Trade's Impact on the Profits and Losses for American Workers

Trade's Impact on the Profits and Losses for American Workers

Pamela Hampton-Garland (University of the District of Columbia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3843-1.ch003
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Trade was a unifying topic for the Republican elected U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Many of his supporters believed trade deals like NAFTA had destroyed the quality of life they lived before their manufacturing jobs were sent to Mexico, China and other countries where the jobs could be performed for much lower wages. This chapter will uncover misinformation about trade and the Trump revolutionaries who voted for him. In addition to challenging the assumptions of trades impact on job losses and the campaign promise by candidate Trump to bring those jobs back, this chapter will explore who the voters were, why they voted for Trump and what can be done now to create skilled workers for viable jobs.
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The American dream, what is it and is it really in every American’s reach? The 2016 election campaign season revealed that many Americans lost faith that the American dream would ever be realized by maintaining the status quo and thusly revolted. Is the American Dream of today as it was when James Truslow Adams coined the phrase in 1931 in his book “The Epic of America”?

But there has also been the American dream, a dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position (Adams, 1931, Pg. 404).

The impact of globalization on America’s margins reached its boiling point more than a decade ago. However, hopelessness gave way to hopefulness when among a sea of blue suits, red ties and plausible deniability rhetoric presidential candidates stood a brash and unfiltered candidate who l may have appeared like the others, but unlike the others gave voice to the “forgotten” electorate. Those “forgotten Americans” (Nixon, 1969) started to emerge and become vocal when North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)1 was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton on December 8, 1993. In just over 10 years the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) which is an expansion of NAFTA to five Central American nations (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua), and the Dominican Republic was signed by President George W. Bush on August 2, 2005. However, President Donald Trump as his first executive order scrapped the most recent trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTPA) the day he entered office on January 23, 2017. His decision was in response to his constituents screams that their jobs were being performed by low wageworkers in foreign countries, or automated machines that made workers obsolete. They believed that something had gone terribly wrong and millions of forgotten Americans (Nixon, 1969) believed the America they knew and loved was slipping away. They worry about their children’s future in an America where there are fewer opportunities for hardworking American men and women. Out of the traditions of Republican values Donald Trump emerged as an unlikely candidate who vowed to address their needs. The forgotten Americans were stunned that Donald Trump didn’t create multiple innovative excuses and believed his offensive, not politically correct, and non-politicized language was a breath of fresh air. The forgotten Americans’ rally cry started out quietly and many political leaders discounted the growing mass of people who were labeled as “uneducated”, backwoods, or as “deplorables” (Murdock, 2016).

On September 9, 2016, Secretary Clinton addressed donors and stated “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right?” She went on to say “They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it” (Murdock, 2016). Slowly and with ever increasing momentum their mass protests could no longer be ignored by the global community. The forgotten Americans remained involved in the process and voted in record numbers in the rural parts of the Rust Belt states2 and the Sun Belt3. The forgotten Americans really are not traditionally active participants in the political process, but in 2016, their involvement in the political process was unprecedented (Malone, 2016). Many Trump supporters appeared to believe that a vote for the republican candidate was the best opportunity to return to the America they once knew.

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