Single-paragraph NAFTA primer!


The assertions no voter heard:
Six weeks back, Kevin Drum said that, contrary to conventional wisdom, 2016 was "the most policy-heavy election in decades."

He meant that the candidates, including Trump, had made a lot of policy proposals. Building a 20-foot wall along the southern border to keep Mexican immigrants out? That's a policy proposal, Drum correctly said.

(So is building a 30-foot wall along the northern border to keep potential migrants to Canada in. Based on recent events, Trump may have to build that northern wall first. East Berlin, here we come!)

One week before Election Day, Drum offered a clarifying post. Again correctly, he noted that policy proposals had received very little coverage on network nightly news shows.

Truth to tell, policy matters were barely part of this year's coverage at all. Consider Drum's all-new post about NAFTA.

Will President Trump take action on NAFTA? Drum includes a single-paragraph primer on the noxious trade deal:
DRUM (11/16/16): Trump almost has to do something, considering how central NAFTA was to his campaign. But in the real world, there's not much upside. The OECD estimates that NAFTA had essentially no effect on employment, and the International Trade Commission estimates that it had essentially no effect on wages. So withdrawing wouldn't do any good for all those working-class folks Trump appealed to, but it would cause plenty of upheaval for businesses that are tightly integrated with their Mexican supply chains.
For starters, Drum is right. Demon NAFTA played a key role in Trump's bumptious campaign. Endlessly, his supporters heard all about the trade deal's demon effects.

Now consider a question:

How many voters of any stripe ever heard anyone advance the highlighted claims from Drum's post? How many voters ever heard it said "that NAFTA had essentially no effect on employment?"

How many ever heard it said "that [NAFTA] had essentially no effect on wages?"

Your answers: no one ever heard such things said. Very few voters for Clinton or Trump ever heard such propositions advanced, discussed or debated.

Let's focus on voters for Trump. As we do, let's think about Cal professor Arlie Russell Hochschild and her suggestions about building conversational forums between voters from different "enclaves." (More on her ideas tomorrow.)

Why is it that no Trump voter ever heard those propositions expressed? Why is it that no Trump voter ever heard it said that NAFTA had essentially no effect on employment and essentially no effect on wages?

In part, the answer is this: We the liberals make little attempt to communicate with Those People. We're full of explanations about how litle good it would do.

Do you mind if we make an obvious point? We're lazy and useless and nobody likes us! Add the word arrogant to the mix, and you're drawing a family portrait of our self-impressed floundering tribe.

In truth, we liberals just aren't real impressive. Unless you hear the story from us, in which case we're God's chosen people.

Hochschild wants to speak with The Others. Why would anyone want to do that when we can insult Them instead?


  1. Somerby assumes that Trump voters never got the word about NAFTA. Of course they did, and they dismissed it out of hand as untrue. Those of us who have labored in the trenches during the campaign told Trump voters (among our friends and relatives) all this stuff. We told them that immigrants are good for the economy. We told them that minimum wage increases don't cost jobs. We told them that Obamacare wouldn't put small businesses in bankruptcy. We tell them all this stuff over and over. They don't hear it because it isn't what is said at the rallies and on their websites and at their cable news and radio shows.

    We're not lazy or arrogant. We're frustrated because Trump supporters have their own set of facts and they ignore objective reality.

    What on earth makes you or Hochschild think we have not tried to talk to The Others? Of course we have. It doesn't do any good. And yes, I blame them for that.

    1. Anon 4:34, though what you say is true, you didn't get this information from the MSM or cable news. You got it by reading books and blogs centered around economics and fact-checking, sources most people don't use.
      When people are told 100 time by media sources one factoid, and a fact once by an unknown source or acquaintence, who will they believe?
      BTW. Many liberals believe that low education, white, male means ignorant, racist, and sexist. No other interpretation is permitted. Talk about dog whistles!

    2. I'm sorry but I will definitely call low education, white, rural males ignorant if they insist they are "invisible" and "left-behind" by a federal government which provides WAY MORE federally-funded programs to them then the federal government receives in revenue from them.
      And I'll definitely call them bigots if they insist the bulk of financial outlays are going to minorities and not them.
      As President-elect might say, and others are good people.

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  2. Somerby has a severe case of Drum worship. In the post before the NAFTA one, Drum discusses the surge in interest in IUDs, and says:

    "I suppose there's no harm in this. Long-acting birth control is generally a good idea, and IUDs are an excellent choice for many women. Still, don't be like the gun nuts. It's possible that Trump could take executive action that rolls back birth control to the dark ages of 2013, but that's about it. And he hasn't given any indication that he even wants to do that."

