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Need to Know, October 28, 2011: Jobs in the balance

This week on Need to Know, we travel to a town in Indiana to see how NAFTA, the most controversial trade deal in recent U.S. history, continues to impact communities today. We also speak with Mickey Kantor, the U.S. Trade Representative under President Clinton, on NAFTA’s legacy, and Jon Meacham delivers an essay in defense of free trade. Ray Suarez hosts.

Check your local listings for details.

Watch the individual segments:


Hundreds of thousands of American jobs are still on the line nearly twenty years after the passage of the most controversial trade deal in recent U.S. history. Need to Know’s Rick Karr travels to Evansville, Ind., to learn how NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, continues to impact the community and its residents, including laid-off workers, the mayor and a local economist.

Mickey Kantor on NAFTA’s legacy

Host Ray Suarez interviews Mickey Kantor, the United States Trade Representative under President Clinton, on the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In Perspective: Jon Meacham on investing in ourselves

Jon Meacham proposes the case for free trade, and the need for innovation and investment in education.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.


  • John Ross

    Exporting American jobs to China and anywhere low-wage labor is available is economic treason and should be outlawed! I hope the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is demanding those jobs be brought back home!

  • Robert Baillie

    The Economics Policy Institute (EPI)
    Says that almost 700,000 jobs were lost. The Chamber of Commerce
    says that over a million jobs were created.

    Both statements could technically be correct.
    However, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Clinton, Bush, and Obama
    administrations typically count ONLY jobs created; they do not count
    the jobs lost! This is dishonest accounting. You have consider
    the losses as well as the gains, as EPI has done.

    Mickey Cantor claims that we cannot
    resist globalization. Yes, we can. Globalization is not a force of
    nature, like gravity. The loss of jobs is a direct, predictable
    result of political policies foisted upon us by our “leaders” who favor corporate rights over worker rights.

  • Asha Vatsyayan

    Americans will end up doing low paying service jobs.It is a shame that the land that was the leader in manufacturing everything is producing nothing.Many of the countries that have prospered on our account think we are so stupid.Govt has to do something soon.So the opening plants in other countries can not rob us.

  • BK

    I feel compelled to make a comment 

  • BK

    I feel compelled to make a comment after watching the segment on NAFTA. Whether NAFTA is good or bad is debatable, and I have long since learned that my opinion in this matter counts for very little. However, the only influence I have is choosing to purchase items made in the USA, avoiding items made outside the USA, and banking with a credit union. Why can’t more Americans vote with our dollars more often? Investors and politicians are more interested in how we spend our money than in what we think is right or wrong. 

  • Anonymous

    Consider the environmental aspects of “free trade”. Should you recycle,
    rebuild, or fix  your water pump or TV, or just dump it and buy another
    sent via petroleum fueled tanker from  a state owned factory in China or Mexican maquiladora? 
    You’ll probably dump it.

    This is NOT free trade. This is
    strengthening dictatorship, NOT spreading Democracy. This is NOT
    efficient. This is asinine.

  • Plunger

    What Mr. Kantor COVENIENTLY neglected to mention was that our Founding Fathers were SMART enough to put duty and tariffs on ALL products and commodities manufactured or imported from abroad to prevent EXACTLY what has happened since Reagan and NAFTA…the loss of MILLIONS of good American blue collar jobs to Third World holes where the people are essentially Corporate Slaves!

  • Sarah White

    According to the statistics given on the program – 5 times as many jobs have been created as lost.  It is very sad when a town looses a major company – but corporations are in business to make money and if they are making only pennies on the dollar because of  cost of labor and taxes, regulations, etc., they are going to leave.  Too many seem to think a job is an entitlement – its not, its a privilege.

  • Anonymous

    no one should be allowed to complain about nafta, plant closings, job security until they declare where they most often shop. If it is Walmart, GAME OVER.  they are buying cheap goods made in china just to get a cheap price, and they are their own worst enemy!

  • Anonymous

    mr chicago school,

    Go ahead, find an American made fork.

  • Plunger

    ONE should see where ALL the items they buy are manufactured FIRST, before ONE pitches a fit over WHERE those items are purchased. Only then will ONE see the folly in their words.  

  • Anonymous

    To encourage “free trade” is to enable further consolidation of fascism.

