The Truth About America’s Opinion of Free Trade


Many politicians and the media make it sound as if the majority of America is in favor of free trade, and support pacts like NAFTA. But the truth is that most Americans do not want any more new, disastrous free trade agreements. The majority of Americans believe that free trade has cost jobs in the United States and that trade agreements have hurt the country overall. So why do our politicians continue to push these disastrous agreements?

Gordon Lafer, former senior adviser to the U.S. House’s Labor Committee, makes the case that our lawmakers have chosen to serve their donors rather than the voters on the trade issue. He uses the case of the pending Colombian agreement as illustration, saying that our lawmakers are ignoring the workers rights issues that matter to their constituents in favor of bigger profits for their donors.

When our politicians are so blatantly ignoring the wishes of the American voter, the justification must lie, as Lafer says, with the loyalty to campaign donors and lobbyists. The campaign cycle has become such that politicians are constantly running for office, never focusing on the best policies for the country. A look at the length of modern presidential campaigns is a good example. As early as two years before the election, campaign developments for candidates will begin to appear in the news virtually every day.

The greater the cost and length of campaigns, the more influence lobbyists and wealthy donors will have, and the more policies we will have that defy the will of the general public. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling compounded the problem by opening the door to unbridled campaign spending, and cementing a political culture where lawmakers cannot afford to neglect donors with money to spend. A grassroots campaign of concerned citizens stands little chance of funding a candidate against a group of multinational corporations.

Reforms are needed that allow politicians to govern in the best interest of their constituents without fear that they will be unable to win reelection if they do the right thing. Most Americans do not want new trade agreements, but their voices cannot be heard over the din of a few wealthy voices. Americans need to speak out against free trade, and let our leaders know that entering into more of these disastrous agreements is exactly the kind of mistake that will keep them out of office.

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