Free Market Clintonism, RIP

The death of the free trade Democrat


Hillary Clinton was angry about free trade, and she wanted Wisconsin to know it. "I'm tired of being played for a patsy," the candidate said, 48 hours before the state's Democrats would hand a 17-point landslide to Barack Obama. "It's time we said to the rest of the world, 'If you want to have anything to do with our market, you have to play by our rules.'?"

That may have been red meat for a hungry crowd in the economically depressed upper Midwest. But Clinton sang the same tune in an interview with the liberal Capital Times newspaper in Madison, railing against a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of her husband's most famous economic initiatives.

"It did not fulfill its expectations and caused a lot of consequences that we're going to have to deal with," she told the paper. "I have clearly stated for a number of years that we need to have the kind of pro-American smart trade that comes from looking at the trade agreements we've already passed, evaluating them and revising them so that they're more in keeping with…the standards that we expect."

The main selling point of Hillary Clinton's campaign, ratcheted up after Barack Obama started scaring her up a ladder, had been her "35 years of experience," along with a certain nostalgia for the 1990s, which both Hillary and Bill smugly described on the campaign trail as having been "pretty good." The linchpin of that claim was the economic boom of the Bill years. Yet last fall Hillary began to soft-pedal or sweep under the carpet the very policies that made the boom possible.

NAFTA was a critical moment in Bill Clinton's presidency, a New Democratic victory over the old union elements of the party. When Clinton signed the final treaties in 1993, he warned that no government action "can change the fact that information can flash across the world, that people can move money around in the blink of an eye." He compared trade skepticism to the ways of old and dying industrial nations: "If we learn anything from the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the governments in Eastern Europe, [it's that] even a totally controlled society cannot resist the winds of change that economics and technology and information flow have imposed in this world of ours."

As recently as 2006, Hillary Clinton positioned herself as the heir to this trade-accommodating policy. She was not a "die-hard free-trader," she said at the time, but she also wasn't "an unreconstructed protectionist with very little regard, frankly, for how trade agreements are actually working."

It's not a mystery how NAFTA is working, actually. America's GDP and industrial production have grown about 50 percent since the trade pact took effect. Total U.S. unemployment was 6.9 percent in 1993, before NAFTA went into effect; today it's 4.9 percent. Hillary Clinton once considered this an accomplishment.

But then came the 2008 presidential campaign. In a November 2007 Iowa speech to the United Auto Workers, Clinton called for a "time-out" to "take stock of where we are on trade." As the mortgage default wave gathered momentum in late 2007 and early 2008, Clinton proposed freezing adjustable rates by legislative fiat. To help eliminate the gender gap in salaries, Clinton endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require a federal study to pave the way for an eventual legislative fix.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, matched her stride for stride toward the old economic left. Before the January 3 Iowa caucus, the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign, a union-backed group that describes NAFTA and the World Trade Organization as "a proven failure for working people," asked the candidates to explain their trade stances. Obama promised that revisiting NAFTA was "one of the first things I'll do as president," language in line with what he's said to other audiences but a lot tougher. (Clinton has vowed to review trade agreements every five years.) Obama also played up his support for the Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination based on gender.

As the campaigns headed to the populist temptations of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas, Clinton put out word that she was never on the record agreeing with her husband about NAFTA. The evidence, apparently, is on her side. In For Love of Politics, Sally Bedell Smith's 2007 biography of the Clintons, former U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor claims he had to convince Hillary Clinton that NAFTA would be good for the country.

"If she would somehow come out and tell the real story of what she fought for in the White House," Hillary biographer Carl Bernstein said in February, "and failed in a big argument with her husband, she would end up moving much closer to those Edwards followers."

That's what Democratic economic politics, and especially trade politics, have been about in 2008: pleasing the John Edwards voter. The slick-talking North Carolina trial lawyer did not win any primaries this year, but he did intuit that the new Democratic majority in Congress was far more trade-skeptical than the one that Bill Clinton split in half to pass NAFTA. Former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), who led his party's charge against the NAFTA vote in the 1990s, was Edwards' campaign manager. Before Edwards dropped out Bonior told me the public's distaste for outsourcing and allegedly rising prices for consumer goods was much more obvious now than when Edwards first ran in 2004.

