Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PA-3 Candidates Missa Eaton (D) & Mike Kelly (R) Square Off In The Battle Over Free Trade vs Fair Trade


The Missa Luba by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin has been one of my favorite pieces of music since I became aware of music. Missa Eaton, on the other hand, is someone I just met-- but I have a feeling I'm going to like her as much as I like the Missa Luba. After winning the Democratic primary, Missa is the Democratic candidate running for Congress in the 3rd District of Pennsylvania, the swing district centered on Erie, currently occupied by master of self-entitlement Mike Kelly. Missa, who has worked in education for more than 15 years, is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Penn State Shenango. She comes from a blue collar background and has spent most of her career helping students retrain and rebuild their skill sets to be better prepared to find good paying jobs in this tough economy. She's running on a 5-point plan for western Pennsylvania: Job Creation and Economic Development; Social Security and Medicare Protection; Investment In Our Future through Education Initiatives; Access to Affordable Healthcare; and an American Energy Policy Based On Sustainability. That puts her on a collision course with Kelly on every item of her agenda. Kelly has no plan-- at least not for the public-- and has spent the last year-and-a-half appeasing teabaggers and the hard core of the GOP base instead of attending to his constituents' needs or working across the aisle with Democrats and independents. Recent job performance polls show that the residents of Pennsylvania are unhappy and disillusioned with Republican Party leadership both in the state and on Capitol Hill. The boundaries of the 3rd CD have changed and include new parts of the district that may not vote for a former car salesman who is just going to sell them a bill of goods rather than having a plan to bring back manufacturing jobs which are the backbone of the middle class working families that make up the district.

I asked Missa to introduce herself to DWT readers by focussing on one of the issues that she-- and northwest Pennsylvania residents feel most strongly about: the poisonous trade agreements that both Inside-the-Beltway political Establishments have given to corporate high rollers. As we mentioned on Independence Day, Kelly owns Hyundai/Kia Car dealerships and has been an aggressive force behind so-called "free" trade agreements that are good for his own personal bottom line but have been devastating to working families across the Midwest, and particularly in western Pennsylvania.

Missa is certain that special interests prefer these trade agreements that benefit wealthy Republican elected officials and wealthy donors. This is one of the reasons why voters are fed up with Republican leaders. Besides unfair trade agreements, Republicans like Kelly consistently vote for tax credits for companies off-shoring jobs. On June 19, 2012, Mike Kelly and his Republican colleagues voted against a plan to pass the “United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act.” This legislation would require certain call centers to disclose when they plan on relocating outside of the United States. Additionally, the legislation would stop companies that ship jobs overseas from getting federal loans and grants and give them adequate time to comply with the measure. It would also give consumers a right to speak to a worker based in the United States instead of a worker in a foreign country.

That same day, Mr. Kelly voted against a plan to ensure that all items offered for sale in any gift shop or visitor center located within a unit of the National Park System are produced in the United States. It is also well known that Kelly has about 6 million dollars invested in energy companies and votes for subsidies for these corporations. He's the 13th richest Member of Congress-- via a marriage to an heiress to the Phillips Petroleum fortune-- and has proven to be out of touch with the middle class families that live in his district. People are fed up with being sold out by their representatives who are more interested in having the job than in performing the job. Please read Missa's guest post below-- and if you agree with her sentiments and proposals about U.S. trade policies, consider giving her campaign a hand at our ActBlue page.

Fair Trade: A Way to Bring Manufacturing Back to the U.S.

-by Missa Eaton

An important aspect of job creation and economic development is changing our trade policies, which currently benefit other countries and help keep jobs and profits overseas while preventing jobs and profits from coming back to the United States. The President of the AFL-CIO had concerns about the South Korea Free Trade Agreement, stating that the government needed to address the imbalanced market-access provisions in the agreement and to revisit the flawed investment, procurement, and services provisions as well. According to Commerce Department figures, in 2006, only about 4,000 US-manufactured cars (excluding GM's Daewoo subsidiary) were sold in South Korea while sales of cars manufactured by South Korean companies (including cars manufactured in Korean-owned US plants) in the United States exceeded 800,000. South Korean automakers sold 730,863 vehicles in the United States in 2005, while American auto companies sold only 5,795 in South Korea, according to Commerce Department figures. This is unlikely to change for the better since the Korea Free Trade Agreement has been signed. This kind of free trade isn't fair trade.

