In the not so distant past, textile mills employed thousands across the state of South Carolina. People had jobs – real jobs that paid a living wage. Unfortunately for these hard working people, a wonderful trade agreement sprouted wings and decided their destiny for them, NAFTA.
We all remember the mills that gave generations a livelihood – and a sense of pride in their community – but those days are long gone. If you go Clinton or to Laurens or other small towns along the once-proud textile corridor paralleling I-85 in South Carolina, you can see the remnants of the past given way to the future of “progressive ideas.”
It is almost as if people are seeing the images of World War II – textile mills carpet bombed by the ideas of Washington D.C.
Washington doesn’t see how it hurts the people, and like a disease – continues pushing bad legislation. Starting with NAFTA and continuing to the Korea Free Trade Agreement (which Congress passed and President Obama signed in 2011), Washington decided to wash its hands of saving jobs … yet again.
According to Public Citizen, The Korea FTA will eliminate 70,000 jobs in South Carolina alone – further destroying the shiny veneer of the promise of the American dream, and solely for the benefit of foreign interests.
Not surprisingly, of the almost 70,000 jobs due to be lost under the Korea FTA, more than 24,600 are in textiles – the biggest hit of any economic sector in the state. Another 15,000 jobs will be lost in motor vehicles and parts. So when the Democrats beginning hammering Nikki Haley on job creation in South Carolina – they need look no further than the pen sitting in the president’s hand.
Now Washington wants to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). They are even trying to pass ‘fast track’ legislation known formally as trade promotion authority which will deny Congress the ability to have a say in the scope and structure of these FTAs. Under ‘fast-track’, Congress will only have an up-or-down vote with no opportunity to amend the various provisions, our trade negotiators have hammered out behind closed doors (in the case of TPP).
This is nothing to take lightly in light of last month’s dismal jobs report – and in light of South Carolina’s abysmal labor participation rate.
According to columnist Harold Meyerson of The Washington Post, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder calculated that 22 percent to 29 percent of all American jobs could be sent offshore. He called “offshoring” the next great industrial revolution. If the American dream is designed to be working part time, Washington is doing a great job on that account.
Shipping jobs overseas is absolutely no way to fight “inequality.” If the President and Democratic members of Congress want to stand for something, start standing for the workers – not just the unions. Even in our own state, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) pre-filed legislation to raise our minimum wage to $10 an hour, or to whatever Washington sees fit.
If this is the real face of the war on poverty, we’ve got some real problems. What sort of “progressive” leader says “let’s crush small business – making it even harder to create a new idea.” That’s not how we fix our problems.
If we want to fix the inequality problem in America, we need to make jobs here – not in foreign countries.
John Osborne is a military veteran and a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina.