, Salem, MA


March 29, 2014

Column: NAFTA, 20 years later

With major trade issues on the agenda in Washington, D.C., and the “powers that be” celebrating the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, I thought now would be a good time to explore the ways NAFTA has helped the American economy and the everyday American worker. NAFTA was originally conceived by George H.W. Bush and was signed into law by Bill Clinton.

The initial promise was that NAFTA was to create 200,000 new jobs in the United States and enhance the opportunities for new trade with Canada and Mexico, our biggest international trade partners. There was a debate on CNN just before the bill was signed, featuring Vice President Al Gore and billionaire Ross Perot, which painted a picture of a fantastic opportunity to increase exports from the U.S. to our two top trading partners, and to increase the number of jobs in the United States and incentify U.S. corporate investment domestically.

Perot countered that Americans would recognize “the giant, sucking sound of jobs leaving America,” due to the 7-1 differential in wages and benefits between the U.S. and Mexico, with the U.S. government offering tax advantages for the creation of jobs abroad. Sarcastically, Perot added, “And there is a tooth fairy, and there is an Easter bunny.” He pointed out that Gore’s political point of view was directly opposed to his own (Perot’s), the real business point of view.

The financial incentives over the past 20 years in this off-shoring environment have NAFTA-involved corporations paying little or no taxes. The American taxpayer is paying corporations for every job created by NAFTA outside American borders. To be clear, the 200,000 domestic jobs never materialized. Since NAFTA, over the last 20 years, 40,000 U.S. factories have dissolved, and a million U.S. jobs have disappeared. A million middle-class jobs have evaporated under NAFTA, each job representing a family. Each family formerly paid local, state and federal taxes. They also contributed to the American economy, which was the American way of life.

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