Jeff Faux, who was president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute during the NAFTA fight, speculates that Hillary Clinton has seen the same trend. "Unlike her husband," Faux says, "who got his political education in Arkansas, she got hers campaigning in upstate New York in 1999 and 2000, in her Senate race. She saw those areas that had been hit by NAFTA. She had to deal with people in mill towns who lost their jobs."

Now Faux, who had been as marginalized within the Democratic Party as Bonior in the early 1990s, couldn't be happier. When Hillary Clinton talks about a "strategic pause" on trade deals, she is using terminology that skeptics have employed since at least 2005, when Faux lobbied Clinton before her vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The candidates' leftward tack was encouraged by the tight Democratic nomination fight. In early February, Clinton's campaign made it clear that she would need the party's "superdelegates"—bigwig pols who can vote at the convention without regard for the primary results—to win the nomination. The Associated Press reported in mid-February that among the superdelegates were "leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda."

There you have one of the lessons of this race: When Obama said, in January, that Ronald Reagan had been a "transformative" president in a way that Bill Clinton had not, he was right. Even if Hillary Clinton wins the party's nomination, she will not do so as a candidate of a lasting Clintonism. The only 1990s economic policies that either Democratic candidate professed to believe in are the slightly higher tax rates that followed President Clinton's 1993 increase. On health care, the candidates proposed bigger and more expensive plans than the last Democratic president ever pondered during his last six years in office. President Clinton once mulled putting Social Security funds in the stock market; candidates Clinton and Obama proposed funding it through transfer payments from here to

Knowing all that, the distance Hillary has traveled from free trade to protectionism is no less shocking. Ten years ago, giving advice at a conference for developing economies in Africa, she warned that countries where the skeptics held sway were going to be left behind. "Look around the globe," Clinton advised. "Those nations which have lowered trade barriers are prospering more than those that have not."

It was true in Africa; it's true in America. It will be true when, as seems likely, one of these Democrats gets the nomination and moderates his or her rhetoric. The crucial issue is how much of that rhetoric was mere pandering and how much represents a true political sea change.

David Weigel
is an associate editor of Reason.

NEXT: Good Mornin' Mississippi

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  1. Oh, it’s not that strange. Clinton’s (very commendable) support of NAFTA was the strange thing. A majority of Dems voted against it.

    After intense political debate and the negotiation of these side agreements, the U.S. House of Representatives passed NAFTA on November 17, 1993, by 234-200 vote (132 Republicans and 102 Democrats voting in favor; 43 Republicans, 156 Democrats, and 1 independent against),[6] and the U.S. Senate passed it on the last day of its 1993 session, November 20, 1993, by 61-38 vote (34 Republicans and 27 Democrats voting in favor; 10 Republicans and 28 Democrats against, with 1 Democrat opponent not voting — Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), an ardent foe of NAFTA, missed the vote because of an illness in his family).[7]


    Still Dems seem to be much more opposed now than they were then:

    A recent Rasmussen report, however, shows that only 16% of likely Democratic voters in the 2008 presidential election support NAFTA, while 53% disapprove of the trade agreement.

    Maybe it was the post-Communist glow.

  2. I heard somebody say once that a leopard can’t change its spots.

  3. Strip Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan of their electoral votes until they update their industries.

    Problem solved.

  4. Isn’t it obvious, folks. Clinton always felt like an outsider. In order to be initiated into the illuminati, which was his desire, Clinton agreed to continue H.W. Bush’s NAFTA plan which was another spoke in the wheel of the “New World Order.”

    Some people are so naive.

  5. Run left for the nomination, run to the center for the election. I fervently hope Hillary and Obama both know better.

  6. My preferred outcome: Obama as president, with Senate and House going to the Republicans.

  7. Odd!

    I count over 30 comments I’ve left on other sites pointing out that Obama recently came out in support of Bush’s SPP scheme (spp.gov), aka “NAFTA on steroids”.

    Yet, I’m the only one (besides Obama himself, once) mentioning this, with some people (I won’t name names!) still pretending he’s something other than a tranzi.

  8. WTF is an orange line?

  9. Weigel is rewriting history.

    Even as Bill Clinton was pushing for NAFTA, he was talking about coming back and reforming it to include the very same labor and environmental standards that its “opponents” are now calling for.

  10. Cesar,

    It’s a route in the DC Metro light-rail system.

    And, for some reason, the people who really, really dig what Ron Paul had to say in his newsletters have picked up the term “Orange Line” to refer to those libertarians who weren’t so impressed.

