Global trade might not be an issue that gets talked about much during a presidential campaign, but it sure gets acted on a lot in the immediate aftermath. From the Obama Administration’s decision to give in on China’s currency manipulation, we now have the Administration aiming across both oceans, for expanded trade agreements in Asia and Europe.
If these deals are such good things for the economy and in need of such immediate action, why didn’t Obama call for them earlier? I think this quote, referring to Administration dealings with the nations of the Pacific Rim is revealing…
“With Obama now re-elected, U.S. negotiators have more freedom to deal with demands for the United States to open its sugar, dairy, clothing, footwear and other markets to more imports without worrying about hurting the president at the polls.”
That’s a nice and eloquent way of saying that the president of the United States is selling out the people who work in these industries. Wisconsin, which gave its electoral votes to Obama and sent one of the most left-wing members of the Senate in Tammy Baldwin, is rewarded, by having the dairy industry exposed.
Who works in the footwear industry? It’s not the “1 percent”. Although I’m not expecting to see the Occupy folks outside the White House anytime soon. The people that do benefit from this are those that buy and trade shares in international business and will see their profits skyrocket.
The only nice thing that can be said about Obama’s initiatives is that the flood of cheap imports will provide some temporary economic relief to poorer families. It comes at the expense of an economic structure that would actually create more jobs. If the president—or Mitt Romney for that matter—really believed these deals were a great thing for the American people, they’d have spent more time touting it on the campaign trail.
So we ask the question of why Obama gets away with it? How can one be so audacious as to trash the economic interests of the people he catered to less than a month ago and not suffer any political damage?
Answer—the Republicans agree with him. Mitt Romney would have done the same thing. John Boehner and his House GOP crew are more than happy to go along. These agreements pass because they unite the elected officials of both parties. Each side has a corporate element that does what’s best for international business and its stockholders under any circumstances.
At the grass-roots, the sides that disagree the most, can come together here. Conservatives take free-market principles to an extreme in wanting unfettered global trade, regardless of its effect on the United States and regardless of the wage and environmental laws in the prospective trading partner. It’s ideology above all. And for the left-wingers, taking a firm stand on behalf of U.S. labor would mean upsetting foreign countries—and that’s something they consider themselves above doing. It’s politics as popularity contest above all.
If conservatives want to worship at the altar of Adam Smith, while left-wingers want to swoon over how much they’re loved abroad, so be it. But the people and regions of the country that are actually hurt by these agreements have to take a long hard look at whether either group represents their interests.
As we sit two years away from the next mid-term election and four years between the next presidential election, that means target people in primaries who will vote and act differently, whatever your partisan preference is.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com