Thursday, April 30, 2015
Thoughts on "Free Trade" - Why Should a Postal Worker Care?
By Mel Carriere
I was absent from the Tsunami for a few days because I got caught up in a three day running battle with a CCA in Wisconsin over the subject of "Free Trade," and that sometimes frustrating and often aggravating exchange distracted me from my blogging duties here. That young man from the badger state tends to think the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a great economic boon for all parties, and he bases this conclusion on economic studies that he probably pulled from a textbook somewhere. This old codger living in The Golden State, on the other hand, cites the textbook of experience in opposing the TPP as a bad deal that will siphon away whatever few manufacturing jobs are left in our country and probably have a negative effect on wage levels. I don't think the treaty will be good for our trading partners either, as it tends to favor huge multinational corporations at the expense of middle class small businessmen.
The reason I draw these conclusions is because I live a stone's throw away from Tijuana, Mexico, so I have seen the effects of these deals up close and personally. The photo you see here of the hills of Tijuana somewhat approximates the view I have when I drive to work every morning. The spectacle is deceptively impressive; those hills seem to be bustling with energy and prosperity, but you don't have to go too far across the border into the real TJ to see complete poverty and hopelessness. A fair share of Mexico's economic woes are the result of another "free trade" pact, this being the North American Free Trade Agreement that was enacted on January 1, 1994.
I put "free trade" in quotes because I think the term is a misnomer, a dangerous misrepresentation that disguises the real intentions of the powers that push these accords into existence. Free trade in itself sounds like a really swell thing after all, doesn't it? It implies that I provide a good and service for you and in return you give me fair value for that product. But these free trade deals don't appear to provide fair value for 99% of the citizens effected by them. They tend to be a heavily lopsided load that tilts precariously in favor of corporations, while working people on both sides of the border or the ocean or whatever geographic feature separates the signatories get run over by the spinning wheels of the ugly contraption.
According to the CCA in Wisconsin I am not supposed to use anecdotal evidence, but anecdotes provide the tempering wisdom of experience and are what makes an old codger like me look upon the textbook evidence used by supporters of the TTP, NAFTA and other similar accords with a cynical eye. We the working men and women of America have basically sold our birthrights for a pot of beans by being seduced into supporting these cleverly worded compacts. For the last twenty years politicians on both sides of the aisle have been telling us how fine and dandy they are, and meanwhile practically all of the living wage manufacturing jobs have departed for cheaper shores and our children are left with the prospect of subsistence wages at Wal Mart and McDonalds. These free trade deals are no good for our "trading" partners either. I have family in Mexico, and I have heard the woeful tales about the financial devastation that took place among Mexican small businessmen who couldn't compete with Costco and Home Depot and other Yankee brand names that popped up in Tijuana after NAFTA was implemented. Yes this story is an anecdote, I don't have any clever statistics to support it, but this anecdote is supported by the fact that desperate Mexican citizens have increasingly turned to organized crime as the only way to make a living; and coincidental or not the rise of the Mexican narco economy seems to have run in lock step with the implementation of NAFTA.
I know we as Postal Workers all expected great things from President Barack Obama, and I know some of you still cling to your faith in this man as tenaciously as that angry pit bull clings to the leg of your postal trousers, but I think it's time to look reality in the eye and say that he has disappointed us on this and other issues. First he crawled into bed with the Postmaster General over the question of 6 day delivery, and now he has jumped beneath the covers with the Corporate henchmen on the right who are the only ones who will benefit from so-called "free trade." Luckily there are still voices of reason out there defending American jobs; Elizabeth Warren and Martin O'Malley from Maryland being among them. But the coronation of Hillary as the Democratic candidate seems to be all but complete, and if past performance of the Clintons in the arena of "free trade" is an indicator of future results, then I am afraid the American worker could be in trouble.
So why should the American Postal worker care? In the first place, most of us have children, and the job prospects for our maturing children seem to be increasingly bleak. "Stay in school!" we preach to them, and we bust our butts working overtime to help them get through college, thinking that will be an automatic ticket to their prosperous future. Then after so many hours working with a sweating brow and aching bones we are faced with the harsh reality of "degree inflation," meaning that the value of a college degree has gone down because basically everybody is going to school. It turns out that not all college degrees are created equal, but there are no good paying manufacturing jobs to pick up the refugees who didn't get the return on the fat University buck that they expected.
Cheap wages from the Wal-Mart economy also reduce the bargaining power of our Unions. There are plenty of struggling employees dissatisfied with Wal Mart's magnanimous wage increase to $9 dollars an hour who will gladly trade it for the relatively robust $15 an hour offered to the entry level Postal employee. Lots of people working for slave wages also means that there is less disposable income out there; resulting in less to spend online ordering goods from Amazon and other distributors, leading to less Postal Revenue and more fuel for the Postmaster to scream "Poverty!" as a justification to keep our wages stagnant.
Maybe it is time to hold our politicians' feet to the fire. Blind faith in our so-called champions is leading Postal employees and the country at large down the path to third world status, the same bleak horizon that confronts me from across the border every day.
Read about more anti-postal creeps to watch for on Mel's Hub Pages account
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Image from: http://www.sandiegored.com/noticias/26254/Tijuana-most-hated-city-in-the-world/