    Why not blue line? Why not red line? Who knows? Why do such people do anything?

  11. What kind of “reforms”? Unilaterally dropping the agreement unless Mexico magically makes their environmental labor standards as good as ours overnight?

    Yeah, thats a great way to alienate not one but TWO allies. And in the same region!

    So much for “restoring Americas image in the world”.

  12. Well, that proves I’m not “inside the beltway” because I didn’t know what the hell that was.

  13. What kind of “reforms”?

    Well, maybe something to do with the very same labor and environmental standards that its “opponents” are now calling for.

    magically makes their environmental labor standards as good as ours overnight Wow, you really knocked the straw out of that guy!

    In 2004, in one of the Democratic debates, John Kerry was asked about that same question: are you talking about asking them to adopt our environmental and labor standards?

    His answer: “Well, we could ask.” Laughter throughout the hall. “They’d say no.” More laughter.

    Think about that, Cesar: the position you assigned to Democrats is literally a joke to them.

    BTW, Canada’s environmental and labor protections are in many ways stricter than ours.

  14. Joe, do you think its really wise for Obama to be talking about unilaterally withdrawing from an international treaty if Canada and Mexico don’t do what we want?

    Why, that sounds like something George W. Bush would do!

  15. We should get out of NAFTA until our environmental and labor protections catch up to Canada’s.

  16. Yes. It is wise for Obama to talk abour renegotiating a treaty that he doesn’t feel is serving our interests, and it is wise for him to describe the teeth behind his position when asked.

    Am I supposed to suddently change my opinion about something based on the fact that it “sounds like” something a Republican would do? Sorry, I don’t operate like that.

  17. I just thought he was for improving America’s image in the world, and alienating our two neighbors doesn’t exactly sound like a good start to that.

  18. The short lead in here got it right about the “strange death of pro-trade rhetoric” as it has been only that for a while now.

    As for the Orange Line reference, (joe and others) it refers to a part of the DC Metro system, as explained in a column by Justin Raimondo, which I will spare you a link to here.

  19. Even as Bill Clinton was pushing for NAFTA, he was talking about coming back and reforming it to include the very same labor and environmental standards that its “opponents” are now calling for.

    So why didn’t he do it then?

    More likely he said one or two things to appease the moon bats but had no plans to do anything about it. His actions were that he signed NAFTA without the provisions you say he championed. If he did not like the provisions of NAFTA he would not have signed it. The Democrats of today are saying just that…We should not sign the any trade agreement without bowing to the far left of the party first.

    For the millionth time joe is proven an idiot and a shill.

  20. Now that the Ron Paul campaign is effectively over, I can finally say this: His stance on NAFTA was boneheaded. I’m amazed that no one on the Orange Line ever criticized him on this. They were too busy bashing Paul over old ghostwritten newsletters. At most they could only manage to raise an eyebrow over his “NAFTA is bad for us” position.

    Pat Buchanan said something to the effect that if NAFTA were really about free trade, then it would only be one page long instead of the massive tome of legalese that it currently is. That’s true. But it is also true that it is a MASSIVE improvement over the micromanaged web of tariffs and restrictions that preceded it. The libertarian stance should not be to abolish NAFTA, but to go *beyond* NAFTA to even freer trade. (Actually, that was Ron Paul’s position, but he did a very poor job of communicating it).

    It’s none of my business if my neighbor trades with people in Mexico or Canada. There shouldn’t be any government agents on the border preventing such trade (other than minimal customs inspections). It doesn’t matter if Mexico pays their workers less, that only frees up workers in the US to perform more other more productive tasks.

    Free Trade is an economic benefit to both sides who engage in it. This has been known since the days of Smith and Ricardo. The classic liberals of the nineteenth century were proponents of free trade and zero tariffs. It made Great Britain an economic superpower. I’m disappointed that Ron Paul, ordinarily a great proponent of Austrian economics, missed the ball on this key point.

    p.s. Orange Line refers the color of the subway line that runs to Washington DC bureaucracies as well as several “libertarian-but-pro-government” organizations.

  21. A big part of the problem is that the only major states in play in presidential elections these days are the old Rust Belt states like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. These states used to have a higher standard of living than most of the rest of the country, and now they’re declining. The Democrats aren’t going to pick up Texas or Florida by praising free trade, so they go in for trade-bashing instead.

