To a remarkable extent, the level of inequality—which fell during the New Deal but has risen dramatically since the late 1970s—corresponds to the rise and fall of labor unionization in the United States; and US labor union participation rates corresponds with the number of free trade agreements the US government enters into, as well as the development of historic levels of income and wealth inequality.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “As union membership has fallen over the last few decades, the share of income going to the top 10 percent has steadily increased. Union membership fell to 11.1 percent in 2014, where it remained in 2015 (not shown in the figure). The share of income going to the top 10 percent, meanwhile, hit 47.2 percent in 2014—only slightly lower than 47.8 percent in 2012, the highest it has been since 1917 (the earliest year data are available). When union membership was at its peak (33.4 percent in 1945) the share of income going to the top 10 percent was only 32.6 percent.”
As you can see in the graph below, the share of US workers represented by labor unions began to drop in 1960 as electronic jobs, such as manufacturing televisions and radios, began to be exported more and more to places like Taiwan. That process began in the 1950s.
Union membership began to decline even more in 1964 when Mexico and the USA signed a treaty creating the free trade Maquiladora Zone inside Mexico. This zone runs along the US border, and is twelve miles wide and runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Corporations are allowed to import parts into the zone, assemble things there, and export the finished products into the United States duty free. Tens of thousands of US labor union jobs were exported into Mexico because of this treaty.
Other maquiladora zones have been created throughout Central America since then. What happened to the US textile industry? Much of it is in Central America. Roughly 225,000 former US textile jobs now reside in El Salvador alone.
US labor union membership dropped from 28.5 to 25.4 percent from 1964 to 1980. Then, of course, Reaganomics and more trade treaties hit US workers. NAFTA struck, and the rest is history. The stock markets shot up as labor union members saw their jobs being exported. You can see the amazing coincidence in the graphs above and below. As the jobs were exported, the stock markets exploded upward. Roughly 35 million US jobs have been exported since 1990.
Nowadays, the top 1 percent are stealing 37 percent of all income produced in the United States, compared to 8 percent in 1980. That’s because when a job is exported the difference between the old higher US pay and the new lower third world country pay goes straight into the pockets of the rich via higher corporate profits, surging dividends, and soaring share prices.
This is the link between income/wealth inequality and trade agreements business leaders, politicians, academics, and the corporate press don’t want you to know about.
Corporate stocks and bonds, by the way, are wealth. Wealth is something of value that you own, while income is money coming in. So the rich get more income by shipping jobs overseas, and in the process, they inflate the value of their wealth, such as stocks and bonds. The rich get richer with every trade agreement.
Now President Obama, and several Wall Street Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton and Ron Wyden, have joined with the majority of Republicans in congress to redistribute more income from the 99 to the 1 percent via the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is the largest income redistribution scam in US history, and the Wall Street Democrats and most Republicans are falsely marketing it as a free trade agreement. The Guardian News Paper calls the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.”
As more of those labor union jobs are exported, much of the tax base is exported with it. Actually that tax base is redistributed to the rich. As that tax base diminishes, the tax funds for fire, police, Social Security, public schools, slowly evaporates. And unionized public sector employees find themselves under attack.
It’s a big scam folks.
Protect your jobs! Protect your future! Fight against the TPP! Vote for Bernie Sanders!