Trade is again an issue in a midwestern primary state. The Wisconsin primary is Tuesday and Senator Bernie Sanders is pounding on his opposition to trade deals that have closed factories and cost jobs. A new poll shows this could be his path to success with voters.
Trade A Major Issue In 2016 Campaign
The New York Times on Tuesday explained that trade has become a major issue in the 2016 campaign, in "Simmering for Decades, Anger About Trade Boils Over in ’16 Election":
Anger about unbalanced trade has helped to fuel the rise of Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner, and the success of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in his bid for the Democratic nomination. The manifest anger also has pushed their principal rivals, Republican Senator Ted Cruz and the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, to toughen their own trade rhetoric.
The Times interviewed several people to get an idea why people feel trade deals have hurt jobs and wages. For example:
Kevin White, a 47-year-old Democrat from Dayton, Ohio, said it was hard to find a job. He used to work at a hospital; now he gets federal disability payments.
“The jobs went overseas,” lamented Mr. White. “Then people couldn’t afford their mortgages and we had a crash and nobody was able to buy anything.”
Why has trade become such an issue? The Times explains:
Between 2000 and 2011, imports from China grew to equal 2.6 percent of American economic output, up from around 1 percent. That “unprecedented shock” was much larger than that from the increase in Japanese imports in the 1980s or Mexican imports in the 1990s ... China’s rise, fueled in part by currency manipulation to make its exports cheaper, played a key role in the loss of roughly five million American manufacturing jobs.
Those losses, however, were offset and obscured during the housing boom by a rise in construction jobs. Now, both the factory jobs and the construction jobs have gone away.
The whole time, elite media and "economists" kept explaining that this was good for U.S. workers because it meant lower prices for consumer goods. The euphoria of cheap imports has finally worn off and people are looking around at the results – the devastation of cities like Detroit and Flint and entire regions, and the stagnation of wages and lack of good-paying jobs that enable people to keep up.
The Times article itself demonstrates how elite media and "economists" explain how moving jobs out of the country is good for us even as people can see that it is not, writing:
Mainstream economists regard the evidence as unequivocal that trade has produced significant benefits for the American economy and the average household.
Yet much of the American public has long been skeptical. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 61 percent of respondents favored more trade restrictions to protect domestic industry, just as a majority of respondents has favored increased restrictions in every such poll since 1988.
Sanders Using Trade In Wisconsin
Speaking at rallies in Wisconsin Sanders is telling audiences that trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China (PNTR) have helped close almost 60,000 factories and cost 4.7 million manufacturing jobs just since 2001. Wisconsin lost more than 113,000 jobs to free trade in that period.
Sanders had success talking about trade issues in Michigan, winning in a come-from-behind upset after talking about the effect NAFTA, PNTR and other "free trade" deals have had on jobs and wages in the once-industrial state.
A Wednesday Times Upshot column," Bernie Sanders, Buoyed by Poll, Sprints Through Wisconsin" explains,
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spent Wednesday crisscrossing Wisconsin, hosting events in three cities and arguing that his stances on trade deals, campaign finance and foreign policy make him a stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton.
[. . .] he took aim at Mrs. Clinton for her stances on trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement and cast himself as the best person to protect American workers from companies who would rather employ lower-paid workers abroad.
“Over the last 30, 40 years, we have had trade policies in this country written by corporate America, and what they have been designed to do is to allow companies to shut down plants in Vermont, in Wisconsin and all over this country because they don’t want to pay workers here $15, $20, $25 an hour,” Mr. Sanders said. “They don’t want to pay them a living wage. They don’t want to protect environmental rules. They don’t want to deal with unions. They’d rather move to Mexico or China, pay people pennies an hour.”
Speaking at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Sanders said, "Over the last 35 years, we have had trade policies written by corporate America designed to allow companies to shut down plants in Wisconsin and Vermont and all over this country. They’d rather move to Mexico and pay people pennies an hour."
For example, in 2008, General Motors closed a Janesville, Wis., plant, killing 2,800 jobs. It moved the production to Silao, Mexico. Workers at that plant are paid one-tenth of what the workers in Janesville made. Chrysler closed the Kenosha Engine Plant and cut 800 decent-paying jobs, opening a plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
Other companies moving production from Wisconsin to Mexico include Johnson Controls, Strattec Security and Briggs & Stratton. Briggs & Stratton was Wisconsin’s largest private employer, with 11,000 manufacturing workers. It moved plants to Mexico and China and now has about 2,500 workers in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Poll: Voters Worried About Manufacturing Job Losses
A new poll shows that a focus on trade provides fertile ground for harvesting voters. Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch explains at the Alliance for American Manufacturing's (AAM) Manufacture This blog, in "Wisconsin Voters Worried About the Income Gap and Manufacturing Job Losses, New Poll Finds":
A new statewide poll in the Badger State finds that respondents are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the shrinking middle class. Wisconsin voters also are concerned about our relationship with China, with one participant noting that Chinese officials "under evaluate what their currency is worth, what our debts are worth. It's not doing us any favors."
[. . .] Nearly half of poll respondents cited jobs being shipped overseas as the biggest reason for manufacturing job loss, including 50 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans.
Wisconsin residents favor an array of pro-manufacturing public policies, including expanding apprenticeships buying American whenever taxpayer money is spent, and investing in rebuilding our infrastructure. Participants also favor getting tough with China, including by addressing currency manipulation.
Interestingly, Brotherton-Bunch notes that Clinton, not Sanders, might see a net gain from these concerns:
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is seen as the candidate who would do some work to help create American manufacturing jobs (by 56 percent of participants) and enforce fair trade (51 percent). Clinton's statements on trade and jobs were viewed as the most net-favorable.
Note that the poll was taken before Sanders began his state campaign focusing on trade. However, campaigning in Ohio, Clinton for the first time went beyond only a statement of not supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership to more actively talking about its potential to move jobs out of the country.
Other notable findings from the poll:
• Wisconsin Voters See Manufacturing As The Critical Centerpiece Of Our Economy And Believe Jobs Moving Overseas Is A Significant Threat
• Support For American Manufacturing & Manufacturers Is Nearly Universal
• Wisconsinites Favor An Array Of Pro-Manufacturing Steps Including Expanding Apprenticeships And Buying American When Taxpayers’ Money is Spent, As Well As Reducing Government Spending
• While Voters Don’t Hear Candidates Discussing These Issues, Clinton & Trump Are Perceived As Strongest On Manufacturing And Trade