    NAFTA is a particularly attractive target because it really amounts to subliminal Mexican-bashing. Yeah, it’s all those damn Mexicans! They’re stealing our jobs! Hillary and Obama bashed NAFTA repeatedly in Ohio, even though people there know they haven’t lost any jobs south of the Rio Grande. Talk about winning ugly!

  22. Anything Obama has to say on the topic of NAFTA is just laughable after his secret meeting with Canadian officials in Chicago. Do we forget so quickly that he first denied it flat out as no contact at all and then amended it slightly and then finally only after the proof was blatant he confesses that yeah there was a conversation but trust me it wasn’t about NAFTA and selling out Americans….yeah right..ROFLMAO

  23. Cesar,

    I just thought he was for improving America’s image in the world

    which is something that increasing our emphasis on the environment and worker’s conditions will do quite nicely.


    Thank you for not linking to an article explaining what I just described to Cesar.

    So why didn’t he do it then? Uh, because the treaty was already written and negotiated, and had been submitted to the Senate when he took office.

    This is easy enough to look up, corning. It’s kind of you to so consistently set me up like this, but really, I can handle this without you lobbing softballs for me.

  24. nafta is sure a problem that needs to fixed.But how can someone who could not defend America from the comments his mentor made of our country if he did not have the backbone to confront him on those issues rather than sit and listen for 20 years then he must have agreed with him until he decided to run for president now he says he did not agree with wright and was not responsible for the comments wright made but sitting silent for 20 years speaks volume .why would anyone support someone who cannot speak up when comments like those are first made. now he is trying to use race for the past I am sorry I don’t see how anyone would buy that sad tale of woe. If you want to make an issue of race just look way back in the past our people came to the American Indians country and took it away from them and put them on reservations they have truly suffered the most. But that is in the past and we are not responsible for our ancestors sins so leave the race out of it and our country America is a mix of all now so get on with the future and quitting looking back so that is why I would never ever vote for anyone that can not defend America against such ugly remarks when they are first spoken.

  25. Now that the Ron Paul campaign is effectively over, I can finally say this: His stance on NAFTA was boneheaded. I’m amazed that no one on
    the Orange Line ever criticized him on this.

    Same here. Ditto for his immigration rhetoric which I ultimately believe hurt him more than helped him as it made him indistinguishable from the other candidates on that issue. As McCain is the nominee the issue ultimately didn’t matter this election cycle.

    NAFTA was better than what we had in place, and incremental change is often more effective than being a purist who accomplishes nothing.

    I do have a broader concern with Nafta than anything that has so far been mentioned. Down the road, the current arrangement of trade blocks could backfire, as they are as much borders for excluding others as they are including represented parties. In history, trade wars often become shooting wars. I don’t see anything brewing on the horizon, but too is the way of history.

  26. Even as Bill Clinton was pushing for NAFTA, he was talking about coming back and reforming it to include the very same labor and environmental standards that its “opponents” are now calling for.

    See, also, “playing both ends against the middle” and “telling the rubes what they want to hear.”

  27. 1. I’ve only visited DC once, and I just drove, walked, and biked. I had no idea they had a subway. Nor did/do I care.

    2. I picked up the Orange Line reference from this I believe: formerbeltwaywonk.wordpress.com

    3. I dig some of the things in the newsletters, as described here. As I said there about Reason’s favorite TNR author, he’s a “complete establishment suck-up and apologist”.

  28. Indiana is not “in play”. The last time Indiana swung democratic in a presidential election was 1964.

  29. Maybe it is a crazy theory, but it is not possible that if more people (I mean most people on this planet) were traveling overseas for business purpose, free trade would be more popular?

    P.S.: Let us say we were to levy tariffs on foreign trade. Should the states be allowed to raise tariffs on interstate trade? For that matter, why not the counties?
    (Relax guys, I am being sarcastic).

  30. Let us not kid ourselves, where the Republicans are tolerable to barely tolerable on trade, the Democrats are truly horrible.

    If the Rep. David Bonior wing of the Democratic party won the trade battles of the 80’s and 90’s instead of the few DLCers like Clinton and Leiberman aligned with Republicans, the economic transaction I just completed today with a Belgium client
    (it is much more mundane than it sounds) would either have been prohibited from taking place, or the shake down cost of Democratic politics would have made it prohibitively expensive for either one of us.

    Far from being internationalist, the Democrats are rubes at heart.

