Saturday, May 11, 2013

Remember How Much We Hated Bush's Job-Destroying "Free" Trade Agenda? Now It's Obama's Agenda


A couple days ago, progressive champion Alan Grayson (D-FL) brought up one of Obama's weakest points: his administration's determination to continue the corporatist trade policies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. The agenda has been devastating for the American manufacturing sector and for the economy in general. Obama ran for office loudly opposing NAFTA and CAFTA as harmful to U.S. (and foreign) workers and to the U.S. (and foreign) environment. As a Senator he voted against CAFTA in 2005. Since becoming President he twisted arms to pass equally awful free trade agreements with South Korea-- which has been a gigantic loser for American workers-- Panama and Colombia. Lori Wallach:
The first year of results are in for the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and it's grim. U.S. exports to Korea plunged 10 percent under the FTA and the trade deficit jumped 37 percent. That equates to the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.

Yikes, what does President Obama do, given this unfortunate revelation occurred the day before the high-profile Washington visit of Korea's president, when Congress and the press would be focused on all things Korea?

He announces: "On our side, we're selling more exports to Korea." Holy Pinocchio!

Not exactly trust-inspiring, as the administration now tries to sell the massive 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) FTA with the same tired promises used to persuade Congress to support the Korea FTA. That would be the promise that the Korea FTA would mean "more exports, more jobs." Right...

Sadly, the Korea FTA is not a fluke. Like the TPP, it is based on the NAFTA model. And U.S. export growth to countries with NAFTA-style pacts has been particularly lackluster; growth of U.S. exports to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to countries that are FTA partners by 38 percent over the past decade. Yup, totally counterintuitive, to say nothing of counterproductive to the administration's manufacturing revitalization goals, but that's what the data shows.

As the Korea FTA provides fresh evidence of the job-killing nature of these deals, U.S. voters want and deserve to know why any member of Congress would buy another round of empty promises for these pacts.
And that brings us right back around to how I started... Alan Grayson. People are aware that Grayson got his law degree at Harvard. People are not as aware that he also got an Economics Degree there. And he's been an opponent of these misnamed "free" trade deals. This week he warned that the U.S. Trade Representative invited public comments on the "Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership." He asked if you agree that "even the title makes you ill."
The "Partnership" actually is a partnership between multinational corporations and their sellout tools in government. It features "investor-state" dispute resolution, which permits huge corporations to file lawsuits to prevent government actions that they just don't like, such as health and safety regulations.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. "These provisions elevate corporations to the level of nation states and allow them to sue governments over nearly any law or policy which reduces their future profits," the Sierra Club warns. The government of Canada has been sued under a similar clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for refusing to export Canada's water. Canada also has been sued for keeping a pollutant out of its gasoline supply, and for taxing windfall profits by oil companies.

Who needs these "free trade" sell-outs, anyway? Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the United States has lost almost four million manufacturing jobs. Moreover, huge U.S. subsidies for corn have made it impossible for millions of Mexican families to survive on the farm. NAFTA accomplished something that hardly seems possible-- impoverishing both American workers and Mexican ones. Can't we learn from our mistakes? And why are our leaders treating us like sheep being led to the slaughter?

The First Amendment gives us the right to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Anyone who has been paying attention to these Judas-kiss trade "deals" is feeling mighty, mighty "aggrieved."
The point of Grayson's letter was to urge people to give public comments but the deadline for that was yesterday. Now we need to do something even more effective: defeat corporate whores-- from both parties-- who support these trade agreements and elect replacements who want to replace them with FAIR trade agreements. A good place to start would be with Speak John Boehner, a lifelong "free" trade proponent-- who never met a jobs-killing agreement he didn't get behind. Because the DCCC is determined to give Boehner a free pass to reelection every cycle, they viciously attack and humiliate any Democrat with the temerity to dare run against him. That's why last year he had no opponent. This year Andy Hounshell, an Ohio steel worker and a vice president of his local union, the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), is going ahead and challenging Boehner anyway, regardless of what the DCCC says or does. He's a big supporter of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown's approach to trade.

"John Boehner," he told me a few months ago, "is still using the same model for the Trans-Pacific deal but it's been working out very badly in the Korean deal. Obama should abandon the approach. U.S. exports to Korea are down by 9 percent since the deal was implemented and imports from Korea are way up. And, just like many of us who opposed the deal predicted, the U.S. trade deficit when Korea is up by 30 percent. That means we're losing good manufacturing jobs. That nine percent decrease in exports to Korea since the trade deal began amounts to over $3 billion. Speaker Boehner never talks about losses like that when he pushes these policies. Our exports to Korea are up by around $800 million; there's no balance there." It's gotten even worse since Andy said that. Alan Grayson and Andy Hounshell are both endorsed for Congress by the Blue America PAC. If you agree with their ideas on trade policies and can afford to help out, both can use the help. Needless to say, neither is getting any money from the big corporate interests that finance over 60% of the candidates who run for Congress. You can find them both on this page

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