses and gains, the net impact has been the loss of approximately 900,000 jobs in the USA. Unfortunately, much of the NAFTA debate stops here or within a few feet. NAFTA most certainly has drained jobs as well as placed restrictions on the ability of jurisdictions to direct their local economies. It has encouraged the growth of sweatshop and near-sweatshop labor along the USA/Mexico border. This is the side of NAFTA with which many of us are familiar. Many of us remember Ross Perot’s famous comment concerning NAFTA representing the giant sucking sound of jobs being drained away from the USA and going to Mexico. This is not the entire story. And, while it is good that Senators Clinton and Obama have reopened the discussion concerning NAFTA, neither of them have drawn much attention to the impact that NAFTA has had on Mexico, and thereby on us in the USA. What is critical for us to grasp on this side of the Rio Grande River is that NAFTA has had a devastating impact on the Mexican economy. Through forcing the Mexican farmer to compete with USA farmers, rural Mexico’s economy has been turned upside down. The reality is that the Mexican farmer has been unable to compete, and as a result there began - in the mid 1990s - a migration of rural Mexicans into the larger Mexican cities. Finding few job opportunities, the migration moved north toward the USA. This was accompanied by the impact of NAFTA on the Mexican public sector, which also suffered severe body blows, thereby undermining what little social safety net the people of Mexico had. This side of the NAFTA equation is critical to discuss because it helps us understand why hundreds of thousands of Mexicans chose to leave their homes and head north. Contrary to the xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric many of us have heard, it was not because ‘…everyone wants to be in America…’ but rather as a direct result of policies initiated by the USA and their allies in Ottawa and Mexico City. I thought a great deal about this recently when I was moderating a debate on immigration within a labor union. The vehemence of some of the anti-immigrant speakers, including - and very unfortunately - an African American woman, was not only deeply unsettling, but equally lacking in any historical context. While the focus of the anti-immigrant speakers was allegedly undocumented immigrants in general, there was nothing in their language that indicated that they were thinking about Irish, Poles, Russians, or anyone other than Latinos, and most particularly, Mexicans. When confronted with this question of NAFTA they had nothing to say. Interestingly, they could also not explain why they had nothing to say about any other ethnic undocumented worker besides Latinos. It is commonplace in the USA to think in terms of what affects us, and particularly the notion that whatever harms us in the USA must be among the most catastrophic things to affect the planet. Rarely do we stop and think about the actual consequences of the actions of the USA on the rest of the world. Rarer still has been our consideration of how the actions the USA initiates, whether treaties like NAFTA or military actions such as the 1980s Central American wars, end up boomeranging. A real change in the White House would be for the leaders to see beyond the Rio Grande and thereby actually see what is happening here.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

28 comments:

patriot said...

What a BS propaganda piece full of lies. "Anti-immigrant"? Why do you post such garbage full of lies, dee? No one is anti-immigrant. This is about illegal immigration.

There aren't millions of Poles, Irish and Russians here illegally in our country. It is mostly Mexicans, duh!

dianne said...

The article does make a point. The poor, uneducated farmer in Mexico did suffer the effects of NAFTA. Here in the US, the blue collar worker suffered the effects of NAFTA. In both countries it appears to me that the poor got poorer and the rich got richer.

Also, in Mexico, the farmer was used to living poorly to begin with, selling their meager wares to the government but they got nothing else from the government so NAFTA was the last straw for them. In the US, at least the people do have a social support system in the form of unemployment insurance, food stamps, and a variety of social services but that doesn't last forever and as time goes on the effects are more catastrophic.

I think both governments knew very well the effects on the citizens and who it would hurt and who it would help beforehand. I blame them both and I blame both the democrats and the republicans and I don't think any of our presidential candidates will fix it.

Dee said...

My husband and I talked about this at dinner.

Dee said...

Dianne, we both agree with you. NAFTA is negatively impacting the poor in the US and in MX.
We don´t know how to resolve it. It seems we have two choices. We are either going to be a global society or a national society. If we go global (as most businesses are transitioning to be) and we also want lower costs at home (like Target, Walmart, etc) then we have to adapt to the global economy. The manufacturing jobs will go oversees. These workers need to gain other skills. (But then again, what about the older folks like us??) or else get used to scaled down cost of living. We have a more open border policy for our AgJobs since MX in particular is losing their Farms due to NAFTA.

