OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Clinton and Kennedy’s Legacy of Lost Jobs
Politicians in Fall River are trying to blame President Trump for the loss of Philips Lighting jobs, but it was actually Bill and Ted's un-excellent adventure.
Philips Lighting is moving from Fall River to Mexico because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The treaty known as NAFTA is the law because of President Bill Clinton's hard work lobbying Congress.
According to the left-wing, labor union-supporting publication Labor Notes, Philips has been taking advantage of NAFTA to ship manufacturing jobs to Mexico since 2008.
NAFTA is actually a creation of Republican George H.W. Bush's administration. The Bush administration negotiated the treaty with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, but never got the treaty through Congress. When Bill Clinton was elected, he took over exactly where the Bush administration had left off.
Clinton was elected with strong union support and the votes of middle-class workers who opposed Republican economic policies. Yet his first year in office, he succeeded in passing NAFTA, but failed to pass universal health care. In 1993, the president was a Democrat and the Congress was controlled by Democrats, but the unions were betrayed by those folks they had elected.
In Clinton's autobiography My Life, he explains how hard he worked to pass NAFTA. On page 557, he wrote, "Al [Gore] and I had called or seen two hundred members of Congress, and the cabinet had made nine hundred calls. President Carter also helped, calling members of Congress all day long for a week."
Clinton brought it Bill Daley to run his campaign "to go all out" to pass NAFTA. Daley was a corporate lawyer and the son of the infamous mayor of Chicago, and at the time his brother was the mayor of the Windy City. Clinton writes that he knew he "had to find enough Democrats to go along over the objections of the AFL-CIO."
According to his book, the president flew off to meet the Kennedy clan on Martha's Vineyard after announcing the appointment of Daley to head up his efforts to pass NAFTA in spite of the objections of labor unions. He and Hillary went swimming and sailing with Senator Ted Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy family.
The Daley family and the Kennedy family are allies back to Mayor Daley's infamous support for JFK in the 1960 election for the presidency. Obviously, the powerful senator and the new Democrat president discussed NAFTA during the 10 days they were on Martha's Vineyard, and that is proper and above board. Clinton knew he needed Democrats, and bringing along Sen. Kennedy would also bring along other Democrats and mute critics.
The liberal icon and staunch ally of labor, Ted Kennedy, voted for NAFTA. Then Senator John Kerry also voted with Kennedy. Then Rep. Edward Markey, today the U.S. senator, also broke with labor and joined Kennedy and Clinton. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, his son the current congressman for Fall River, also joined his uncle and the president in supporting NAFTA.
On page 557 of My Life, former president Clinton admits it was a difficult and unseemly process to get the congressional Democrats to betray their traditional supporters in the American working class. "We also had to make deals on a wide range of issues; the lobbying efforts for NAFTA looked even more like sausage making than the budget fight had. Bill Daley and our team had won a great economic and political victory for America, but like the budget it came at a high price, dividing our party in Congress and infuriating many of our strongest supporters in the labor movement," he wrote.
The Clintons and the Kennedys are millionaires. The workers at Philips are losing their jobs, and as Bruce Springsteen says about jobs lost, "they ain't coming back, to my hometown."
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.