But "free trade", which is simply plutospeak for "race to the bottom", is no small part of it either. The race to the bottom has wiped out entire sectors of the economy, and transferred their value into what can only be called a slavelord class; leaving only the low-paying service sectors. And with all the displaced workers competing for those jobs, there is even more downward pressure on what were already low wages to begin with. Meanwhile, the slavelords blame the victims and the victims cheerfully agree with them.
In any case, a low-wage economy cannot sustain an aggregate demand; hence the crisis.
President Clinton passed the free trade programs of the elder President Bush in 1994. The number of factories moved to Mexico under NAFTA doubled to more than 4000 factories. Soon after that rush billions of dollars to Mexico to save the peso and the Mexican economy. It did not stop the mass of Mexican workers from coming to America seeking economic survival. Free trade failed from the beginning and President Obama had to bail out the U.S. economy and those who were responsible for the devastating economic policies. Free trade still is the major cause of our economic crisis with both major political parties hiding from this fact.
It is actually President Reagan who reversed the American dream. During his office he systematically dismantled checks and balances on industry. During his tenure the income gap dramatically split for the first time since before FDR. FDR was the protector and defender of the middle class American, the defender of the American Dream.. During Reagan's tenure the rich became richer and the poor became poorer- and this trend has continued since. Reagan removed regulatory oversight on Wall St. Which caused unchecked greed and cheating to dominate.
America thrived when Bill Clinton was President. I don't care who you were, your education level, or your socio-economic background ... You were living BETTER when Clinton was in office. Wall Street was booming. The economy was strong. Unemployment was barely existent. Free trade was a change, especially to manufacturing. But NAFTA alone didn't change that. Remember CAFTA that George W. Bush passed? It played a role in those changes, too. Neither one created the economic crisis that we see, today. Life was great in this country, when Clinton was in. I know Republicans who voted for him! His opponents couldn't attack him on how the country was doing, because it was doing better than it had done in decades. Hence, the character assassination. If we took every politician out of Washington who was having an affair & lying about it ... You probably couldn't get a quorum in the House or Senate! I'm not saying that extra-marital affairs are okay, but if we are going to condemn one -- let's condemn them all! Personally, if an affair happens, I feel it's between the husband & wife. When Bill Clinton was sworn in, he didn't promise America that he wouldn't have a fling. When he married his wife, he did make that promise to her. But back to economics ... During the Clinton years, we all made money. We had good jobs with excellent pay & benefits. Our 401Ks got fat. Companies grew. Investors were happy. The national debt was paid down. All positive marks of a thriving society. Our economic woes of today weren't created by NAFTA or CAFTA. This mess stems from 2 very expensive wars, a direct hit to the airline industry, sleazy sub-prime loans, Wall Street making deals it couldn't support, fraud after fraud, companies collapsing, Ponzi schemes, lack of regulations,etc.
When economic downturns occur has little or nothing to do with the president at the time, but rather the cumulative effects of policies and national behavior during previous administrations.
What we are experiencing now is the result of a lot of factors.
1) 60 years of deficit spending.
2) Four major wars before we had finished paying for WWII plus countless military involvements that kept piling up debt.
3) 45 years of out of control welfare programs that made it profitable for people to stay home instead of capitalizing on their educations and building their own American Dreams.
4) Out of control consumer debt that sapped individuals' funds, making achieving the American Dream less feasible
5) 60 years of increasing TV obsession, 30 years of increasing video game obsession, and 15 years of increasing social media obsession, all of which replaced reading and studying as primary endeavors of school-age Americans, decreasing their educational capital to invest in achieving the American Dream.
6) The leading edge of baby boomers, who want all Americans to pay for their comfort in old age, has hit retirement age, further increasing the national debt, decreasing the government funds for infrastructure and research, and decreasing your paychecks, which pushes the achievement of the American Dream even further out of reach
7) Most of all, the increase in the belief that the American Dream is owed to us, and the decrease in the understanding that achieving it requires decades of hard work, self-denial, self-discipline, scrimping and saving, and even periodic failures.
Achieving the American Dream was never easy or guaranteed, only possible. Any immigrant can tell you that the dream is still alive and kicking.