    Drum entirely misses the point. Women want to replace their current IUD because it must be done periodically and it will almost certainly be more expensive to do it later if Trump stops covering women's health services. Obamacare made contraceptives free. They are plenty expensive if women must pay for them out-of-pocket. An IUD would make that monthly prescription unnecessary, saving money.

    Drum shouldn't be so quick to dismiss women's financial concerns and he is downright offensive when he equates this planning ahead to the anxieties that cause people to buy guns. Women remember when they had to pay for their contraception because it wasn't that long ago.

    Kevin Drum is being a jerk and Somerby is wrong to idolize him. He doesn't get it because he is not female. I am sure this inadvertent sexism is not hostile, but that doesn't make it any less stupid.

    This is why men shouldn't write about women's issues, unless they have a female friend review their drafts before publishing them. This is also why we need women in office, and it is why Hillary's loss is felt more acutely by women, whether they voted for her or not.

    1. Um, I am a man, so please take my comment with that caveat: I didn't think Drum was dismissive, or being a 'jerk'. ... maybe you have a point, re his being a bit tone-deaf; as a man, I will not judge you on that.

      But, regarding Bob's supposed Drum worship: Somerby obviously mostly respects Drum; but to characterize that as 'worship', ib thus post or anywhere else, is way over-the-top.

    2. Drum implied that women were behaving like hysterical gun buyers instead of making a money-based decision. He did that because he is ignorant of the realities of women's health care.

      My point is that women need to be more visible on the internet and in politics because men sometimes seem clueless about the realities of their lives.

      It is never a good idea to imply that women are hysterical -- it makes you a huge throwback.

  3. "Nafta had no effect on employment" lacks context. It is useless by itself as an argument against the view that it affected the jobs the Trump Democrats lost and want back.

    1. "NAFTA had no effect on employment" is a generalization across the job market. Obviously there will be people losing and gaining jobs due to NAFTA that are affected as individuals. It will certainly matter to them whether they have lost or gained a job. The statement is about whether the US has gained or lost employment as a whole. There are also people who may believe their unemployment is related to NAFTA when it is not.

      NAFTA is a scapegoat offered by Trump to disaffected people. Decisions made by a President must be made based on the impact to the nation, not a specific constituency or an individual. When the decision is that specific, it borders on corruption, especially if the decision that benefits the individual harms a larger group of people.

      Some areas of the country have been disproportionately affected by NAFTA changes. When people don't change along with their industries, they get left out of the progress benefitting our nation. That's why I said yesterday that people need to (1) reeducate and retrain to meet new job demands, (2) be willing to move to where the better jobs are, (3) be flexible and responsive to opportunity. Many people are none of those things. There is counseling and unemployment insurance and other forms of assistance to help them, but if they insist that everything go back to what it once was, that just isn't going to happen, whether they vote for Trump or not.

  4. I'm not arrogant, I'm great. Jerk.

  5. The reason no one has ever said what Drum said is because, on its face, it appears to be untrue.

    Too bad the OECD information requires a subscription. Too bad that we must take it on faith that the data is correct.

    I thought it was pretty well established that NAFTA did what it was supposed to do - make rich people richer - whilst throwing a wrench into the labor markets. Many Mexican farmers purportedly lost their livelihoods because of their inability to compete with imports into their country of US-subsidized corn. Those same people over time found work in American maquiladoras.

    Carrier just recently announced that they're moving their Indiana operations to Mexico - they even told their employees that it was over for them. But in the nicest way possible, of course.

    Countries under the auspices of NAFTA can sue each other for proving that the laws of the country within which they're operating interfere with their profit-making. And they have sued, and won. Hello, taxpayer!

    Maybe I'm just a lefty rube, and get my info from echo chambers. Anything's possible, I suppose.

    1. Doesn't it make you happy that fewer immigrants are coming to the US and taking jobs from Americans because NAFTA is providing them with better employment in Mexico?

    2. Maquiladora labor standards replacing good American jobs isn't anything to celebrate.

    3. Maybe some day we will have a leader who wants to keep the jobs here and also curb illegal immigration.

  6. Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders made a huge point of slamming NAFTA and other free trade arrangements in the Democratic primary, causing Hillary Clinton to be gun shy about defending it. After the primaries, she couldn't easily go back on what she had said, leaving Trump the floor.

  7. NAFTA and other corporate friendly trade deals have become code for de-industrialization. Over the course of a couple generations elites made a conscious decision to "offshore" as many jobs as possible. People see items they use everyday, that could be made here but aren't anymore, all the while the country goes hurting for enough good jobs. It's frustrating.

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  9. Manufacturing jobs have increased 50% since NAFTA. Trump voters love their inexpensive products they get from Walmart, yet they vote for Trump to end NAFTA, which would end their Walmart. It is not so much they are misinformed, just chasing their tail from excessive selfishness.

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