For the last four decades, we have removed more and more restrictions on products manufactured overseas for our markets, and overseas markets have removed more and more restrictions on our agricultural products. And the end result of this so-called “free” trade is that the desperation of the poor has grown even fiercer in Asia, and the ranks of the desperate poor have exploded here in this country.

First of all….. let’s take apart the stupid mantra of “free” trade that even our presumed Democratic politicians are so wedded to. The flowery theory of “free” trade is that across the world, each nation will find some kind of niche that it does better than anyone else, and will sell its unique product or service to the nations of the world, who will in turn sell their unique products or services to other nations. It sounds like something workable, except it isn’t. The premise of “free” trade assumes that all nations have particular strengths, and that the playing field is mostly level among them. This is, of course, a steaming pile that can be smelled for miles; the world is made up of everything from totalitarian states with iron-fisted strongmen to free societies where people are active participants in Government. What that does, from the word “go,” is hand an undeniable advantage to the dictatorial states; in free societies, most of the citizens largely agree on things like the necessity of at least a bare-minimum wage, and most of those citizens also don’t want their air and rivers polluted. In the dictatorships, these things can largely be ignored; wages can be at a sub-minimum level for eons before anything changes, and corporations probably don’t need to worry too much about running clean factories, provided they’ve paid off the right people. So immediately, the people of free societies are trying to engage in a “free” trade with one arm cut off. While it is true that there are some people in the low-wage countries who are going to benefit, their numbers aren’t nearly what the “free” traders would try and have you believe. The vast majority of those 85 cent an hour workers aren’t going to be living in their own houses, or buying their own cars, anytime soon.

Speaking of the low-wage workers in other countries…. a lot of them had no choice to become anything but low-wage workers, thanks to “free” trade. Countries that were largely agricultural signed on to these idiotic pacts, and exposed their family farmers to competition from mechanized behemoths like ADM. When one guy in a combine can do the work of 20 peasants, just how do the peasants compete with the one guy-especially since he’s playing games with the DNA of his crops (and patenting them,) and producing crop yields 4 or 5 times above what those rural peasants are able to produce? The plight of the rural poor in places like China and India has gotten considerably worse as a result of “free” trade, which has led to numerous suicides of farmers who are no longer able to do what their families have done for centuries.

A few countries understand what can happen; Vietnam, of all places, offers a lot of protection to its farmers from the “frankenfoods” of the western conglomerates. What this means is that the Vietnamese will eat, no matter how their trade balances look (or the weather gets elsewhere.) But in far too many other countries worldwide, the rural peasant has been abandoned by Government as surely as Government has abandoned the factory worker in America. And the end-results will surely be a disaster for both sides; Indians will no longer have a domestic agricultural sector that produces much of anything in a few years, leaving countless millions of people vulnerable to starvation if there is so much as one year of bad drought in the US and Europe. On the other side of that coin is the permanent desperate underclass being created here in America, as more and more of us have to compete for fewer and fewer jobs that pay lower and lower wages.

We are a nation with an industrial commons, and we have destroyed it. Nowhere else on Earth has any nation ever so willingly destroyed its own economic infrastructure. It’s gotten so bad that we are now hearing warnings from people like GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Intel founder Andy Grove about the disaster just down the road (Grove is even advocating a restoration of protectionist measures.) We are hearing less and less about how education is the key to everything, because…. it’s not; China is turning out 100,000 engineers every year. Our X-Rays are being read by techs in Bangalore. The “deferral” rule of the Chimpy era is a powerful incentive to most corporations to do as much of this as they can, since they pay no taxes on profits made outside and KEPT outside the US. Many corporations these days are trying to avoid doing even research and development within our borders. That means, of course, that you can have a four star education and still wind up pounding sand-unless you can find a foreign country willing to let you in to work THERE. And, given the graduation rates at Chinese and Indian universities, good luck with that.

The elite 1%, for the most part, don’t give a damn; they are all about money-grubbing and nothing else. They are delighted with things the way they are right now, and they couldn’t care less about the hungry family that may be poking through their trash cans. This Government’s policy of deferring to the top 1% in all matters has created a country that is a hollow shell; we run trade and budget deficits that are unsustainable in the here and now, and likely to only get worse. The prescription for us from the top 1% is, as always, for US to cut back even MORE. This is the mantra of Meg Shitman, Carly Failurina, “Junket John” Boehner, Kland Paul, and most of the rest of the right wing. Sadly, most of the politicians we call “Democrats” are also more or less on this bandwagon, with only a handful of good people willing to stand up and talk about how insane all of this is. The “butler” political class serving the top 1% here insist that if we enact protectionist measures here, more and more people will lose their jobs! They insist that the Depression of the 1930s was aggravated by these measures!