  • Anonymous

    41 of 46 Chinese Fortune 500 companies are State Owned Enterprises. Since when is government ownership of the means of production “free trade”?

  • Anonymous

    41 of 46 Chinese Fortune 500 companies are State Owned Enterprises. You free traitor types, just let that sink in a while.

  • Plunger

    I don’t believe I EVER stated that a Communist run country enjoyed “free trade”??

  • Anonymous

    Global companies PREFER fascism. Isn’t it obvious?

  • Anonymous

    ====== A-Z Index of China’s State Enterprises ======

  • Pat Hook

    The notion that NAFTA has been good overall for the US is complete nonsense!  How can exporting well paid US manufacturing jobs to a much lower wage in Mexico produce competitive advantage for the US as a whole while the US has become an exporter of primarily raw material to developing countries. All this while they furnish the US with finished goods (i.e that are not necessarily sold to the US at a lower price?  Once those well paid jobs (i.e. that helped fuel the US economy) are gone, so is the skill, knowhow, and technology to compete in that market.  The US Chamber of Commerce and Mickey Kantor DO NOT understand Economics 101.  Ross Perot was right.  The US cannot win after “the great sucking sound” has occurred.  Pat Hook, Albuquerque, NM 

  • Plunger

    What I find pathetically FUNNY is that the LARGEST COMMUNIST COUNTRY in the World has ALL the Industrial, Democratic, Free Trade, countries of the World DEEPLY in debt to it, and yet these same countries have said for years that Communism is a FAILED system. All the while they come surreptitiously to grovel at the feet of the RED Chinese for money THEIR wonderous FREE system has FAILED to produce! 

  • Anonymous

    Includes in this list is F.A.W., S.A.I.C,which receives money and American technology form GM and MUST make in China; China Engineering, which has sent and ENTIRE bridge to California, and Huadian-SunTech, which is making solar panels for Texas.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s not really communism, it fits Mussolini’s coined term pretty well, though.

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

    Think about it, how many Chinese brand names do you see?

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    We haven’t had a trade surplus since 1975. Would you like your business to buy more than it sells for 36 straight years?

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  • Josie Davis

    Maybe it is time that we hire foreigners to take over these high-paid US, state and local  government and university leaders jobs and take away their free entitlements such as health & pensions/retirement. It would save the US billions. Then and only then would they (the Clinton’s, the Bush’s, Obama’s) see the plight of us American citizens who have worked so hard to grow these corporations, only to be booted out without warning. Is that what you mean by Globalization, Mr Kantor? 

    One more key point to PBS…you failed to mention the quantity of accounting jobs and tech jobs that have been outsourced to other countries! Probably another million US jobs lost. Start with all large corp sectors including tech, pharmaceuticals, … the list is long.

  • Robert_N

    Of course, there are those who shop wherever merchandise is cheapest, our of necessity in a wrecked economy. We were our own worst enemy when we either weren’t paying attention, or decided that unconditional, unbalanced “trade” with tacitly protectionist nations was a great idea.

  • Penrose40

    And with the 2012 election for president coming up the only Big Losers will be the American poor and middle class, heads they win,tails we lose.

  • C96daddy

    Amen brother!

  • C96daddy

    Yes you are exactly right. Ross had foreseen the future, and we couldn’t.
    Here’s a kicker! Hiedi Flise, had made a comment when she was going to trial over her prostitution ring. She had said, “She had enough Senator names to change the NAFTA vote.” Just think of it! Our US economy could have been changed by a Prostitute???

