The GOP swept to victory in November by declaring that this imperial presidency must be brought to heel and President Obama’s illicit seizures of congressional power must end.
That was then. Now is now.
This week, Congress takes up legislation to cede His Majesty full authority to negotiate the largest trade deal in history, the 12-nation TransPacific Partnership, and to surrender Congress’ right to amend any TPP Obama might bring home.
Why the capitulation? Why would Republicans line up to kiss the royal ring? Is Middle America clamoring for “fast track”? Are blue-collar workers marching in the streets to have Congress grant “Trade Promotion Authority Now!” to Barack Obama?
No. Pressure for fast track is coming from two sources.
First, the editorial pages of papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post that truckle to the transnational corporations that provide the advertising revenue stream keeping them alive.
Second, Obama is relying on congressional Republicans who, for all their bravado about defying his usurpations, know on which side their bread is buttered. It’s the Wall Street-K Street side.
Fast track is the GOP payoff to its bundlers and big donors.
And so, we must hear again all the tired talking points about free trade, soaring exports, jobs created, etc.
But what is reality of the last quarter century of “free trade”?
The economic independence that enabled us to stay out of two world wars – until we chose to go in and help win them swiftly – is history.
We are a dependent nation now. We rely on imports for the necessities of our national life and the vital components of our weapons systems. Hamilton must be turning over in his grave.
Where once wages rose inexorably in America and the middle class seemed ever to expand, we read today about income inequality, the growing gap between rich and poor, and wage stagnation.
Did $11 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I have anything to do with this? Or do we think that the 55,000 factories and 5-6 million manufacturing jobs that went missing in the first decade of this new century had no connection to those huge trade deficits?
Is there a link perhaps between all those factories closing in the USA and all those factories opening in China, or between a U.S. average annual growth rate of 1.8 percent since the turn of the century, and a Chinese average annual growth rate of around 10 percent?
We read of China’s hoard of $4 trillion in cash reserves, of Beijing creating a replica of the World Bank, of European and Asian nations rushing to sign up to get a piece of the action in building China’s new “Silk Road” to Europe.
Monday’s New York Times tells of Premier Xi Jinping coming to Islamabad bearing gifts. Pakistani officials say Xi will be signing agreements for $46 billion for the construction of railroads, highways and power plants over the next 15 years.
Where did Xi get all that money to displace America in Asia?
Last week came news that Japan has narrowly passed China as a holder of U.S. federal debt. Between them, they hold $2.5 trillion.
Did the tidal wave of imports from Japan and China, and the historic trade deficits we have run with both nations for decades, have anything to do with our Athens-like indebtedness to our Asian creditors?
When we look back to NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, MFN and PNTR for China, the Korean-U.S. free trade deal, CAFTA with Central America – almost all have led to soaring trade deficits and jobs lost to the nations with whom we signed the agreements.
As for the bureaucrats and politicians who promised us big new markets for exports, rising trade surpluses, better jobs – were they simply ignorant, or were they knowingly lying to us?
No one can be that wrong for that long. The law of averages is against it.
Writing yesterday, Peter Morici, chief economist in the early Clinton years at the U.S. International Trade Commission, says the Korean deal alone, and the import surge that followed, cost America 100,000 jobs.
“Asian nations target specific industries – such as autos and information technology – and compel U.S. firms to establish factories and research facilities in their economies,” as China, Germany and Japan manipulate their currencies to keep exports to us high and imports from us low.
Morici estimates that our annual $500 billion trade deficit costs America 4 million jobs and is a contributing cause of the fall of U.S. family income by $4,600 since 2000.
Unless changes are made in TPP, he writes, “Congress should deny President Obama authority to negotiate yet another jobs killing trade pact in the Pacific.”
What the nation needs is not only a rejection of fast track, but also a trade policy that puts country before corporate profit, workers before Wall Street, and America first.
Such a policy once made the Republican Party America’s Party.