Leo Gerard: The TPP is another deadly trade deal

Study: Death rate for middle-aged white Americans with a high school education or less has increased since NAFTA

It started in 1999, say two Princeton economists who published a study that found the mortality rate for white Americans aged 45 to 54 – after declining for years along with all other demographic groups – has increased because of suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, and overall declining health for lack of health care.

United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, on the Huffington Post, blogged about the study’s alarming finding and the source of the financial strain that’s literally killing the least-educated white Americans – devastating manufacturing job losses caused by NAFTA:

Americans who once earned family-supporting wages working in factories, foundries and mills across this country began destroying themselves at a shocking rate five years after implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

That’s because such deals – schemes exactly like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement released last week – encouraged corporations to offshore manufacturing, decimating decent American jobs and the lives of decent American workers.

Unemployed, desperate and despairing, these once-middle-class workers are killing themselves at unconscionable rates with guns, heroin and alcohol-induced cirrhosis. To such workers, the TPP would mean more tragedy, more death. The opposite is true for CEOs, shareholders and Wall Street financiers. To them, the TPP would mean even more luxury, more wealth. Trade schemes like the TPP further rig the economy in favor of the already-rich and against the hard-working rest.


The typical killers, diabetes and heart disease, didn’t take these white Americans aged 45 to 54. It was suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse.

Before 1999, the mortality rate for this group, as for the others, had been declining. Since then, their rising rate means, “half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” said study co-author Angus Deaton, a 2015 Nobel Prize winner. That is close to the number of Americans killed by HIV-AIDS.

Unlike AIDS, this has been a silent epidemic, unexposed until the report by Deaton and co-author Anne Case. The cause of the self-slaughter, the researchers suggested, is financial strain.

Bread winners couldn’t pay their bills and couldn’t foresee a future when they could. That is because jobs in manufacturing and construction – jobs that had provided middle-class incomes for workers without college degrees for decades – disappeared.

Between 1997, three years after NAFTA took effect, and 2014, the country lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs.  The vast majority, according to the Economic Policy Institute, vanished as a result of growing trade deficits with countries that the United States signed so-called free trade and investment deals with.

Just since 2001, 56,000 American factories closed. Corporations moved many of these to low-wage, low-worker-safety, low-environmental-protection countries with which the United States has so-called free trade deals enabling the companies to sell the foreign-made products in America with little or no tariffs or duties.

The TPP, the largest so-called free trade deal ever, encompassing a dozen Pacific-Rim countries including forced and child labor violators Brunei and Vietnam, would send even more American industry and jobs overseas.

Read the rest of President Gerard’s post: The TPP: Another Deadly Trade Deal