  • Wgacker

    The problem with worker displacement and worker wage reductions in the US due to Foreign Trade
    is a very real problem that has been going on for about 20 years or more. We have seen the Private
    Businees Sector loose their pensions with cheaper 401K’s. Also the Private Sector is now paying
    much higher premiums on their Health Care. These same losses are now affecting the Public Sector
    as well because we cannot afford to pay for their pensions and health care. In other words we can no
    longer afford our current lifestyle.So in my opinion cheaper goods due to NAFTA is not a solution. My
    research into the cost to manufacture goods in the USA verses overseas shows that the companies
    that are most affected are those with a combined Labor & Benefits Cost that is 30 % (or more) of
    their total cost to manufacture. Many of these companies have closed their plants in the US and
    now make their product in cheaper countries and ship these products back to the US at a price that
    is 20 % to 60 % cheaper than their production cost in the USA. We see this in Textlies, Paper Industry, Tire Industry, Auto Industry, Electronics, Solar PV Industry, Packaging Industry, Refrigerators & Pots and Pans. The only Industries that manage to survive are companies that are
    in a nich market or those where Labor & Benefits are a low percentage of their total cost to manufacturer. In China you can hire a manufacturing worker for $4000/yr and in the US the wage
    is around $40,000/yr a difference of $36,000/yr. If you add benefits to this analysis the difference
    is closer to $50,000/yr. For countries like China this difference in cost has resulted in huge growth
    in many markets. For Instance in the Steel Industry China made 5% of the World’s Steel in 1980
    but today they produce around 47 % of the World’s Steel. Another example is the Solar PV Panel
    Industry in China. In 2000 China produced 1 % of the World’s Solar PV Panels but today they are
    producing about 40 % of the World’s PV Panels. Many US PV panel manufactuers are having a
    problem making a profit in the US and thus are considereing production in courtries like China,
    the Philippines or Malaysia. This new global economy is in many cases forcing US companies
    to move their production facilities to other countries just to stay in business. This is a very real
    problem for the US and it is causing the entire US to reduce our lifestyles. 

  • C96daddy

    Is this why so many States of this Union are going bankrupt or failing economically? When you loose jobs, you loose your tax base. When you loose your tax base, your loose your economy! Plus not to mention, the lose of taxes from the import tarriffs? Felt directly by the US government! Which, in turn, is borrowing money from the countries that have benefited in only 17 to 18 years!

  • Anonymous

    The reporter did not mention that Whirlpool received a 19.3 Federal SMART GRID Grant right before they closed the Evansville, IN Plant. 

    Also, the first quarter of 2010, Whirpool reported earnings of more than $164 million, due to an increase in sales from the nationwide “Cash for Appliances” rebate program.  You ask, what is the “Cash for Appliances” rebate program.

    In Michigan received a government grant to repair and replace, windows, doors, roofs, porches, etc.  What really happened, people received PATCH work.  If people had wood around their windows, the only thing was done was caulking.  BUT . . .

    Whirpool were given away refrigerators that people did NOT ask for or NEED!!  Now since their job is done, they are now closing the Arkansas plant. 

    So, should a company receive “FREE” money from the government to keep jobs in America and that company turns around and send the jobs to another country. 

    I used to have a local television program on a community station in Michigan and I researched did a report on Whirlpool in May, 2010 (Headquarters based in Benton Harbor, MI), that is why I know so much about them.  I also heard a mouthful from my senior clients. 

  • Anonymous

    And China’s steel companies are OWNED by a Chinese fascist government with unlimited means to destroy competition; and they are.

     The same goes for solar panels, construction, automobiles, etc 41 0f 46 of Chinese Fortune 500 Companies are State Owned Enterprises.

     How can any sane person think it’s possible to have “fair” trade with an entity like this?

  • Anonymous

    Hey, why the sour grapes?   NAFTA’s unemployed Mexican farmers have been a real boon for some:

    “How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs.”

  • Ahillnashville

    You would think with all the money these companies are saving the cost of goods would be coming down. It was just a slick trick to allow the greedy to become richer. Just like the bank forcloseure scams and deregulatation. Also I don’t believe quality is in alot of these goods and what about toxic paint on toys and crumbling drywall. Its discussing whats done in the name of progress. 

  • Guest

    Where did NEED TO KNOW get their statistics – that NAFTA has created more jobs than it has destroyed?  Where are these jobs?  Which companies have provided these jobs?  If any have been provided, do they pay the same as those lost jobs?  Are they at McDonalds or Walmart?  How can this be – we have a 9.7% unemployment rate – probably more like 14% if you count those who quit looking, are underemployed -working part time and/or at jobs beneath their skill levels.  NEED TO KNOW- please provide information of where these jobs are – which companies have provided them and how much these jobs pay.  Otherwise, I am highly doubtful about the accuracy of this comment – more jobs have been created by NAFTA than lost.

