There have been a lot of allegations of “class warfare” lately. Republicans screamed it when President Obama proposed a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans as part of the way to pay for his jobs plan. But the same Republicans who are quick to use the term “class warfare” against anything that affects the rich. They are largely silent when it comes to policies that target the middle and working class, namely free trade agreements.
Free trade agreements may not be intended to be class warfare, but they have had the effect of further enriching the wealthiest members of our country while driving many previously middle class citizens into subsistence level service jobs. These agreements weren’t put into place by an outcry from a public begging for more trade, and they certainly haven’t been maintained because of it. These agreements, which include NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO, have been put into place because powerful moneyed interests have pushed for them. Most Americans now oppose NAFTA-like free trade agreements, but three more were approved at the end of last year, and are waiting to be implemented.
When the wealthy are taxed at a higher rate, critics say that the higher taxeshurt job creators. Free trade agreements have the opposite effect. They allow the job creators to move those jobs overseas, leaving much larger numbers of Americans struggling to find a decent job. Meanwhile, those “job creators” use their increased profits to perpetuate the system that allows them to do this. They do this through making campaign contributions, hiring lobbyists and promising politicians cushy private sector jobs after they leave office. This kind of influence has pushed our country toward bad policies again and again.
With many billionaires paying a smaller percentage in taxes than their middle class counterparts, failing to raise their taxes would be an offense against lower income individuals. The outcry shouldn’t be about hurting job creators; it should be about rewarding job destroyers with new free trade agreements. The trade agreements we already have in place have destroyed the middle class, devastated communities, and helped deflate a once-powerful manufacturing base.