OR

We go national. We lock up our borders. BAN Free Trade. BAN people from buying inexpensive international products, including China or MX made products, Japanese Cars, German or British vehicles, stop manufacturing in China and build a mile high wall keeping everyone out.

I don´t know how we do either one.

patriot said...

dee, what the H has NAFTA to do with the desirability to secure our borders with a wall or any other method? We can trade with other countries while still having a secure border. Sometimes you border on the ridiculous.

Keeping illegals out does not mean keeping free trade out. Are you really that dense?

dianne said...

I don't know, Dee, what the fix is. I'm not smart enough or "in the know" enough about how governments work to know what to do.

I have to point out something else that is having the same type negative effect as NAFTA and that's this ethanol craze.

We have gone crazy over ethanol here in the U.S. Why? Supposedly because of our dependence on foreign oil and to help the energy crisis. What do we do? Convert corn grown for food to corn grown for gasoline. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. Food prices skyrocket for nearly everything we put in our mouth and we learn It costs more to produce a gallon of ethanol than a gallon of gasoline ands doesn't reduce energy consumption. Since we export a lot of food, not only is the price of food in the US going crazy, it is also causing the cost of food to skyrocket globally.
It has become almost a luxury to go to the grocery store for the average person. Food pantries across the country are empty because the government has cut back their allotment due to food costs. People have to spend so much more for food that they cut back on purchases of other items and this in turn hurts the economy.

It's crazy, Dee. My brother-in-law owns several farms in Wisconsin. He told me that he is making a friggin fortune on his corn and he isn't one of those really big integrated corporate farm companies like Cargill who are really making a fortune. And, worse than that, the U.S. government is actually SUBSIDIZING these "farmers" WITH OUR TAX DOLLAR for the very crop that is making them obscenely rich and the rest of us poorer and poorer.

ultima said...

"This side of the NAFTA equation is critical to discuss because it helps us understand why hundreds of thousands of Mexicans chose to leave their homes and head north. Contrary to the xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric many of us have heard, it was not because ‘…everyone wants to be in America…’ but rather as a direct result of policies initiated by the USA and their allies in Ottawa and Mexico City."

This statement has limited validity because "heading Norte" has been going on for many years, especially since the 1986 amnesty, well before NAFTA. In America an illegal can earn many times what he can earn in Latin America. That has to be a strong reason, the one most frequently cited, why they want to be in here.

The so-called xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric is largely correct. The fear of aliens is fully justified from several points of view which I have expressed innumerable times: they represent a threat to our language, culture, quality of life, and standard of living. They cost us dearly in terms of education, social services,aid to dependent children, congestion, and the impact on declining natural resources and the environment. We can always see the truth in this argument when we reduce it to a personal basis with aliens not just moving into our country but moving into our personal spaces and homes. Think of it in that way and the fear of aliens becomes palpable and real. Of course, this is just figuratively speaking but it illustrates the point. No one would stand still for illegal aliens invading their homes so why would anyone want to allow it to happen to our country.

ultima said...

"While the focus of the anti-immigrant speakers was allegedly undocumented immigrants in general, there was nothing in their language that indicated that they were thinking about Irish, Poles, Russians, or anyone other than Latinos, and most particularly, Mexicans."

Perhaps this so-called senior scholar should carefully study the number of illegal Irish, Poles, Russians and others who are here before he leaps to any conclusion about the focus on Latinos. I for one do not discriminate in the way he suggests but he knows as well as anyone that the focus on Latinos is directly related to their numbers and hence their high profile.

Why is it no one among the anti-legals is able to grasp this elementary fact -- it's the numbers, stupid! It's the numbers!

I suppose if we were all as meticulous as Fletcher we would make it clear that we are talking about all the illegals and that when we focus on the Latinos, everyone should understand that means all illegals, regardless of country of origin.

Now, if we talk about legal immigrants, there is a certain merit in limiting those admitted to the ones possessing the skills we need and giving precedence to those who already speak English and who therefore can become contributing citizens sooner.

This kind of article would be more effective if the writer avoided ad hominem terms and focused instead on the real beliefs of the pro-legal crowd:
1. The rule of law, the foundation of all civilized societies.
2. A stable population
3. Sustainable growth
4. Environmental cognizance
5. Quality of life
6. Social costs
7. Cultural costs
8. Language costs

ultima said...