  31. RC Dean,

    While the NAAEC and the NAALC aren’t as robust as I’d like, I think Clinton’s work to get them included in the treaty prior to its ratification – agreements that required him to re-open negotiations (horrors, Cesar! horrors!) with Mexico and Canada – demonstrates that his concern was genuine.


  32. I can’t believe people would deliberately hold their tongues and not criticize a politician with whom they have a serious philosophical disagreement just because of partisanship.

    You’re not being paid for this! You don’t owe anyone your loyalty! You are a citizen of our republic, and open discussions about ideas in the run-up to elections are how the dialogue between the American people and the government works.

    If you don’t like the leading libertarian politician’s message on trade or immigration, how else do you expect to lean on him but to push back during his political campaign?

  33. I recall publicly rescinding my support of Paul after the Immigration commercial and pointing out the use of ‘wetback’ stereotypes in it raising my ire.

  34. I recall a number of libertarians doing that, too, alan.

    I guess you weren’t agreeing with that bit of the comment you agreed with – and good on ya for it!

  35. I can see how my selection there could cause confusion. I really meant I agreed with Brandybuck there in his overall assessment.

    I rescinded my support on this forum only once because I didn’t want to get caught up in the paleo/cosmo debate more than the few times my strings got pushed.

  36. Like recently when Ramaido went after Welch. Obviously, Welch and Moynihan have evolved in their opinions since 9/11 rattled everything. I think the only reason I didn’t take the bait was because I was very well aware of what Judith Miller and other outlets of the desperate print press were up to at the time. It is past ‘see-I-told-you-so’ and time to create an effective antiwar alliance
    of those who always were and those who came to their senses later.

  37. Orange Line Special | April 2, 2008, 4:14pm | #

    Odd!…I count over 30 comments I’ve left on other sites

    It’s not at all odd that no one, anywhere, ever pays any attention to you.

    You are a boring, disgusting douche, and spend all your time going to other people’s sites, constantly linking to yourself, and generally talking out your ass as though someone was paying attention to your comments. Which, it should be noted, no one ever reads for substance, since your revolting character is enough to counteract any possible topic you might have something sensible to say on. Your constant, desperate, self-promotion has absolutely no effect at all. Have you not noticed?

    Why not change tactics. Like = stop being a self-satisfied, annoying cunt?

    Or better yet, GO SOMEWHERE PEOPLE CARE. Good luck with that.

  38. excuse me, that’s Raimondo. All I had to do was flip a page mark to get the correct spelling, but being the lazy bastard that I am . . .

  39. That said,

    NAFTA doesnt really make that much of a difference.

    If we had the fearsome “unified mexican/US/Canadian” trade area that idiots like Lonewacko get dizzy about, the impact would be hardly anything different than the current half-assed implementation.

    China, India, Russia, Brazil. Unless they happen to all decide to opt out of the world economy, what people in the US think about NAFTA is basically meaningless.

    It would be nice to get rid of all the loopholes in NAFTA and help it do what it was meant to do (partly = create richer mexicans to buy our products and stop coming here because we’d create jobs there)… but nothing is going to change significantly with these other countries becoming major global competitors/consumer markets.

  40. babs in ga. | April 2, 2008, 5:04pm | #

    Jesus babs.

    One – Punctuation can be a wonderful thing. Practice.

    Two – NAFTA is a problem because…? Seriously. Some farmers in GA might disagree. Ask a few.

  41. That’s right. As I have pointed out before, when we are competing in bids with China or other nations for goods coming from a third nation, say Chile, it is ultimately we who will pay the price of any shakedowns that are built into our bidding price by politicians in Washington.

    America bids 3.50 -(enviro + work regulation + political graft cost) a bushel.

    China bids 3.50 + (we don’t tell you how to run your country) a bushel.

    Guess what, the Chinese get to eat, and we get hungrier, by and by.

  42. as a side question,

    Who is the most vocal free-market candidate? McCain?

    Too bad he has to whisper it, because too many Americans are deluded about the benefits of protectionism in the current global marketplace.

    He might actually pick up some Dem voters who flinch when they hear Obama/Clinton offer up all this ridiculous protectionist rhetoric. Not many, to be fair. A lot of GOP voters now arent much better than the Lefties on the economy.

  43. It amazes me how much protectionist rhetoric works. My own hippie mum was stating some of it she picked up from a Democratic debate earlier this year. I had to point out to her,

    ‘mum, the company you work for is based in what country?’