  • Guest

    Not so sure that it has not already been changed by prostitutes – in Congress

  • Guest

    I agree – but if one refrained from purchasing goods manufactured outside of the US – we might never buy anything except maybe some fresh fruits and vegetables (although much of this comes from Mexico complete with pesticides that are banned in the US).

  • Guest

    Maybe some of these companies would be more profitable if they quit paying their CEOs multimillion dollar salaries and bonuses that are often taxed only at maximum capital gains rate of 15%.  Which corporations have been losing money?  Those corporations making $$$ have shifted their profits overseas to low/no tax areas – like Cayman Islands, etc.  Please, don’t make me shed a tear for those poor money losing corportions – like Chevron, Standard Oil – who are gouging us on price of gasoline, don’t pay income taxes and receive  subsidy on oil.

  • demand_sider

    Yes, but do you understand the advantages in having state ownership of manufacturing? Imagine if our companies were owned by the U.S. government and could tap the broad resources of our whole country? This is what China does. We will continue to lose jobs to China until we understand this.

  • Eye


  • Eye


  • wgacker

    In most cases USA companies do not want to move their operations to another country many
    do it to stay in businesss. The Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a document called the International Comparisons of Hourly Compensation Costs in Manufacturing,2009. This document
    shows the differences of Total Compensation (Wages + Benefits) for each country. The USA
    is $33.53/hour ($23.03/hr wage + $10.50/hr Benefits). In Mexico the Total Benefits are $5.38/hr
    ($3.93/hr Wage + $1.45 Benefits). For a normal 2080 manhours per year this equates to $69,742.40/yr in the USA and $11,190.40/yr in Mexico or a savings of $58,552/yr for each employee. In China the Total Compensation is $2.38/hour or $4950.40/yr. Currently USA Solar
    Panel Companies are going bankrupt because they cannot produce solar panels at the low prices of China which has the advantage of $64,792/yr savings for each employee. These types
    of problems did not exist in the 1940′s because at that time there were signifiant duties on all
    imports, but today the average import on imported products that are charged a duty is only 4%
    of the import value. In the 1940′s the average import was 35.6 %, in 1950 it was 13.3 %, in 1960
    it was 12.20 %, in 1970 it was 10.0 %, in 1980 it was 5.6 % and in 1990 it was 5.0%. Thus it
    is fair to say that the USA is fairly close to Free Trade. Some companies se a significant
    reduction in the price of their product when they move their operations to countries like Mexico
    and China due to the lower wages, benefits and lower material costs. For instance in 2007
    Cessna Aircraft Co. moved their Cessna 162 Skycatcher plant from Wichita Kansas to Shenyang
    China. The USA made plane sold for $182,500 at that time, but the plane made in China sold
    for $111,500 (61.10 % of the USA price). Also don’t forget that the cost of building a plant in
    a low cost country like China and Mexico and India is significantly less. For instance in 2006
    a Oil Refinery Plant was built in Jaminagar India. this plant takes Crude Oil and refines it into
    finished products like gasoline. At this plant 80 % of the finished products are shipped to the
    USA. The cost to ship that product the 9000 miles to the USA cost only $0.14/gallon. The
    plant construction cost of this plant was significantly less than a USA Refinery plant. For instance skilled welders worked for $8.00/day in India. The USA consumer does benefit signifiantly from these lower cost products imported in, but at a significant price of lower wages
    from USA Companies trying to compete. Since 1980 we have seen USA wages in the Paper Industry,Steel Industry, Textile Industry and Auto Industry drop from about $25.00/hr ($52,000/yr)
    to $12.00/hr ($24,960/yr). Also don’t forget the many plants that shutdown since 1980 and
    moved their operations to lower cost countries. This is why the middle class wages have been

  • Pandora

    Late to the party, but I had to stop watching this segment because the bias was making me ill.

    PBS, I love you, but please stop using charged phrases like “decimated American jobs” in your VOICE OVER. I give you kuddos for trying to reach the people who said they benefited from NAFTA but if none of them wants to go on record then you need to TRY HARDER because you profiled too many of those on the other side not to have a counter argument to balance it out. Experts are just experts, they’re not the real beneficiaries. Go to Mexico or something.

    I get it that you’re trying to side with the people and appeal to their humanity, but I was hoping PBS would also keep from propagating the ignorance and blind anger. In fact, isn’t that your job?