Friday, October 14, 2011

FTA- Not OK!

By Paul Magno
Finance & Operations Director, Witness for Peace

Last month, the President spent Labor Day in Detroit talking to union workers (and unemployed not-quite workers) about “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Next, he spoke to Congress, and pitched the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as job-producers, applauded by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The other day he didn’t get his jobs bill, but last night he got his FTAs passed, alas. And since it is what he asked for, he’ll likely sign them in a hurry. But you can still let him know it’s not OK with you.

Mention that working people yearning for a secure livelihood are interested in more than embracing the President’s applause lines. And stress that the FTAs won’t do it for them, really, jobs-wise, in the long run.

Implementing these agreements will have quite predictable and destructive consequences, opposite their advertised benefits

The apparent promise of jobs in the FTAs is seductive on the surface, but belied by the riptide underneath . . . jobs out over time to the bottom-wage third world, and misery and social destabilization with them. Because also going out are US agribusiness exports that undercut local crops and local economies, and people who have been reliant on their land for generations have neither cash nor food for their families.

Eventually the refugees from that chaos pour into the imperial metropolis, aggravating the tea-party/nativists and copping low wage jobs here, undermining the good jobs at good wages profile here too. Immigration from Mexico (with or without papers) is five times higher now than it was before the advent of NAFTA in 1994 because people are destitute and starving, and naturally follow the money that’s been siphoned from their localities back to US-land.

A bible story is illustrative. Jesus watches a widow pay her temple tax with the last coin she has. Traditionally we are told that her faith is admirable because she gives everything she has to the collection plate and that “Jesus was deeply moved.” A closer look and accurate translation: Jesus sees the Pharisees writing eligibility rules for the temple that allow well off folks to easily afford a seemingly small fee to enter and participate in its life. But the widow, to enter the holy place, is compelled to fork over her last dollar. She will feed her children, how? Or pay her landlord, how? Jesus observes and understands the lopsided imbalance written into law by the powers that be, and thus he is “shaking with rage” when he turns to his disciples to illuminate the meaning of the episode. An ungodly rip-off of the already poor in the name of religion. Outrageous!

Thus it is with these agreements. On the altar of Free Trade, we enable the wealthy to enhance their abundant coffers, and compound the poverty of those already living hand-to-mouth in the first place. Obscene!

There are scads of good reasons people all over the country are in the streets, occupying everywhere. What is being done with the FTA schemes is typical. The FTAs work for big business and its profitability, but rob laborers & farmers and their families at either end of the hemisphere of livelihoods, dignity and hope. Are we shaking with rage yet?

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