OPINION | Chris McCarthy: It’s NAFTA, Stupid!
Democratic political guru James Carville famously said "It's the economy, stupid" in 1992. Today, it is NAFTA and the other trade deals that matter to the people.
Philips Lighting is moving its manufacturing from Fall River to Mexico, and it is all because of NAFTA and the people who voted the trade deal into law in 1993.
An internal document on Philips stationary explains how NAFTA encourages production in Mexico. Platt Electrical Supply sells Philips products to contractors, and has a cut sheet explaining how the wizards who crafted NAFTA have gutted the "Buy American" provisions and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The devil is in the details of NAFTA.
The letter on Philips stationary says, "Under the Buy American Acts, products supplied for public use must be manufactured in the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides an important exception to this Buy American requirement." The letter explains the exceptions is based on the dollar amount of the contract, and that if the contract is large enough, the foreign manufactured products qualify for the exemption. If those minimums standards are met, "our ballasts manufactured in our Mexico factories satisfy the Buy American Act requirements and can be sold to United States government agencies on the same basis as products manufactured in the United States."
The "Buy American Act" was passed in 1933 by President Hoover to protect American workers and businesses from foreign competition. After 60 years of industrial growth, the "Buy American Act" and the American worker had its collective throat cut by President Bill Clinton and the free trade lobby on Capitol Hill. Edward Markey, John Kerry, Newt Gingrich, Gerry Studds and Ted Kennedy joined Clinton to pass NAFTA. Barney Frank and Peter Blute, who both represented Fall River in Congress in 1993, both voted against NAFTA.
Philips has been using NAFTA to ship manufacturing jobs from the United States to Mexico since 2008. It's NAFTA, and the lawmakers who voted for it that have devastated the unions and our manufacturing base. It has taken a few decades but Donald Trump's election shows, "It's NAFTA, stupid!"
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.