Well…. you know what the deal is. Anyone who looks around RIGHT NOW, after 40 years of “free” trade, knows just how false that stupid argument is. We know who reaps the rewards from “free” trade, and we know who winds up with the pink slip and the cot down at the shelter. We know that the present President’s agitating for even MORE “free” trade is going to amount to the coup de grace shot for the American middle class, should it come to pass. We know, for sure, that their dire warnings about abandoning “free” trade are just so much noise; we can see that for ourselves. But what about the fairy tale about protectionism aggravating the Depression?

The most-often cited act is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.  The Act was on top of other already-high tariffs in the US, and those tariffs had been in place since the turn of the 1920s. According to the classic argument, Smoot-Hawley was supposedly so onerous that it sent the world into the throes of a massive Depression.

There are, of course, problems with this theory, the main problem being that the stock market crash occurred in 1929. In addition, Smoot-Hawley imposed an additional average of about 4% in tariff to imported products. And while Smoot-Hawley most certainly shaved some points off our trade with other nations, there is considerable evidence to suggest that (1.) nobody was going to be able to buy much anyway, and (2.) a lot of people bought domestically produced items that they MIGHT have purchased from foreign nations in the absence of the tariffs. Remember as you read this that there were tariffs of up to 400% on foreign agricultural and textile items ALREADY IN PLACE when Smoot-Hawley was passed. Tariffs that had been in place throughout most of the century.

The “tariff” argument is bullshit. It is bullshit no matter how hard neocon economists try to promote it. The data that they need to prove their point simply does not exist. However, the data needed to prove that the Depression was the result of the underclasses of both Europe and the US getting poorer and poorer while the rich got richer and richer DOES exist. It is a plain and simple fact that any society that allots too much of its wealth to too few people is destined to become an economic basket case; the rich never have, and never will, spend enough money to sustain an economy of any scale. FDR understood this, and the Minimum Wage and Fair Labor Standards Acts set in motion an economic engine that delivered a fair deal to a great many people. What the right wing “free” trade push has been about all along was the potential “free” trade had for acting as a back-door way to get around American wage laws. In that regard, “free” trade has been a spectacular success.

What, then, is to be done? Andy Grove has it right; if we’re going to have any kind of a decent society, we will have to engage in protectionist measures. Third-world countries have long been allowed to do so, until the elites got hyper-greedy; it was once understood that most countries need some kind of an economic base. Well, you know, we STILL do. Long term, our purchase of Chinese products and Saudi oil with money borrowed from the Chinese and Saudis doesn’t do a damned thing for either side; eventually, when the lending stops, we stop purchasing. By then, the Saudis and Chinese will have undoubtedly found themselves new markets with customers who can actually pay for what they’re buying. What will WE find, at the end of the day?

There are several actions that must be taken right now to restore a minimal economic footing for us. The first action we must take is to end our overseas military adventurism, which is being entirely financed by foreign interests. In plain and simple truth, we are spending as much of our GDP on “defense” as North Korea does-and we all know what kind of problems THEY have. How long before we have the same problems?

The second thing that we must do is sit down and determine how much environmental or labor “damage” is being done to produce (or extract) the product. Tariffs then must be imposed on the product to try and make up for the damage being done, both economically and environmentally. The tariffs should be imposed on a sliding scale, meaning that they would go lower as our foreign competitor/partners brought their own countries more towards ours in terms of labor standards and environmental consciousness. In the case of oil, of course, this isn’t going to ever happen, and that’s fine; tariffs on oil must be imposed for the environmental damage done by extraction and use of the products. We will only find ways to be more efficient with our energy resources once this has been done. The proceeds from tariffs can be used to fund research and development RIGHT HERE to find alternatives to the energy sources we have, as well as ways to make cleaner, greener products right here at home. The simple fact of the matter is, Americans are already some of the world’s most efficient producers, and we make products the Chinese simply cannot compete with in any arena except price. Level the price playing field out, and the American product is going to win most every time. And as an added bonus, Asia will either clean up its pollution messes, or lose its markets; I am guessing they’ll opt for the former, which will make it a better world for all of us, no matter where we are.

And last but not least, the patenting of food crops must be brought to an end. There is no way in hell Monsanto ought to be allowed to sue a peasant farmer in Laos out of existence. Let the small farmers all over the world have the opportunity to again do what they’ve done for centuries. It is, in spite of what the MSM tells you, what most of them would prefer to do.

I hope we can start talking less about “free” trade, and start talking more about freeing the desperate masses of the world, both here and abroad. If what I’m seeing all around me are the “benefits” of capitalism, keep it.

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