    ‘So, would you like to keep them out too(argument was over chinese plants)?’



  44. Now that the Ron Paul campaign is effectively over, I can finally say this: His stance on NAFTA was boneheaded.

    Huh, now that you have thrown principles out the door, you may say the above…

    The problem with NAFTA is that it is everything but a *free* trade agreement. It is more a list of tariffs with timetables. A free trade agreement could perfectly fit a post card and say: entry fee 0.25% of invoiced value. Welcome to the USA! And that’s it.

    I’m amazed that no one on the Orange Line ever criticized him on this.

    Those who did criticized him did so out of pure malice or ignorance of economics – or both.

  45. Yes. It is wise for Obama to talk about renegotiating a treaty that he doesn’t feel is serving our interests [sic], and it is wise for him to describe the teeth behind his position when asked.

    Uh, what’s with this “we” business, Kimo Sabi? There’s no “we” – people are not ants or any sort of collective, despite what socialists might wish in their wet dreams.

    Obama is not talking about re-negotiating NAFTA for the reasons you describe, because it would be absurd – how could he know what *your* interests are, or mine? (Reeks of the idea of central planning by an illustrated despot). He talks about that issue to obtain political points, that’s all. It may be wise in that very base, utilitarian way, but not due to principles.

  46. I just thought he was for improving America’s image in the world,

    That’s one of those things no one really cares about. It just gets tossed in as an afterthought if what a party wants happens to coincide with world opinion. It’s quickly forgotten whenever it doesn’t.

    Personally, I think the adults in the Democratic Party aren’t going to abandon free trade any more than they’ll abandon Iraq. Unfortunately, a statistical fluke has led to extended kiddie-time.

  47. which is something that increasing our emphasis on the environment and worker’s conditions will do quite nicely.

    I think that’s an admirable goal that should certainly be part of U.S. policy, but otoh the countries that have poor environmental and working conditions are the same ones that need free trade to lift them to a GDP per capita level where people start to care about those things.

    Right goal, wrong tool.

  48. Unfortunately, a statistical fluke has led to extended kiddie-time.

    Does this have anything to do with the dead-ender (i.e. people like you) minority still controlling policy?

    As to the Orange Line, it goes pretty far out into the VA suburbs. Maybe that’s why they picked it? Do a lot of think tank libertarians live out there or something?

  49. The Orange Line terminates near George Mason University. The libertarians there were pretty unwowed by Ron Paul.

  50. “…evaluating [free trade agreements] and revising them so that they’re more in keeping with?the standards that we expect.”

    I prefer the old system with activists shaming the Nikes and Kathy Lee Giffords of the world into cleaning up their act. A lot of people around here hate the kind of blowhard it takes to expose certain corporate overreaches, but its preferable to allow consumers the ultimate say in what “standards we expect” than to let the President decide for us. More power to those who expose inhumane conditions and unfair practices. Less power to those who decide such issues based on ideology and lobbyist cash.

  51. Dave is right.

    You’ll also notice that, post-NAFTA, Mexico has not only grown their GDP, recovered completely from the 1994 debacle and then some, but also created a semi-stable liberal democracy run by center-right Preidents in what used to be a leftist oligarchy.

    I don’t think its just a coincidence.

  52. And, 14% of their (former) workers live in the U.S.

    But, that, that’s just a coinkydink.

  53. What’s a coincidence? Nearly free benefits they won’t get living/working in Mexico? No matter how well an economy is improving, most people will go for the benefits.

  54. No shit, sherlock, because the wealth difference between the U.S. and Mexico is still great. You’re talking about a globally middle-income country next to the wealthiest country in the world.

    I know your ilk likes to pretend Mexico is Haiti/Zimbabwe, but that just isn’t true. At least its not true to those of us not stuck in a time-warp.

  55. But, you know, they do send money (capital) they make here to Mexico that is then used as an investment there to improve their economy further.

    I know with your economically ignorant, self-congratulatory think that thats a BAD thing, but its not.

  56. The problem with NAFTA is that it is everything but a *free* trade agreement. It is more a list of tariffs with timetables. A free trade agreement could perfectly fit a post card and say: entry fee 0.25% of invoiced value. Welcome to the USA! And that’s it.