Special interests, including wealthy politicians and their wealthy donors, enjoy the benefits and profits from these free trade agreements. Workers rarely do. Remedies to our trade deficits should include three elements: enforcing trade rules to balance our trade with other countries, bringing complaints against countries that manipulate their currencies, and implementing fair trade agreements instead of free trade agreements. Related to trade are efforts to roll back incentives for companies to offshore jobs.

Enforcing Trade Rules

Important to creating a level playing field is imposing duties when manufacturers in other countries are found to gain substantial subsidies from their governments. These subsidies can range from 12% to 30%, which hamstrings our manufacturing process and undermines the security of American working families. These rules already exist; they simply must be enforced. The political will has not been present recently in doing so, because driving manufacturing out of this country means that
multinational corporations can offshore jobs at greatly reduced wages. Anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws must be enforced. This imbalance has led to the loss of millions of jobs and the closing of tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities.

Fighting Back Against Manipulation of Currency

Although the U.S. Overall trade deficit has contracted slightly over the last several months, our trade deficit with countries known to manipulate the value of their currency has results in an increased trade deficit. Trade deficits with such countries amount to billions of dollars each month in lost revenue and increased uncertainty for workers and companies in the U.S. Both the Department of the Treasury and the House of Representatives are turning their backs on American manufacturers and their workers by not listing countries such as China as currency manipulators and by failing to bring bi-partisan legislation to deter currency manipulation to the House floor for a vote. Russia is now being considered for WTO favored trading status. Like China, Russia is also involved in directing its companies, subsidizing its companies, and manipulation its currency. These kinds of state-managed and state-directed economies do not allow competition by U.S. companies in selling American goods abroad. Further, value added taxes (VATs) undermine the U.S.'s ability to compete with foreign companies.

Fair Trade Agreements

The last time the U.S. exported more than it imported was 37 years ago. Our relatively recent losses in manufacturing due to off-shoring of jobs is exacerbated by bilateral trade agreements through which American companies and workers consistently lose. So-called free trade agreements are opportunities for developing markets to export more cheaply produced goods to the U.S., but rarely for American companies to export our better-made products to our trading partners. Although our exports have risen recently, goods imported are keeping pace, and our trade deficits grow. Every billion dollars in trade deficit translates into thousands of lost jobs and the resulting slowing of our economy.

While cheating exists that contributes to American trade deficits, our free trade agreements also contribute to our deficits. We need to look to fair trade agreements that protect American workers and companies. These fair trade agreements must have elements that ensure level playing fields for all partners: goals of balanced trade; creating a national trade policy that protects our economy and our security; reciprocity between and among our trading partners; encouraging our trading partners to move state-sponsored manufacturing into privately owned companies; discouragement of currency undervaluation as a violation of trade agreements; rules of origin that must include content percentages; adjustment of value added taxes imposed on U.S. goods exported and rebated to foreign goods imported; protections for perishable goods; enforcement of U.S. standards of product and food safety; periodic renegotiation of trade agreements based on trade imbalances; and labor provisions that ensure positive working conditions, collective bargaining rights, and other labor provisions found in the U.S.

These provisions of fair trade agreements not only create a level playing field for U.S. companies and workers but they ensure that fair working conditions are available for workers within partner countries.

Trade agreements in the U.S. are long-standing and complex. By and large, these agreements have opened up trade of U.S. goods where no trade might have existed before. The practical result, however, has been to increase the trade deficit. Issues of trade deficits must be addressed with cooperation between the Congress and the Administration. As the next congressional representative from a manufacturing-dense district, I will work tirelessly to bring manufacturing back to our country and to protect the companies and workers of the U.S. through our trade agreements.

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At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great information and a candidate that should be supported.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Missa for Congress!

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time's up for Mike Kelly and the Tea Party. Our country has complex issues to tackle that talking points and Grover's tax pledge aren't going to satisfy. We need actual leadership and an independent thinking, like Missa! November can't come soon enough.

At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you to Lou for forwarding this to me - awesome article. I'm passing it on now...

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Missa!


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