Posts Tagged ‘NAFTA’


(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


As I write, fivethirtyeight gives Hillary Clinton a 64.4% chance of winning the election. This of course means that they assign Donald Trump a better than one-in-three chance of winning.

In the event that happens, prepare yourself for a slew of articles blaming Green Party and Libertarian Party voters for that horrifying outcome.

In its most naked form the argument runs as follows: “If you don’t vote for Clinton you’re voting for Trump.” Neglecting that something akin to transubstantiation would be required for a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to magically transform to a vote for Trump, those who make this particular argument ignore the fact that a Trump supporter could make essentially the same assertion: “If you’re not voting for Trump, you’re voting for Hillary.” Thus the achievement of perfect symmetry.

So, neglecting that weak attempt to shift blame, if Clinton loses who really would be responsible? Let’s hit only the high points (more realistically, the low points) here:

Neglecting recent history (we’ll get to it shortly), we need to go all the way back to 1972/1973, the years in which real wages peaked. It’s been downhill from there: wages have declined as productivity has approximately doubled, with almost all of the productivity gains going to the top 1%. Democrats have done exactly nothing about this.

In fact, Democratic policies, particularly trade policies, have made the situation worse. NAFTA is a case in point. Passed under Bill Clinton, with bipartisan support in Congress, NAFTA resulted in heavy losses of manufacturing jobs in the Rust Belt and at the same time devastated million of Mexican small farmers by opening up their markets to mass importation of cheap, agri-business-produced corn (which directly led to the “immigration crisis” as landless, income-less farmers streamed north due to NAFTA-induced economic desperation).

(Going back even further, bipartisan tax policies allowed [and still allow] corporations to transfer millions upon millions of American manufacturing jobs overseas, while paying virtually no tax penalties for doing so.)

Then there was Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform,” again passed with bipartisan support, which led to millions upon millions of our poorest citizens being plunged into utter destitution. Combine this with America’s disastrous mass-incarceration policies, and you end up with tens of millions living in utter misery, with little if any hope.

Follow that up with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, once more with bipartisan support, at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and you find the seeds of the Great Recession.

Getting back to Hillary Clinton, consider her cynical vote authorizing the catastrophic 2003 invasion and subsequent war in Iraq, a war which cost approximately 5,000 American lives, perhaps 1,000,000 Iraqi lives, the squandering, at absolute minimum, of at least one trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the creation of ISIS.

Clinton isn’t dumb. Far from it. She had to know that the rationale for the invasion was phony and would at best lead to the loss of thousands of lives. But she voted for it anyway, almost certainly because she calculated that it was to her political advantage to do so.

Flash forward to the Great Recession of 2008,  in which the de-regulated banks (free of Glass-Steagall restrictions) gambled massively with depositors’ funds on CDOs (based on the issuance and aggregation of bad mortgages) and lost damn near everything when the housing market collapsed — until the federal government stepped in and saved them (but not us).

At that point, Barack Obama, the “hope and change” candidate was elected. He was elected in a near-landslide, and had big majorities in both houses of Congress. What did he deliver? A stimulus package that was large enough to keep the economy going, but not large enough to help the over 6,000,000 people who lost their jobs nor the approximately 7,000,000 who lost their homes.

He also delivered a grossly inadequate healthcare program–he didn’t even try for anything better–that left tens of millions uninsured and left the insurance companies and big pharma with their fangs sunk in the public’s jugular.

Beyond that, and the grossly inadequate stimulus package, he delivered virtually nothing to the people who had elected him.

Perhaps most maddeningly, Obama’s “Justice” Department, at the same time it was zealously persecuting whistle blowers, didn’t prosecute any of the top-level banksters responsible for what has justly been called “the greatest financial fraud in world history.” (One single mid-level trader was jailed, and that’s it.)

To put it simply, Obama betrayed the hopes of those who elected him, leading to the Republican takeover of Congress and many, many state governments in 2010, and in part to the formation of the Tea Party. (Racism alone doesn’t explain the rise of the Tea Party; you need to add in Obama’s economic betrayal of those who elected him.)

Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during this time, part and parcel of the Obama Administration. During the time she was Secretary, she gave tacit approval to the coup in Honduras in 2009, was a leading cheerleader for/architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan as to what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow), and also went along, with evident enthusiasm, with Obama’s war on whistle blowers. While she was Secretary of State, she displayed terrible judgment.

Which brings up her use of a private e-mail server. The FBI investigation revealed that she did nothing horrible, but it was a prime example of her hubris and poor judgment — if she wasn’t so hubristic, she’d have realized that should word of the server ever become public, the optics would be terrible.

Fast forward to the primary campaign against Bernie Sanders.

Yes, it was rigged. Over 20% of Clinton’s delegates were “super delegates,” unelected party insiders. Donna Brazile, Clinton ally and interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, fed Clinton debate questions prior to her debates with Bernie Sanders. And previous DNC chair and Clinton ally, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, restricted the number of debates between Clinton and Sanders (thus throwing away tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars of free airtime), and scheduled the debates at times that virtually guaranteed minimal viewership. (This allowed Clinton to capitalize on her name-recognition advantage with low-information voters; because of name recognition, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy would have gotten votes simply because low-information voters recognized their names but couldn’t recall what they were famous for.) Add to that the mountains of corporate and big-donor cash that funded the Clinton superpac and campaign, and it’s fair to say that the primary election was rigged.

And all this to nominate a candidate most of the public disliked or despised –going back years — prior to her nomination. All of the empirical evidence, all of the polling, during the primaries showed that Bernie Sanders was running well ahead of all of the potential Republican candidates, while Clinton was neck and neck with them. The polling also showed that over 50% of the public disliked or despised Clinton, and that her unfavorability ratings had been remarkably high for years.

Clinton’s water carriers chose to ignore, and downplay, all of this evidence while making the bizarre assertion, with no evidence to back it, that Sanders would get beat in the general election because the Republicans would red bait him. And this despite Bernie Sanders having loudly proclaimed for decades that he was a socialist, and his proclaiming it at every stop on the campaign trail. All too many Democrats bought the Clintonistas’ line of b.s., and voted to nominate the candidate most likely to lose.

In a time of widespread disgust with the status quote, the corporate Democrats managed to nominate the status quo candidate par excellence. They were betting the bank that the Republicans would nominate someone even more odious than Clinton, and that they could then extort the public into voting for her.

So, if Clinton loses, who’s to blame? Clinton and her fellow corporate, status quo Democrats, or those who refuse to give in to blackmail, who refuse to vote for Clinton simply because her opponent is even more despicable than she is?