January 23rd, 2008
10:20 AM ET
15 years ago

Real People, Real Issues: The NAFTA effect

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/23/art.elex2.cnn.jpg caption="The CNN Election Express is headed across the country."]ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The cost of diesel was $3.26 a gallon Wednesday at the Pilot Travel Center, but the biggest concern for independent trucker Charles Dye wasn’t the price of fuel. It was NAFTA.

When Dye first got behind the wheel of his rig eight years ago, the 28-year-old said he grossed $180,000. Last year, Dye said he made $65,000 before expenses - barely enough to live on as he ran roofing oil between Memphis, Tennessee and Savannah, Georgia. He is on the road 20 days a month.

Because he is an independent contractor, Dye has to purchase his own health insurance. Right now, he is not covered. Luckily, the mother of his four-year-old child does have insurance, which helps alleviate the financial burden.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, which loosened restrictions on goods and services between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, is to blame for the hit he is taking in the wallet, he said.

“It was hard for me to make a living last year other than the years before, because of the way they opened the borders and let the trucks come over and practically do work for nothing,” he said, as the gasoline flowed from the pump into his rig.

Dye wants the U.S. to restrict the number of Canadian and Mexican truckers from working in this country.

“They are cutting my throat to do my job for less pay,” he said.

Even though NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Dye said the former president’s wife Hillary Clinton or her rival Barack Obama will get his vote this fall. I pressed him: Why would he back Clinton when her husband signed NAFTA into law?

“I made more money, and I believe in a Democrat more than I do a Republican,” said Dye, who lives in Arkansas. “That’s just my opinion. President Bush hasn’t showed me anything.”

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Levi

    Nice comment, Tom Wittman. There's no such thing as Asia-US FTA or India-US FTA, but the lack of such legislation hasn't helped the trade our trade debt with these nations. My company couldn't do what it does without skilled workers from Asia and India. I make more money because they're working here.


    January 23, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Another Steve

    NAFTA which was a continuation of Reagan and Bush 41 policy was signed by Bill Clinton. He has done a hell of a lot of long term damage to this country while claiming the economy was strong during his Presidency. It was thanks to the internet and Gore, not Clinton. Now Bill is busy trying to push his wife's agenda with attacks and half truths. Wait till she starts signing bills. I cringe at the thought.

    January 23, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Interested Canadian

    Sick and Tired: "NAFTA et al. has not helped this country. All it has done is allow our lumber industry be replaced by Canadian lumber companies"

    Yeah, I guess that's why all the "Canadian" lumber companies have either gone under or been bought by Weyerhaueser? You know, the big lumber company based in Washington (state)?

    Canadian lumber was cheaper when our dollar was worth 60c US. Now that our dollars are par (or very close), it's not so cheap.

    Patrick: "If NAFTA can be amended to raise Mexico's and Canada's environmental and wage standards to that of the United States than I'd be fine with it, otherwise it puts our workers at a competitive advantage."

    If you can figure out a way to get the Cdn income taxes to a level similar to the US, that would go a long way – our wages may be higher, but so are our taxes (all that "free" healthcare isn't so free). I think environmental standards between Canada and the US are pretty similar.

    January 23, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  4. W B in Las Vegas

    so called "free trade" is a good thing ONLY if it's "fair trade". this is the ONLY industrialized country that allows free access to it's markets. the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Europeans ALL have tariffs on foreign probucts that compete with their domestic industries. untill either THOSE tariffs are removed OR we impose some reciprocal expense, so called "free trade" will neither be FREE or EQUAL.

    and that's with not even going into the probalem of our workers having to compete with sweatshop wages and conditions in China, India and Mexico.

