When American companies discuss the effect of wage costs and general input costs in the context of free trade, they are, effectively, arguing the benefits of allowing companies to find the lowest input-cost markets in which to make products for shipment back to the United States for consumption. The voices of protest against President Trump’s trade positions, and potential policies, are loud. Corporations want to be able to compete on a global scale by manufacturing outside the United States without tariffs on shipments back into the U.S. But make no mistake about it- this is all code for a corporate ideology of wanting to manufacture goods in places where we can get people to work like dogs, for barely enough money to buy a decent meal at the end of a workday, rather than pay American workers a fair or minimum wage for the same jobs. Why suffer the strain of labor laws and minimum wage laws imposed in America, when they can find labor to work sans legal standards of fairness and decency?
Consumers are no better. They seek the lowest product prices, and use the Internet to punish higher-cost providers by buying products at the lowest prices they can find. This forces companies to constantly and systematically seek-out the lowest wage countries with the lowest wage workers they can find.
Free trade agreements are all just code for abuse of human beings. Markets agree to reduce or eliminate trade tariffs against eachother’s exports- which all comes down to seeing who can provide the workers who will work for the least money, for the longest hours, for the least benefits, and in the most dangerous work environments. Code words such as “input costs” or “competitiveness” are frequently used. These are synonyms for taking advantage of people who need money, food, and safety. In some cases, costs, such as real estate costs and nearness to necessary resources, are responsible for lower input costs; but, mostly, the savings from country to country are due to lower labor costs, lower insurance and safety regulations in factories, and lower environmental standards.
Sure, companies seeking to enter and sell their respective products into new markets is a primary goal of free trade agreements; but every companies’ prized market is the United States. U.S. companies know that they have to compete with input (read: labor) costs obtained by foreign companies in order to succeed in competing with those foreign companies on prices. Why would American companies accept this challenge? Is duty-free access to foreign consumer markets like that of Mexico worth losing margin in the United States?
The trade-off is not only in the benefit of selling to Mexico, for example, the trade-off is that American companies, in addition to getting some new consumers in smaller markets, can also, due to tariff eliminations through free trade agreements, achieve the most profitable way to sell their products to the largest possible number of U.S. consumers by significantly lowering their labor costs. Access to markets is the publicly-touted goal, but better margins in the U.S. for products, particularly for proprietary products, resulting from lower labor costs outside of the U.S., is an unstated motive.
President Trump finds it obnoxious to American values that our workers have to accept the same wage as those accepted by impoverished, uneducated, and desperate people worldwide in order to have employment. The President does not believe that Americans should be forced to work at wages barely allowing them to afford to buy food for their families at the end of a workday. This is why, in the United States, we have labor laws, employment laws, and minimum wage laws. We have a minimum standard of human treatment by business, below which is unacceptable and illegal.
How can anyone disagree with this rationale? How can anyone attack the President for asserting that America has a soul and should not be forced to compete with the indecency and abuse allowed by people of other nations- against their very own people?
It’s amazing (read: disturbing) how businesses, particularly in the technology industry, publicly preach about the dignity, respect and equality deserved in the workplace by their employees; yet, when it comes to manufacturing, even for those very same technology companies, it’s a race to the bottom of the pit with regard to employee safety, benefits and pay. Company executives are constantly evaluating the international landscape to see where they can get the most possible work out of people for the lowest possible wages. They don’t want to pay a fair wage, as required in America, so they seek out those who will work for less than a fair wage. When it comes to manufacturing, no one wants to pay a fair wage for a hard days work.
If this is protectionism……it is protectionism of decency- and of the soul of America.
Author’s note: The purpose of this article is not necessarily to defend President Trump’s policies, but rather, has the broader purpose of illuminating the true motivations and behaviors of the proponents of unfettered free trade which are never discussed in mass media.
- These concepts apply even more to “proprietary” products because foreign companies can not compete with such products at all. While companies with proprietary products, such as technology companies, get access to smaller markets for those products through free trade agreements, they in-turn, do not have to compete with foreign companies when manufacturing such products overseas and sending them back to the U.S. They have a “double benefit” in this way when it comes to free trade agreements. Companies that sell less or non-proprietary products get access to new markets through free trade agreements, but when selling their products back into the U.S. from overseas factories, they have to compete with foreign companies doing the same. This is the reason that technology companies so aggressively oppose free trade barriers of any kind. The “double benefit” is enormous. With proprietary products, they get more markets, lower labor costs, and no competition.
- I am not suggesting that President Trump is acting out of compassion and decency. I am asserting that the President is, reasonably, seeking fairness for American workers who are being forced to operate in a global environment with trade partners who are unfairly and inequitably reaping the benefits of trade with the U.S..
-Neil S. Siskind, Esq., President
The Siskind Law Firm
Neil Siskind is the Founder & Chairman of The Fatherhood Assignment
Learn more at: http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/
Neil Siskind is the Conservator of the Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve
The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve is over 7 acres of environmentally-pristine waterfront land in a magnificent setting along New York’s majestic Hudson River. The Preserve includes a variety of species of animal and plant life, and is a precious example of the thoughtful maintenance of New York’s priceless open spaces. The land’s uses are limited to outdoor recreation such as hiking and climbing, and the study of ecology, nature and land use. The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve allows for the intelligent contemplation of our valuable natural resources and the most effective ways to maximize them and keep them protected.
Neil Siskind, Founder, “National Fatherhood Day” – March 29th
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Neil Siskind’s Volunteer Work:
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Volunteer
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, My Fundraiser- Help Neil Siskind help children with cancer to be more comfortable: http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR?px=3182108&fr_id=2632&pg=personal
– Make-A Wish Foundation- Help Neil Siskind make sick children’s wishes come true by creating your own fundraiser: Neil-Siskind/Help-Make-A-Child-Smile.htm
– DonorsChoose.org- Donate to one of my needy public classrooms: http://www.donorschoose.org/NeilSiskindGiving
– Champion Children– We seek to inspire people through stories of children who have overcome challenges: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-champion-children/
Neil Siskind’s Pro Bono Work:
– Saving Senior Citizens- Protecting New York’s senior citizens from fraud and financial abuse www.savingseniorcitizens.com
– Senior FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put senior citizens in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– Veteran FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– In development: The Neil S. Siskind School of Hope: A free school to teach inner-city youths the skills of entrepreneurship and importance of economic self-sufficiency.
Neil Siskind’s Government Work:
– Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
– Office of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Newington, CT, 1992, Intern
– Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern
Neil Siskind’s Community Assistance:
Financed & operated a legal clinic providing low-cost legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, organize finances, and launch new businesses.
Neil Siskind’s Professional Curriculum Vitae: http://neilsiskind.com/
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