The comments about NAFTA are well-taken but he goes astray when he begins to use pejorative terms to describe those of us who oppose illegal aliens of all kinds and excessive population growth deriving entirely from legal immigrants, illegal aliens and their progeny.

Fletcher could well do some study of the economics of immigration and the limits of growth as natural resources are used up or fully committed.

ultima said...

"The vehemence of some of the anti-immigrant speakers, including - and very unfortunately - an African American woman..."

Why unfortunately? What is Fletcher implying with this aside? Are African Americans supposed to roll over and play dead or should they be incensed by the illegals who take jobs the African American community would like to have? A Black lady in a conference I was in on a similar subject said, "I think of myself as an American first, and a Black second." Fletcher would be well- advised to do likewise rather than to suggest that a Black person has no right to object to illegal aliens. He seems to be saying that if you are black or brown you should be viewing this problem differently than if you are white. In other words, he saying skin color and economic condition should trump all other considerations including the relevant facts about illegal aliens and immigration.

ultima said...

I think where we get off the trolley is when we think only in terms of extremes. What if we said to all our trading partners, "You have x years to get your wage rates and benefits in line with ours. After that period we will reduce imports from your country by y percentage every year until you are in compliance. As we do that we should also begin to reestablish our manufacturing base by subsidizing the construction of modern mechanized plants to produce textiles, steel, etc. Clothing manufacturers would be required via a minimum wage law to make sure that our companies can be competitive.

Free trade has done very little for the U.S. as it obvious from the balance of trade or balance of payments figures. Why would we want to continue down this road if it only results in bankrupting America?

Free trade seems like something that should be an obvious good but when we look as some of the results like the negative impact of NAFTA and the balance of trade, it is time for some additional thought.

It's great to be able to buy goods and services at half price but that simply means that some poor sole abroad is working long hours for a pittance. Is that what America stands for? Shouldn't that be cranked into the free trade argument.

It seems like our leaders are willing to let all of our jobs be outsourced or insourced to foreigners. We are somehow supposed to invent some new jobs to replace the old good paying manufacturing jobs. Does that sound like a winning strategy? A Danish cousin told me that Denmark has no natural resource so it must live by "brain power" alone. That is a difficult task because as we will soon see, countries abroad have recognized that fact and are producing many more engineers and scientists than we are. We will soon lose our edge in technology and new ideas.

patriot said...

Better do something to revive your blog, dee. It is turning into a graveyard. Maybe you should spend more time in here rather than the anti ones that inflame you so much.

Dee said...

Dianne,
Thank you for sharing that info about Ethanol. I heard it drove up prices but I wasn´t sure how. Now I understand why.

I visited my sister and aunt is SA a couple of weeks ago. When I came home one of the gas station pumps said, "Contains 10% Ethanol." It was on all of the gas pumps.

I was curious how this impacts car and fuel effiency. Gas prices go higher and higher, even with ethanol but I was at least hoping to see better mileage. I didn´t.

Dee said...

Ulty,
Looks like you are only forecasting gloom and doom.

If we do not seal our borders and build the 700 mile wall, have we no hope at all?

Should we end NAFTA and Ethanol production as Dianne suggests?

Dee said...

Pat,
Actually many of the Immigration blogs are slow right now.
I´ve been posting on some other Economic and Political boards.
Hey, I was quoted on MSNBC and on CNN the other day. (dont ask)

I did write an earlier post about why there is a slowdown on the Immigration boards. But don´t worry. Now that the secret is out and the new bills are being introduced, all hxxx should break loose within the next week or two.

patriot said...

I haven't noticed a slow down on any forums or blogs that I read and occasionly post in. You claim to read ALIPAC but they are still going strong.

Liquidmicro said...

Ethanol should be ended, Bio-Diesel is much cheaper and can be made from numerous waste oils. Besides most farm equipment and long haul vehicles already run on Diesel Engines that require NO changes to their systems to run Bio-Diesel, however you can also add a small converter to a Diesel engine that will allow it to burn straight used cooking oil with no loss in power or performance of the engine, and it smells good going down the road.

ultima said...

"Ulty,
Looks like you are only forecasting gloom and doom.

If we do not seal our borders and build the 700 mile wall, have we no hope at all?

Should we end NAFTA and Ethanol production as Dianne suggests?"

