Where have all the free-trade Democrats gone (long-time passing)? I noted earlier today that Hillary Clinton adviser Mark Penn got shitcanned for his ties to the Colombian government, specifically his work to push through a pending free-trade agreement with that country and these United States. Clinton, whose husband helped push through the North American Free Trade Agreement, is against the Colombian deal.
Given the demagoguery on the trade issue done during the Democratic primary in Ohio, it's worth dwelling on Clinton's and Barack Obama's trade positions, which suck. From the LA Times:
The Colombian trade pact sent to Congress on Monday by President Bush represents a win-win for the United States. Colombia already enjoys U.S. tariff preferences, and has since 1991; in exchange for making them permanent, Bogota would eliminate its tariffs on U.S. exports, which would greatly boost American manufacturers. To refuse the deal would alienate pro-U.S. governments across Latin America and push them closer to hostile leftist rivals such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. If Clinton and Obama make good on their promises to revisit NAFTA, meanwhile, it could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico and reverse more than a decade of growth for all three North American economies.
Bill Clinton proved to Democrats that the party could both support sensible trade policies and win elections. It's a shame that his potential successors have forgotten that lesson.
Yet hardcore Dems seem hell-bent on pushing anti-trade as a defining characteristic of their party. Here's Talking Points blogger Josh Marshall talking about Penn:
Having your key campaign advisor also be an international man of mystery-cum-PR-lobbyist-cheeseball is fairly problematic. But for Hillary's sake, when her political future is on the line in a state like Pennsylvania, wracked by the loss of industrial jobs for decades, you think he could have waited a few more weeks before prancing off to help get a new free trade pact passed?
I think there's little doubt that Penn is a tool when it comes to having too many masters and all that, but do Democrats–whether in the rank and file or in the egghead brigades–really think that Pennsylvania's (or Ohio's, of Michigan's) lack of industrial jobs has anything to do with Colombia? Or even NAFTA for that matter? For starters, manufacturing employment peaked in the U.S. in 1979.
Blogger extraordinaire Alan Vanneman, a man on the Democratic side of the debate, plays out a different take–and one I wish were more popular across the politicial spectrum:
Yes, poor Pennsylvania, staggering under a 4.9% unemployment rate (February 2008). Poor Pennsylvania, with a per capita income of a mere $36,680 (2006 data), ranking only 18th in the U.S. A free-trade pact with mighty Colombia (2006 income per capita, a whopping $2,740) would surely blow a huge hole in the Keystone State's economy.
Hillary Clinton, Josh Marshall, and a lot of other "liberals" should hang their heads in shame at this disgraceful "Fuck the Latinos" campaign strategy.
What was NAFTA's effect on unemployment in the U.S.? Read about it here.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.