A clear path forward for the United States

With a recession that is persistent, the United States must take bold action to prevent a permanent decline in the American standard of living.

Paul Schwietering

First and foremost, we must rebuild our infrastructure of roads, bridges, sewage systems, railroads, airports and our electric grid. All of the aforementioned items have received a Grade “D” or “D-” from civil engineers.

Rebuilding infrastructure at a time of high unemployment will have the additional advantage of improving the economy by increasing the demand for goods and services.

Next, we should abrogate all trade agreements with Third World nations and announce our withdrawal from the WTO. These trade agreements further impoverish the poor in the Third World while costing America manufacturing jobs. The only beneficiaries of these trade agreements are wealthy investors in the Third World and the United States. Look at what happened with NAFTA, for example. American corporations moved jobs to the “Maquiladora” section of Mexico (along the U.S. border), where they were exempted from paying the Mexican minimum wage.

The Mexican government allowed them to pay a lower minimum wage than was legal everywhere else in Mexico. The workers in Mexico were cheated out of a just wage, American workers lost their jobs and wealthy investors in both countries were laughing all the way to the bank.

The American farmer, to his credit, is the most efficient and productive farmer in the world. NAFTA sent American corn down to Mexico for small subsistence Mexican farmers to try to compete with. Very shortly a few million subsistence farmers lost their land and were farmers no more. They went to the cities of Mexico looking for work, but with Mexico having a chronic unemployment rate of 30 percent, most didn’t find work there. Want to guess where they went to find jobs?

Although I voted for Bill Clinton twice, there were some things he did during his administration that I disagreed with vehemently, and NAFTA was one of them. It takes a big man to admit a mistake, and a couple of years ago Bill Clinton went around the country saying that NAFTA was a mistake and that he now regrets signing it. When will all the others who supported or voted for NAFTA do the right thing and admit it was wrong?

The scenario that played out with NAFTA in Mexico in the 1990’s has repeated itself over the last decade with Most Favored Nation trade status for China. The main difference is that when NAFTA was enacted, Mexicans were making $.47 an hour. When Most Favored Nation trade status was enacted for China, the Chinese were making $.11 an hour. It is ridiculous on the face of it to expect nations where the vast majority of the population (80 percent – 90 percent) makes less in a week than an American makes in an hour to be able to buy American-made goods in any appreciable quantity. Probably about two thirds of our “trading partners” involved in these treaties over the past two decades fall into this category.

During the administration of George Bush, Jr., America lost one third of its remaining manufacturing jobs. America now has 10 percent of the manufacturing jobs it had in 1970. It is not possible to have a healthy national economy without a sufficient manufacturing base, and hasn’t been for over a century.

These “trade agreements” are not really about trade. They are about moving American machinery out of the U.S. and operating it at starvation wages and then bringing the finished products back into the United States without paying tariffs. The working class in both countries gets cheated so that wealthy investors in both countries can get even richer. These people who talk about “free trade” are really talking about a transfer of income from the working class to the wealthiest Americans.

No other developed nation has been so foolhardy with its manufacturing base as the U.S. has been. Germany, whom we defeated in World War II, now has a higher standard of living than the United States. They have factories all over the world (including the United States) and yet still maintain a large manufacturing base in Germany. Perhaps we should study how they do it.

Paul Schwietering is a resident of Union Township.