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Eric Massa NY29: Ending Free Trade and beginning Fair Trade

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trillian Donating Member (432 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-01-07 03:16 PM
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Eric Massa NY29: Ending Free Trade and beginning Fair Trade
Join Eric at dKos for a live discussion about this timely topic.

FDR and Reforging Democratic Identity Part 2: Ending Free Trade and beginning Fair Trade

Last week in a diary titled Building a Majority Party: Reforging Democratic Identity I suggested that we go back to a speech by FDR to reforge Democratic identity and build a lasting majority party. Here is the list of rights I quoted from the speech:

the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
the right of every farmer to raise and sell his produce at return which will give him and his family a decent living;
the right of every businessman, large or small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair completion and domination by monopolies at home and abroad;
the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
the right to adequate protection form the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
the right to a good education.


Four of these rights, the first four, have to do with protecting the ability of Americans to earn a decent living, whether self-employed or working for others. This was an especially powerful message at a time when the nation had just emerged from the Great Depression. Unfortunately, today we see many of the same factors that preceded the Great Depression. (link) Productivity is up but wages are not. (link) And the gap between the richest Americans and working Americans is widening. Almost all of the economic gains during the George W. Bush presidency have gone the wealthiest Americans and not to the working families of America. (link)


The Results of Free Trade rather than Fair Trade

But the challenges we face today are also different from those faced by FDR. One of the biggest threats to the right of working Americans to earn a decent living is unfair trade practices that are called by the misnomer Free Trade. Ending Free Trade and beginning Fair Trade is the single most important economic issue facing Upstate New York. Here, as elsewhere in the US, specific numbers of jobs lost to free trade are hard to come by. And, as noted by a Brookings Institution Policy Brief (link), the data which are available are often not reliable, frequently underreporting the number of jobs offshored.

Nationally speaking, Alan Blinder, the noted economic expert who is credited with being the architect of the North American Free Trade Agreement and its close cousin the Central American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA and CAFTA, the latter of which my opponent Randy Kuhl cast the deciding vote for. Without Randy Kuhl voting for corporate America there would be no CAFTA.), now believes that between 42 and 56 million jobs are potentially offshorable in the near term future. The Wall Street Journal reported on their front page on 28 March that Mostly he (Alan Blinder) wants to shock politicians, policy makers and other economists into realizing how big a change is coming and what new sectors it will reach. This is something factory workers have understood for a generation, he says. Its now coming down on the heads of highly educated, politically vocal people, and they not going to take it. The it is watching their jobs sent to China, India and Vietnam.

But even though specifics are hard to come by here in NY-29, it is more than obvious that open door burn-down-the-barn Free Trade has destroyed much of what the greatest generation built for the three generations of Americans who have followed in their footsteps. Many of the above-mentioned factory jobs are gone. No longer can the Made in America label be found in clothing stores on Market Street in Corning, New York nor in the software development offices in Rochester to the north. As replacement for these lost jobs, my opponents vision of economic policy for the 29th Congressional District is focused on near total dependence on addictive Washington handouts, which would make us virtual slaves to professional politicians. I believe that if we are to stand at all it must be on our own two feet and we will not be able to do that as long as corporate interests prevail over the interests of working Americans.

Randy Kuhl defended his total support of offshoring jobs by claiming that open door Free Trade would help upstate apple farmers. Guatemalans are not going to buy us out of our black economic hole in the ground by buying Steuben County Granny apples. Not now, not ever. And, speaking of apples, this brings us to a place where we can see some data showing the results of our misplaced free trade policies. Unbelievably, last year we imported more food into the United States than we grow ourselves. (Exports of food, feed and beverages totaled $65.9 billion in 2006 vs $74.9 billion in imports. See official data for 2006 here.) The American breadbasket is under attack and this makes us less secure and more dependent on our economic rivals than ever. This and other trade imbalances visible in the 2006 official data, when compared to previous years, represent lost American jobs.

Food imports are also at the heart of the ongoing pet food scandal. Rat poison found in the pet food has been traced to wheat gluten additives imported from Chinese wheat processors. (here Imagine if that wheat gluten had been destined for a pasta factory or a baby food plant. Instead of mourning Fido and Kitty, tough as that is, we would all be attending funerals for the kids next door. As of this past Friday, the FDA was not even able to guarantee no human food has been contaminated. (link) And Randy Kuhl believes that open door importation is good for us.


