One battle in war

Jesus E. Zuniga wrote a letter of support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Zuniga suggested that it would be a good idea for members of the NIU academic community to debate this issue. We should. He also suggested that he fears many of us who oppose NAFTA, that it will cause job losses in the U.S. and environmental destruction along the U.S. Mexican border. These are not well founded because both are already happening. We are well aware that in the past 13 years, hundreds of thousands of U.S. industrial jobs have moved south of the border. We know that the Rio Grande has become an open sewer for industrial pollution. We see NAFTA as a continuation and acceleration of a process that is ongoing and government supported. Defeating NAFTA is only one battle in a war to keep this country’s jobs.

Mr. Zuniga expressed the often repeated laissez-faire notion that removing trade barriers with Mexico will, in the long run, create more jobs in this country because it will increase demand in Mexico. The debate between free market economics and Keynesian economics is usually a battle of slogans and theories. It is hard to find numbers to justify either position. Or at least it is hard to find numbers that people will agree to. The twelve years of the Reagan-Bush era produced such numbers.

During the last presidential debate, George Bush made an extraordinary admission in defense of his presidency. In defense of his economic policies he said that during the 12 years that he and Ronald Reagan were presidents of the U.S., this country gained 19 million new jobs. When I heard that, it set up an echo in my mind. Almost exactly 12 years before, Jimmy Carter, in a presidential debate with Ronald Reagan, said that the Carter administration didn’t do such a bad job—9 million new jobs were added during the Carter administration. Mr. Reagan had a perfect answer and a beautiful defense of free market theory. He said that in every administration the population grows and the job market expands. Moreover, presidents do not make jobs, American businesses make jobs. If we elected a president that would get government off the people’s backs, job growth would be phenomenal. We did that. Trucking, Savings and Loan, the airlines and other industries were deregulated. Business got a huge cut in its income taxes for which we got 19 million jobs. Multiply the 9 million jobs that were created during Carter’s four years in office times three and you get 27 million, or 8 million more than we got under Reaganomics.

Are we really 8 million jobs short? The 1980 census said we had over 227 million people living in this country. The 1990 census was 250,465,000 people. The ten year difference is 22,708,000. That ten year growth in population times 1.2 gives a reasonable extrapolation of how many people were added to the population of this country during the Reagan-Bush era, 27,249,600 approximately.

Where are all those people who didn’t get a job? There are a lot of different ways to warehouse people. Fill up the jails. We have over a million people behind bars in this country. Keep them in school until job prospects get better. Sounds familiar if you are 62 and better. Sounds familiar if you are 62 and unemployed and your unemployment comp runs out and take early retirement on Social Security at a big loss. There are no shelters for the homeless? That was a word I rarely heard until Reagan’s first presidency.

Dan Thomson

First year

College of Law