Posts Tagged ‘North American Free Trade Agreement’

Why millions of ordinary Americans back Trump

March 11, 2016

Donald Trump is a con man, a racist and a bully.  The record is clear.  But the world is full of confidence men, racists and bullies.  What sets him apart?

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas? and other great political books, took the trouble to listen for himself to several hours of Trump speeches (which I confess I have never done).

I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke.  I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years.

thomasfrank4718But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing. 

Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade.  In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy.   Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame.  He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.

It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.

Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry”.  (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) 

Many liberals think that Trump supporters are simply out of touch with reality.  But they themselves are out of touch with how trade and immigration are changing American life.

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Does Bernie Sanders have a real trade policy?

March 3, 2016
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is an economic nationalist, like Donald Trump.  But while Trump complains about how other countries are taking advantage of the United States.  Sanders talks about how international corporations are taking advantage of working people (to be sure, with China’s help).

He said he has voted against every trade treaty that came before Congress during his tenure in the House and Senate, and said that, if elected President, he would rescind them all.  Like Trump, he opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

His opposition is fully justified, in my opinion.  The World Trade Treaty, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and similar agreements limit the ability of national governments to regulate foreign corporations, and give these corporations equal standing with supposedly sovereign governments.

These agreements are not what I would call free trade, but Sanders is not for free trade either.  He says he is for “fair trade,” which I take to mean a fair balance of trade with other nations.  Unlike Trump, he does not say anything about imposing new tariffs and restrictions on imports.

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Bernie Sanders’ record in Congress

June 27, 2015

If you’re going to judge what a politician stands for, you’d do better to look at their advisers and supporters than their campaign rhetoric, and you’d do even better still to look at their record.

The presidential candidate Bernie Sanders served in the House of Representatives from Vermont’s at-large district from 1991 to 2007 and in the U.S. Senate from 2007 to the present, so he has a long record to go by.

Sanders has been a political independent, not a Democrat, for most of his political life, and is the only member of Congress to call himself a socialist.  The 2016 Presidential campaign is the first campaign in which he has run as a Democrat to organize Congress.

BernieSanders1_1280His congressional record seems to me to be like a 1930s New Deal Democrat.  He is a staunch defender of the New Deal programs such as Social Security, a champion of labor unions and an opponent of Wall Street.

While his voting record is favorable to abortion rights, gay rights, affirmative action and civil rights for African-Americans, he does not have a high profile on these issues as he does on bread-and-butter economic issues.

Liberals might have trouble with the fact that he was first elected to Congress as an opponent of gun control and still has reservations about gun control.

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Here are some highlights of his legislative and voting record:

He founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991 and chaired it for eight years.

In 1999, he defied U.S. law on drug imports by organizing a trip to Canada with constituents to buy cancer medications at 10 percent of the U.S. cost

In 2005, he joined with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to repeal the section of the USA Patriot Act requiring librarians to give the government information on patrons’ book-borrowing.   It passed the House, but did not become law.

In 2010, he gave an eight-and-a-half hour speech against the Tax Relief, Unemployment and Job Creation Act of 2010, which extended the Bush era tax cuts.  The speech drew nationwide attention and was later published as a book.

In 2011, he successfully introduced legislation calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve System’s bank bailouts, which revealed that the Fed had granted $16 trillion dollars in assistance to troubled banks, some of their foreign banks.

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Dems support politicians they don’t believe

June 10, 2015

One oddity of American political life is the voter who support Democratic candidates because he or she doesn’t believe their campaign rhetoric.

I encountered this in 1992 when I talked to a United Auto Workers leader who was working to elect Bill Clinton for President because he was convinced that Clinton didn’t mean what he said about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

True, the UAW guy said, Bill Clinton said he’s for NAFTA, but he also said he is for a lot of other things, such as treaty protection of labor and environmental rights, that would negate NAFTA.  So in effect, his reasoning went, Clinton is really against NAFTA.

But Clinton betrayed him.  He pushed NAFTA though, just as he said he would.  The part he wasn’t serious about was the protection of the labor and environmental rights.

I saw the same thing among supporters of President Obama.  Every time Obama would do something such as offering to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a budget-balancing deal, they would say this is something he “had to” do.

Really?  “Had to”?  Did somebody like the Luca Brazzi character in The Godfather put a pistol to his head and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Now we have the same thing with Hillary Clinton, but with a twist.  She is trying to steal Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ thunder by talking about economic inequality, while signaling that she doesn’t really mean it to the Wall Street figures, who have made her rich by paying her six-figure fees to give speeches.

It will be interesting to see where Clinton comes down on the Trans Pacific Partnership.  She historically has supported trade agreements and in her 2014 book called the TPP the “gold standard” for such agreements.  Now she declines to take a clear stand.

A lot of the political commentary describes her “dilemma” over the TPP—the dilemma consisting of the politics of the TPP, not the merits of the agreement.

If she were to come out strongly against the TPP when her opposition might have some effect in defeating it, I would give her credit for a sincere change of heart.  I don’t expect this to happen, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong.  Otherwise I will view Clinton’s campaign rhetoric with the same skepticism that is being asked of her Wall Street supporters.

I don’t think this happens so much in the Republican Party because there is less of a disparity in the Republican Party between what’s said to the voters and to the financial backers.

LINKS

Hillary Clinton Traces Friendly Path, Troubling Party by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman for the New York Times.

In Classic Clintonian Fashion, Dems Insult Their Own Voters by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Is Clinton Still Down With TPP? by Freedom Partners.