Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich injected “realism” into his debate with CNN’s Jeffrey Lord over the implications of Trump’s “America First” policy, even as the conservative contributor used a bizarre story about women's garments to illustrate his problem with trade agreements.
On Monday, Trump delivered on a much-hyped campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal designed to deepen economic ties among nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. Discussing the decision on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Reich said his issue with Trump’s withdrawal extends beyond the president’s isolationist tendencies.
“It’s not just isolationism,” Reich told Cooper and Lord. “It’s Donald Trump’s assumption that the world is basically a zero sum game, in which we win only to the extent that someone else loses.”
Arguing this is emblematic of “Donald Trump’s approach to life in general,” Reich said, “that’s not the way the world economy functions—it’s not the way that world politics functions.”
Reich argued Trump’s “America First” platform “assumes that we do not depend on the prosperity of other nations in the world;” he called that “a very, very dangerous proposition.”
Lord countered that Reich was “misrepresenting” Trump’s “America First” policy, and insisted since some of Trump’s former rivals—including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Hillary Clinton—are “on the same page” as the president with regards to the TPP, “that’s Kumbaya.”
Reich explained that political alliances and agreements are largely a “win-win situation” for everybody, again charging that Trump’s “American First” slogan is dangerous. The former labor secretary said he’s spoken to European officials who are “confused, rattled and upset” by Trump’s rhetoric.
Reich argued if Trump was “really serious” about supporting workers, he would “come out slugging in favor of labor unions” and back pro-worker legislation including former President Barack Obama’s overtime rule and minimum wage increases.
Lord then launched into a “local example” about the impact of trade agreements. He said his “dry cleaner complains” to him “at length about NAFTA” and the minimum wage, arguing such policies work “great in academia, they are great in theory, but at the local level, in fact, they’re just not working.”
Lord said his dry cleaner complains to him about being “asked to clean ladies garments.”
“They bleed, which costs him money because he has to pay for the garment,” Lord said. “The reason they bleed is because they don’t come into this country with the same standards, because of NAFTA. That’s part of the problem here.”
Reich jumped in, returning the conversation to its original theme.
“Can I just add a note of realism here,” Reich asked. “We’re really talking about … the real disconnect here, is that corporate profits continue to rise, they’ve been rising now for 15 years overall, CEO pay is now 300 times the pay of the average worker. That’s the real disconnect. Most people in this country have not had a raise in 30 years.”
Reich said the problem is multifaceted, and includes major components like globalization, poor access to education and a “silly” healthcare system
“There’s a fundamental problem with regard to the allocation of power in this society,” Reich said, suggesting Trump’s TPP withdrawal could serve as a “smokescreen” for what the GOP really hopes to achieve.
Still, Reich insisted, if Trump manages to create more better jobs, he will “absolutely” give credit to the president.
Watch the video below, via CNN:
(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Jeffrey Lord blamed NAFTA for women menstruating.)