Regarding forecasting gloom and doom, it's nasty work but someone has to do it. The other side of that coin is rose-colored glasses. The difference maybe a matter of timing. If we do something rather drastic right now, we can avoid my gloom and doom prophecy, at least for a while. No one has been able to explain why gloom and doom is not an accurate forecast if the basic definition of that prophecy is a reduced standard of living for each of us. If you disagree, tell me your rationale. I'm not sure but this may be inevitable no matter what we do because of the exhaustion of natural resources and the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs. Some brighter than I expect we can replace manufacturing jobs with some sort of intellectual jobs but we have no corner on that market any more.

If we do not seal our borders and build a 700 mile fence, our future is to become just another Latin American country with all the same ills, especially overpopulation, joblessness and poverty. If you disagree, can you provide a rationale? I have always said that it will take more than action at the border. Vigorous and regular internal enforcement is essential to border security. Fences won't stop the flow as long as the illegals think they will be home free as soon as they escape the immediate environs of the border.

I didn't say there was no hope at all. There is hope that we will be able to adapt to a lower standard of living like that of Latin America and that maybe, with that eventuality, we will have a domestic labor supply that is so cheap that we can compete with China, India, Bangladesh and all the other countries from whence we import all manner of goods and services.

The production of ethanol is affecting food costs to the tune of double digit increases with no end in sight. Part of those cost increases is also due to the cost of the petroleum products needed to run the farms, transport and package the produce. Picture a situation in which we exit Iraq and the Middle East decides we do not have the staying power to help them in time of need. They then turn inward and decide to cut oil shipments to the U.S. with plenty of other customers in Europe and Asia hungering for their output. That suggests that whatever the cost, we must pursue alternative fuels or our economy will collapse if our Muslim enemies and other like Hugo Chavez decide to put the screws to us. (Read "The Coming Economic Collapse" probably available in your nearest library). Leeb and Strathy have some prescriptions to avoid the collapse but there is little sign of action. Biomass may be another alternate fuel source as suggested by Liquid. The question is can we replace all but our domestic production of petroleum with biomass and corn-based ethanol? That is a huge amount of alternate fuel especially since it does not have the energy content as petroleum.

I believe we should end NAFTA because no one is going to able to modify it sufficiently to offset the damage already done. Fletcher was right in assessing the damage we have done purposely or as a result of collateral damage.

ultima said...

"Hey, I was quoted on MSNBC and on CNN the other day. (dont ask)"

Hey, share the quotes with us!!!!

Dee said...

Liquid,
If ethanol is more expensive, then why are they producing it?
Who is the culprit!

Dee said...

Ulty,

Re: my quotes on MSNBC and CNN, I will email you them if you promise to keep them private. (a little embarrassing given my posts here over the last month or so).

Dee

Liquidmicro said...

The culprits are those that want alternative fuels, its putting monies into their pockets.

Huck said...

Who exactly is "Professor Fletcher" a professor for? From that photo he clearly wants to appear intelligent and professorial, but is he?

Dee said...

Professor Fletcher is highly regarded. As I noted in the blog Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

Dee said...

From his Bio
Born William G. Fletcher, Jr. on June 21, 1954, in New York, NY; son of William G. Fletcher, Sr. and Joan Carter Fletcher; married Candice S. Cason; daughter: Yasmin Jwahir Fletcher
Education: Harvard University, AB, 1976.
Politics: Socialist, black radical.
Memberships: Marine and Shipbuilding Workers Union, 1977-80; Boston Black United Front, 1980-81; Black Radical Congress, national coordinating committee member, 1998-, national co-chair, 2001-; Monthly Review Foundation, director, 2001-; United for Peace and Justice, co-chair, 2002-, national steering committee, 2003-; Popular Economics, advisory board, 2000-.

Dee said...

Life's Work

Bill Fletcher Jr. is a prominent labor movement activist and self-described socialist and black radical. He is an historian of the American labor movement, particularly the role of blacks in the movement. In 2002 he became president of the TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit center that educates and organizes around issues confronting Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Fletcher also is a director of the Monthly Review Foundation, an organizer of the Black Radical Congress, and co-chair of United for Peace and Justice.

Dee said...

Here is his complete bio

http://www.answers.com/topic/bill-fletcher

Anonymous said...

It is a pity, that now I can not express - there is no free time. But I will be released - I will necessarily write that I think on this question.

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