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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    NAFTA: still truckin’ despite Dems?

    It’s been almost 15 years since the U.S., Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, but an under-informed public and politically influential Teamsters continue to fight sound economic policy with idiotic protectionist policies.

    Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department announced a pilot program that will allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to enter the U.S. Currently, Mexican trucking companies, restricted from delivering their goods to their northern clients, remain idle at the border while their cargo is moved to American trucks.

    Of course, the process is time-consuming and costly – and bad for almost everyone. Mexican truck drivers and their respective companies are prevented from doing more business with American importers, thereby reducing both the incomes of their drivers and the revenues of their firms. And both have sharply negative impacts on investment and economic growth in Mexico.

    The damage done in the States is significant as well. American companies that either import goods from Mexico or utilize said goods in production face higher costs. And American consumers absorb those excess costs in the form of higher prices. Again, all factors that contribute to reduced investment and gross domestic product right here at home.

    But the restrictions of Mexican trucking do benefit a few, and to find them, one need look no further than Jim Hoffa, the Teamsters union and their political allies. Mexican trucking companies pay Mexican wages – and few will probably hire American truck drivers to do the same job a Mexican will do for 40 percent less.

    So, the same American laborers who have been fighting free trade for a century continue to dig in and spend millions of dollars buying legislators who will take up the cry of “”protect American jobs”” to ensure re-election in states with heavy labor populations.

    In fact, the rising wave of protectionism and the general discomfort with anything “”conservative”” – thanks to a president who probably understands neither concept – has allowed Democrats to ride to power on the backs of powerfully self-interested labor unions.

    And this is certainly one of life’s strange little intricacies. American liberals associate with the Democratic political ticket, while American conservatives associate with the Republican Party. Fine. But most liberals seem to distinguish themselves from conservatives by how much they care about the world’s poor. When was the last time you saw a Republican with a “”World Citizen”” bumper sticker?

    So why would any liberal who is even remotely interested in improving the lives of the world’s poor associate himself with a party that, controlled by labor unions, stands fundamentally at odds with the kind of trade policies that would benefit the huge Mexican working class?

    Or, put another way, why would any globally concerned liberal support policies that save a few American trucking jobs at the expense of American producers, American consumers and, importantly for the socially concerned left-winger, poor Mexican laborers?

    The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2006, American firms imported almost $200 billion worth of goods from Mexico. The amount of commerce between the two countries is staggering, but the way in which it disproportionately benefits American trucking unions at the expense of, well, everyone else is appalling.

    The Teamsters have pledged to fight this new pilot program. Hoffa himself and others representing American truckers are recasting this conflict as a battle over highway safety and pollution to deflect the true issue: American truckers stand to lose from free trade policies, and so they will do or say or buy whatever or whomever they must to make sure that Mexican trucks aren’t allowed in the country. But we know better. We are educated, rational adults who see beyond the trucking union’s narrow vision to what the French economist Frederic Bastiat referred to as “”what is not seen”” – the long-term, indirect and crucial truth that trade restrictions sacrifice the good of the many in the interest of the few.

    So re-evaluate your policies and your political affiliations. Voting against the union-controlled Democratic Party is a commitment not just to economic freedom, but to a better world for everyone other than American truckers, especially the huge population of Mexican poor whose chances are restricted by that same party.

    And the first time you see a Mexican truck shipping goods down Speedway Boulevard, you will know that you supported not only the economic sound policy but also the morally right one as well.

    Stan Molever is a philosophy senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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