Voters Will Oppose Politicians Who Support “NAFTA-Style” Trade Deals

Dave Johnson

Politicians need to know that the public “gets it.” So-called “trade” deals that were sold with a promise to increase jobs and prosperity have instead sent jobs out of the country and forced wages down. People get it.

Ask people what they think of NAFTA and you’ll learn that people get it. “NAFTA” is a catch-all phrase for these deals, like opening up trade with China in 2000, the recent Korea deal and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All of these deals were and are designed to give the owners of giant corporations more power over the ability of We the People to demand fair pay, safe and reasonable working conditions and a clean environment.

People absolutely hate “NAFTA-style” trade deals. People are voting based on this — when given the chance. For example, the Senate Majority PAC is running an ad targeting Mitch McConnell for his support of “free trade” agreements that send jobs out of the country and force down the wages of the jobs that are still here.

A radio ad from “Bluegrass Rural” also goes after McConnell for supporting these trade deals. Here’s the script:

In 1993 Mitch McConnell voted for NAFTA. But from 2004 to 2011 Kentucky lost more than 67,000 manufacturing jobs. In 2000 McConnell voted for Most Favored Nation status for China. But between 2001 and 2011 Kentucky had 35,700 net jobs displaced by trade with China, a country that artificially devalues their currency to gain an unfair advantage over US farmers and manufacturers. McConnell voted for a trade deal with Korea in 2011 promising more exports of Kentucky bourbon and farm products. But instead we’re importing more Kias and Hyundais and our state is on pace to lose more than 76,000 jobs. And McConnell rubs salt in workers’ wounds when he votes to cut or eliminate trade adjustment assistance so those whose jobs have gone overseas can’t get reemployment help.

In last month’s post, Dems Should Campaign On Trade And Jobs, Not On Being Like Republicans I pointed out that the polling overwhelmingly shows that the public “gets it” that these “trade” agreements have been used to send jobs out of the country and force wages down.

The Populist Majority website populistmajority.org has several polls that show a path to election victory that uses trade and manufacturing:

  • 65% consider outsourcing, rather than a potential shortage of skilled workers, as the reason for a lack of new manufacturing jobs.
  • 73% favor offering companies a tax break for every job they bring from overseas to the US. (Republicans filibustered this in July.)
  • 72% believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership will help large corporations, while 64% think it will hurt America’s small businesses.
  • 79% support enforcing trade agreements.
  • 79% cracking down on unfairly subsidized imports.
  • 77% support tax incentives for manufacturer investments. (Republicans filibustered this in July.)
  • 84% support a concerted plan to make sure that economic, tax, education and trade policies in this country work together to help support manufacturing.
  • 60% say the US needs to “get tough” with countries like China in order to halt unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation, which will keep undermining our economy.
  • 71% support increasing government investment to build and repair roads, bridges, high-speed rail, smart electric grid technology and other infrastructure needs.

A 2012 poll found absolutely overwhelming opposition to these trade agreements

A May 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found that U.S. respondents who believe that the United States should “renegotiate” or “leave” NAFTA outnumbered by nearly 4-to-1 those that say the country should “continue to be a member” (53 vs. 15 percent). Support for the “leave” or “renegotiate” positions dominated among Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike. Just 1 in 3 U.S. respondents thought that NAFTA benefitted the overall U.S. economy, and only 1 in 4 saw the pact as having benefitted U.S. workers.

Savvy political insiders have a word for poll results like this: they are called “clues.”

Politicians need to get a clue: people hate “NAFTA” — meaning all of these deals designed to give the biggest corporations power over governments — and they will vote out people who vote to let these deals pass.

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