    NAFTA is sort of like a PBJ sandwich with rancid peanut butter. But it’s still miles better than the shit sandwich that we had before! But the funny thing is, most people who oppose NAFTA want the shit sandwich back. Hardly anyone opposed to NAFTA wants a “postcard” free trade agreement.

    Ron Paul was one of the few who wanted to abolish NAFTA and replace it with … nothing! But he kept that part of his policy mum, because many of his supporters are rabid Buchananite protectionists.

  57. As a Canadian, I find the thought of NAFTA being torn up bloody frightening. 60% + of our economy is dependent on trade with the US.

    I’m not going to argue the relative merits of “free trade” vs. “freer trade” or compare labor laws or environmental standards, the simple fact for Canadians and Mexicans is that the US abrogating NAFTA would be devastating.

    Cesar noted that to abrogate NAFTA would alienate your two closest allies. That is a thousand percent understatement. It would poison relations with both your neighbors for a generation.

    And if you’re willing to do that to your closest allies, how do you think that is going to improve your image in the rest of the world?

  58. Has anyone ever seen David Weigel and Stephen Moore in the same room? Yeah, 4.9 unemployment, keep saying it over and over, if it helps you sleep at night. Funny how the unemployment rate drops even though we haven’t had a Non-Farm payroll number above 150,000(the amount of jobs the US economy must produce to keep up w/ new entrants into the job market) more than a couple times in the last 5 years. Yup, 4.9% unemployment, and the US economy can be sustained by citizens selling each other their houses….forevah!!!! Just use the same ole formulas, you know the ones that are consistently wrong now?

    Here’s a thought, maybe the dot com boom of the 90’s had a bigger effect on the economy than NAFTA. Certainly the productivity gains derived from improved technology had huge impact as well. To say it was NAFTA all by it’s lonesome, is simply a supply sider conforming the facts to his world view.

    It occurs to me, reading these comments, that a Libertarian is simply a Republican who is ashamed to identify himself as one while in polite company. Moonbats! Reverend Wright! Oh the humanity! The thought of waking up in a country in which WASPs aren’t in charge of everything just scares the sh!t our of you doesn’t it?

    P.S. War supporters…it’s time to enlist now. You can TIVO ’24’.

  59. Caution: Useless pedantic comment with no added value to the topic at hand only inserted to show that joe is wrong again:

    “It’s a route in the DC Metro light-rail system.”

    By most (all?) definitions the WMATA subway system (AKA Metrorail but normally just “the Metro”) is a heavy rail system.

    But your right in that Reason’s HQ is closest to the Dupont Circle station which is a Red line stop.

    But the west part (and most heavily travelled) the Orange line goes to the Virginia suburbs, which because of the Metro, have developed Urban livingbut Republican governance (at the state level) -> Cosmotartian Paradise.

  60. (which, fwiw, i’m a fan of.)

  61. Max Thrax,

    If you feel that strongly about the negative consequences of trade with foreign nations, you should go to your local grocer and tell him that under no circumstances are you willing to accept produce from foreign lands, and you are more than willing to pay four times as much for
    a stalk of celery so long as it came from the good ol’ U S of A. If that halibut or prime rib that is a cut above par can only be obtained from Portugal or Brazil, why you will just learn to live without.

    Of course, your grocer will inform you that the only thing that is keeping his cost relatively low especially in a time of rapid dollar depreciation is the market efficiencies of his international suppliers, and if he were to do as you wished he would be forced out of business.

    But don’t let that stop you. Self reliance is a dying art consisting mainly those who starve to death out of principle (cue Eddie Vedder)

  62. Yet, I’m the only one (besides Obama himself, once) mentioning this, with some people (I won’t name names!) still pretending he’s something other than a tranzi.

    “Tranzis”. Clever. I’ve never heard that term before.

    Lonewhacko, I suspect your confused about the difference between libertarians and these transnational progressivists. Many of us advocate more global free trade and more open borders, but we’re horrified by idea of one-world government. There, see now, we’re not such bad guys after all.

  63. The Clinton and Obama economic recovery plan: Blame Canada!
    Be careful what they wish for. We just might get it. http://www.southparkstudios.com

  64. “It occurs to me, reading these comments,…”

    It occurs to me that if your comment reflects what you got from reading these comments, that you need to finish school. Then when you’re grown up and have developed reading comprehension, you can try again.

  65. It just gets tossed in as an afterthought if what a party wants happens to coincide with world opinion. It’s quickly forgotten whenever it doesn’t.