    January 23, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. reta

    To start off I'm a Mexican who lived temporarily in the U.S during the Clinton administration. It's really funny to see how Americans are mad at the NAFTA agreement, I say this because practically every single Mexican is mad too, NAFTA has only helped big corporations, Mexicans are getting poorer, Americans are getting worse off. So who benefits? don't think it's the Canadians. Oh and nick was so right, 180,000 a year for a trucker????? What kind of crazy country is it where a trucker get's paid so much more money than a teacher? that's why highly trained and educated foreigners have to be brought to the U.S.

    January 23, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. Frank

    first of all its not the president who controls what corporations do with their workforce. It's congress and the oversight committees that regulate internal commerce and the respective state department and interior directors that are appointed by Presidents and Congress. Althought NAFTA was not a great piece of legislature it's the increased allowance of corporations moving their labor forces oversees and not investing in America's infrastructure that is weakening this country. We need a government that will enforce our laws, require American Corporations to reinvest in our own country and penallize corporations with heavy taxes when they abandon domestic markets in favor of international fields.

    January 23, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Me

    So close all the borders and live in your own dream country!!! You still think you are a super power country. Wake up, China will be the big super power of this century, you are something of the past.

    I cannot believe you people are not willing to compete with other countries. Lazy people

    January 23, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. C.E., Minnesota

    Me, you obviously havent seen how dirt poor the people( not the wealthy)who live in china. They live in poverty ten times greater than any city in the US. Look at their polution problem. You dont see Americans breaking their necks to live in china, but they come here to have a better chance. Americans are not lazy nor do we care to compete with countries who pay their workers .50 per hr. Dont hate us because we want to actually make enought money to support ourselves and our families.

    China SUPER POWER ha.

    for all the money in the world i would not live there.

    January 23, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. JJ, Californian

    When Bush Sr. was in office he had a special office in the US Govn't to promote the outsourcing of high tech industries to asia. It was undermining silcon valley. The valley was starting to shut down. One of Clinton's first actions coming in was to shut that office and change our governments direction into one of promoting American High Tech industries in America. That action fueled our high tech boom and provided myself and my husband with good work. As to NAFTA, for those of you too young to remember, it was written by the Bush's and Clinton only signed it with significant restrictions added to protect American jobs, the first thing "Dubya" did in office along with removing every other benificial Clinton policy was to remove the restrictions on NAFTA with the help of the Republican Senate and house and with executive orders. With the restrictions removed he then started back up on his daddy's programs with a new name "outsourcing". For those of you whose political memories are all granted you by the past 8 years let me remind of this. One reason Bill was put in the position of even having to consider NAFTA and was pressured by the party and public to sign it was he had promised while running for office to bring Republicans and Democrats together to better america the same way Obama who is trying to run on the Clinton's old message from decades ago is doing now. Hillary has learned the dangers of that message and thank goodness is no longer falling into that stupid pit. Compromise with people who only represent their companies overseas and oil leads to longterm problems those of you who think Republicans ever will work with Dems are nieve and will elect another Carter and lock our Party out of power another 40 years.

    January 23, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Gary, Detroit

    Where on earth did you ever get the idea that the going rate of pay in China is $7.00 an hour? It is $7.00 A DAY ! What we would call a skilled tradesman in this country makes between .85 and .95 cents an hour over there. I work in manufacturing, have traveled to China and have seen our competition first hand. We don't have a chance.

    January 23, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. JJ, Californian

    CNN, every polite comment I have made now for sevral weeks has been put on moderation and not published. Clearly you will not allow rebuttal online that favors Mrs. Clinton. We are talking about this with other sites and friends. Remember Mr. Matthews you cannot shut down freedom of speech in America and not get noticed for that.

    January 23, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. Old Artillery Man

    Patrick Kunc

    If NAFTA can be amended to raise Mexico’s and Canada’s environmental and wage standards to that of the Unite States then I’d be fine with it.

    This will never happen as then the cost there would be equal the cost here and would defeat their purpose of going there for the cheap labor and unregulated environment.

