David Bonior, former Dem Congressman from Michigan, takes to the NY Times to decry Obama's push for expanded free trade authority. Why? Because free trade costs America jobs and increases income inequality:
Obama’s Free-Trade Conundrum
By DAVID E. BONIOR
WASHINGTON — IN his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama focused on reversing the growth of economic inequality in the United States and restoring the American dream. At the same time, he also announced his support for fast track authority that would limit Congress’s role in determining the content of trade agreements.
...But Mr. Obama’s desire for fast-track authority on the T.P.P. and other agreements clashes with another priority in his speech: reducing income inequality.
This month is the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which significantly eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers across the continent and has been used as a model for the T.P.P. Anyone looking for evidence on what this new agreement will do to income inequality in America needs to consider Nafta’s 20-year record.While many analysts focus on the number of jobs lost from Nafta and similar pacts — and some estimates say upward of a million — the most significant effect has been a fundamental change in the composition of jobs available to the 63 percent of American workers without a college degree.
The result is downward pressure on middle-class wages as manufacturing workers are forced to compete with imports made by poorly paid workers abroad. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two out of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 saw wage reductions, most losing more than 20 percent.
The shift in employment from high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-paying service jobs has contributed to overall wage stagnation. The average American wage has grown less than 1 percent annually in real terms since Nafta, even as productivity grew three times faster.
But the decline in the wages of workers who lost a job to Nafta is only part of the story. They joined the glut of workers competing for low-skill jobs that cannot be done offshore in industries like hospitality and food service, forcing down real wages in these sectors as well.
Even Paul Krugman has touched this progressive third rail and admitted that waving in unskilled workers from abroad depresses the wages of the native unskilled. It does improve the lives of the non-natives, and that ought to count for something in the moral calculus, but similar issues arise when discussing NAFTA.
But in DemWorld it is "free trade"=bad, "more unskilled workers"=good. A baffling contradiction! Of course, the unskilled workers finding jobs abroad can't vote Democratic here.