Solutions

There are many who are calling for labor rights to included in trade deals to help keep free trade from being unfair trade. Here is one recent effort. I agree that if our international competitors were forced to have better labor standards, that would lessen the problem American workers are currently facing. But I feel that there is an underlying problem that will still be there even if we enforce better labor standards across the world. Its been said that CEOs make big money from offshoring (link. (link) But we must realize that it is more than just that. The interests of corporate America and those of working America are completely at odds in this issue. For corporate America, profit is the only goal and they make more money if they use cheaper labor. As Paul Craig Roberts recently noted (link):


The access of US corporations to low wage foreign labor has produced an effective divergence of interests between US shareholders and US labor. With stock prices and CEO remuneration closely tied to quarterly results, there is strong pressure to move jobs offshore in order to lower labor costs and improve reported earnings.
In the past unions and managements fought over the level of wages and benefits. However, most economists believed that wages were in keeping with labor productivity. With offshored production, the large excess supplies of labor in countries such as China and India keep wages associated with offshore production below the productivity of labor.
Consequently, the measures used in the US to determine the success and tenure of corporate management and boards result in a divergence between the interests of capital and labor that favors capital.

As Roberts observed, economists refuse to acknowledge the problem because they believe it has protectionist implications and they think that nothing can be worst than protectionism. Roberts feels, and I agree, that so many economists have emotional commitments to free trade and professional commitments to globalism, that many of them are incapable of acknowledging that there is a problem. As a solution, Roberts suggests a change in the criteria used to measure corporate success. But in the political realm, especially for the Republican party but also for the Democratic Party, there is much resistance from influential donors to such ideas. Labor leaders are more receptive to the idea of change however. Here is just a short quote from one labor leader (link):


Another example is trade. Almost alone, the U.S. has no policy to promote U.S. manufacturing. China, where most factory jobs are going, has a clear policy to promote jobs -- with no workers' rights, of course. But our government in the U.S. actually rewards companies for offshoring. These leaders say, "let the forces of the global marketplace play out, and we'll all be fine."
Trust in the markets and consumer choice, they tell us.



I believe we should have multiple actions to take on this. First, lets push for better worldwide labor rights. Thats a good thing and in keeping with the rights outlined by FDR. But while we are doing that we also need to push for other changes. We need to promote discussion that challenges the status quo, as Paul Craig Roberts did in the above quote. And we need to team with labor to push policies that promote domestic jobs.

Another common sense proposal is to push for jobs creation in areas, like energy conservation and the environment for example, that are important to Democratic voters. Here in NY 29 I have been touting ethanol from switch grass, hybrid vehicles, alternative energy and similar initiatives. We should be creating jobs in these areas at the same time we work to protect workers rights in other areas.

But by far the best solution to these problems is to send representatives to Washington who will fight for the working families of America. The most powerful members of the Republican Party worked to protect sweatshop practices by the Tan family in the Marianas Islands. (link) My opponent received substantial PAC money from Tom Delay, one of the central players in the scandal. The Republican Party has thrived on promoting the interests of corporate America over working America, the boardroom over the breakroom. And my opponent is certainly no exception. We need to send more Democratic representatives to Washington to undo the damage Republicans have done.

Conclusion

Today, although the specific challenges we face are different from those faced by FDR, the Democratic Party must reassert these rights and apply them to ending Free Trade and beginning Fair Trade. The current policy has destroyed our factories, is destroying our farms, and will destroy our very families unless we change course in Washington DC. Virtually all Republicans and many Democrats in Congress supported destroying our economic border security by voting for NAFTA. I disagree with them all regardless of what party they are from and I am suggesting that we reforge Democratic identity, with fair trade practices that protect workers as a central tenet. Rebuilding Western New York State does not begin and end with addictive Washington handouts. It begins with Representatives in Washington who are more concerned with the lives of those in the breakroom than the campaign contributions from the boardroom. Randy Kuhl thinks that Free trade has brought jobs to our District. I disagree. Dont believe him, and dont believe me. Ask your neighbor.

In 2008 we have a choice. Continue with more of the same or vote to change course. I need your help. The DCCC has stated that we can be a top tier race if we raise $300,000 by 30 June 2007. Last election we bypassed corporate America, refused to accept a single penny from corporate PACs. Help me be able to make that choice again. I would rather take 10 dollars from 1000 honest Americans than $10,000 in corporate bribe money but only you can make that come true. The Republicans have placed Randy on the top 20 at risk seats. A two term incumbent in an overwhelmingly Republican district and he is on the top 20 at risk seats. All it takes is your help. You can contribute here.

We need a Congressman who will lead and not follow and I will be that Congressman.
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