    And a good thing, too. The “good opinion of the world” (whatever the fuck that is) and $4.50 will get you a latte at Starbucks.

  66. “Tranzis”. Clever. I’ve never heard that term before.

    Short for “transnational progressive”, the current nom de bullshit of neo-Marxists who want the UN to intervene in the internal affairs of actual countries.

  67. Short for “transnational progressive”, the current nom de bullshit of neo-Marxists who want the UN to intervene in the internal affairs of actual countries.

    I’m opposed to one-world UN government, but I also don’t have undue reverence for our system of nation-states. I’d like to see us evolve something that is more tuned in with the modern globalized, networked world. Evolve towards something more conducive to individual freedom, and less authoritarian and centralized.

    I’d like to see territorial governments limited to actually governing matters that are territorial in nature. I’d like to see peaceful individuals free to live, work, travel, own property wherever they like.

    And, yes, I would like to see an end to people being indoctrinated into identifying so strongly with their nation-state that they have a fuck-you attitude to everybody else.

  68. alan, you’ve chosen to prop up a straw man to make a point about something I wasn’t even talking about. You’ve equated NAFTA w/ trade in general as if one cannot exist w/o the other, so opposing NAFTA as it is, to you is a de facto opposition to all free trade. Not very ‘reason’-able. Nice try though.

    I guess you didn’t feel like showing me how a we can have a falling unemployment number at the same time we haven’t had more than a couple NFP numbers above 150,000 in the last 5 years. The unemployment number no longer has any bearing on the accuracy of the unemployment situation in the US and this dissonance between NFP and the unemployment number shows this.

    I also challenged Wiegel for his idiotic assertion that NAFTA was responsible for the economic boom of the 90’s as if the second after NAFTA was signed we were in the NAFTA era. This is utter BS. It has taken until recently before we have felt fully the effects of NAFTA…the 90’s weren’t NAFTA, NOW is the NAFTA era. The economic boom of the 90’s was driven by technology: the desktop computer, the dot com boom, the emergence of the video game industry as the largest entertainment industry in the world and tech driven productivity gains.

    As I believe I have a firm grasp of the underpinnings of the conservative mind, I’ll go out on a limb and say that despite your feelings about free trade, you are virulently opposed to illegal immigration. Is this correct? If so, may I direct you to the same grocer you directed me to, to ask him a question you and I know you don’t really want the answer to…right?

    Also, regarding your comments vis-a-vis self reliance: Are you talking about Bear Stearns? It’s pretty easy to be a supply sider when the concept of ‘privatize the profits, socialize the losses’ is the foundation of you economic ideals. Spare me this ‘pull yourself up by th e bootstraps b@llshit please. I know self reliance, I haven’t had a job in 3 years because I gave up the world of work to become a full time currency trader. I wake up late and pay all my bills on time…don’t worry about me alan.

  69. I guess you didn’t feel like showing me how a we can have a falling unemployment number at the same time we haven’t had more than a couple NFP numbers above 150,000 in the last 5 years.

    Can you explain further what you see as the mathematical relationship between the Non-Farm Payroll number and the unemployment number? Or, if there’s no precise formula, the precise rule of thumb you are using to calculate the correspondence?

  70. Mark, I think George Carlin made a routine out of phrases like ‘precise rule of thumb’ and ‘jumbo shrimp’. In any case, I think if you re-read my original post, you’ll get the gist of what I mean regarding NFP and the unemployment rate. I’m not trying to show a correspondence between the two, I’m trying to show the disconnect. Briefly, if the economy needs to add 150,000 jobs a month to keep up w/ new entrants into the US job market, as is accepted by economists, then the fact that there’s only been a handful of NFP reports above the 150,000 in the last 5 years and yet we have a dropping unemployment rate does not compute. The unemployment rate does not account for jobless people who aren’t counted among the officially unemployed. The Augmented Unemployment Rate is a measure of labor-market conditions, some people call it the NILF for ‘not in labor force’, these are the formulas:

    unemployment rate = unemployed / labor force
    augmented unemployment rate = (job-wanters + unemployed) / (labor force + job-wanters)

    The AUR or NILF, is a much more accurate measure of the unemployment situation in the US, and while the unemployment figures have hovered around 5% for the last few years, the AUR or NILF shows the real unemployment rate has been around 6.25 during that same time.

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