    January 23, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  13. Tejano Tater

    The Leftist Clintonista Clan gave us the curse of NAFTA in order to facilitate the rape of America by their French/Canadian sponsors/allies/and business partners in Canada (Desmarais/Chretien/Trudeau families) who own Power Corporation of Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting corporation who provided Al Gore all the programming for Newsworld International (now Current TV) and financed Gore's Global Warming Jihad after they had their Carbon trading corporations set up and tried to push throuh Kyoto...financing the leftistas with funding from BNP Paribas Bank SA/Total Oil SA to disseminate their anti-American propaganda via GE/NBC-Vivendi Universal SA/Bertelsmann AG and their ownership of the LA TImes/NY TImes/all Random House publications etcetera..and Lion's Gate FIlms from Toronto Canada (owned by the Gore/Clinton family business partners, The Chretien/Desmarais/Trudeau families from Canada)...Google Paul Desmarais..Power Corporation of Canada..see what comes up...and you'll put the pices together and then you'll KNOW why the American LEFT sold the American working poor out to their business partners and financiers from Canada. Just sayin'...

    January 23, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  14. Tyler in Raleigh

    Another great thing the Clintons brought us.... and Hillary learned in 35 years of "experience". So how will she sell us out???

    January 23, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  15. marty

    I don't understand Mr. Dye's reasoning – he was making good money, then Bill Clinton signed in NAFTA, then he stopped making good money. Now he says he will vote for Clinton again, and is his reasoning is "because times were better under Clinton"?? I'm not following the logic. If someobody's policies hurt me personally or financially, I don't vote for that person anymore.

    January 24, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  16. marty

    According to the study conducted at UC Davis, H1B's make 25-35% less than their American counterparts. But the real reason the companies want them is that they are basically indentured servants. They are reliant on their sponsiring copany for their contuinued ability to remain legally in the US. They are paid less, they cannot negotiate, and they cannot move to another job at another company. Not to mention overtime they can be required to work.

    January 24, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  17. marty

    And remember that the visa workers onH1 and L1 taking jobs here are in addition to the jobs that are directly outsourced to those countries. There are people sitting in cubicles in India and China doing jobs Americans used to do, particularly call center and computer jobs.

    January 24, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  18. Life on the Road

    It's too easy to find an ignorant truck driver at a truck stop. This guy has no idea why he's not making as much money. I really doubt he made 65k with a truck payment, you've got to be real lazy even during last year to make 65k.

    150 Mexican trucks are NOT the issue. NAFTA has nothing to do with this guy's problem. It's fuel, insurance and too many drivers from europe and everywhere else thanks to H2B visas (the blue collar version of h1b) and the weak economy. You can't have a strong trucking industry with a weak economy, it's physically impossible.

    Add a dot com to the user name to see real trucker views.

    January 24, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  19. BullOfMizzou, MO

    You all remember that "ranny lil guy from Texas, Ross Perot" ?...He said theres going to be a tremendous "Sucking Sound" comming from Mexico if NAFTA is signed into Law, in the next Administration, when Slick Willy was running for president?? .....well, he was right.

    Those "Imports" from Mexico are, in reality, American owned buisness down there and Re-Imported back into our country at competitive prices, made by cheap labor and hardly any benefits for those workers......NAFTA Was, and Is a scam, and hurting America like a bloody wound.

    The demodummies are going to continue the practice and worsen the Illegal Invasion of America, because it promotes their Agenda with cheap labor here, and strengthens their Voting Base, thereby keeping them in Power......Plain and Simple.,,,,,,,The demodummy party has been Hijacked by Socialism and Corruption, and is now the Party of the Rich.

    All the comments above critisising the Liberals are Correct, and people have the nails about the Clintons, the Obamas, and Edwards, right square on the head........Now lets DO something about It and Them....Lets Put a Strong, Competant and Dedicated Expert Conservative and his Cabinet back to work, by taking back our country and its Security and Economic Strength......By Voting for the only True Conservative left in the race.

    Its Time for Mitt Romney.

    January 25, 2008 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
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