2008 Cool It in Ohio
posted by February 25 at 10:54 AMon
Sunday’s NYT had some smart stuff on its op/ed page. For the first time ever, I thought Maureen Dowd was interesting to read: Obama’s feminine side, she argued, trumped Hillary’s macho side. I’ve always thought the GOP had an advantage on the Democrats for being the macho party, and Dowd’s ability to turn this on its head was smart analysis.
However, the editorial that I liked most was this one that warned Obama and Clinton against the anti-NAFTA baiting.
The advice is worth quoting at length:
Middle-class voters across the country are legitimately anxious. Tens of thousands of workers have lost their health insurance, while wages have barely risen. But blaming Nafta or any trade agreement only feeds misguided protectionist sentiments at home and strains already difficult relations around the world.
It is also factually inaccurate. In a review in 2003, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that Nafta had slightly increased growth in the United States and that any disruptive effects on employment were small. Trade opens foreign markets for American producers and gives consumers more choices, while competition spurs productivity growth at home.
If the candidates are not careful they will quickly pen themselves into dubious policy positions that they would have to follow, or flip-flop on, once elected.
Would the Clinton administration really stand by its call for a “timeout” on trade deals even if that were to scuttle the Doha round of negotiations aimed at helping the world’s poorest countries? Would an Obama or a Clinton administration follow up on both candidates’ call for a 27.5 percent tariff against Chinese imports as punishment for the manipulation of exchange rates? Give them another week and a half and they might talk themselves into even more difficult corners.
Even more important, the Democrats’ posturing on trade threatens to divert the nation’s attention from what is really needed: a set of domestic policies to help American workers cope with the dislocations wrought by globalization and technological progress.
These policies include health care reform, to ensure that workers who lose their jobs do not lose access to affordable care. It includes improved unemployment insurance, more progressive taxation to deal with the stagnation of middle-class incomes, and more investment in the lifelong training and education of American workers.
The Democrats are already calling for many of these policies. When they rail against trade, they also divert attention from their own strongest suits. The presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, defends free trade, but has only perfunctory proposals on how to help the victims of economic disruption.
The Democrats need to articulate a coherent vision for how this country can compete in and benefit from a globalized world. Taking rhetorical axes to Nafta is not only pandering, it is bad policy and counterproductive.
It’s nice to see the knee jerk Democrats at the NYT’s editorial page buck the party line on globalization.
Look, being anti-NAFTA and anti-WTO is like being anti-EPA.
Sure the current leadership, treaties, and specific rules are troubling, but better to have a governing body in place that, if reformed, stands a chance of checking global corporate power.
I like the idea that there are rules. Let’s not just say the rules suck and walk away. Liberals should embrace the idea that there are bodies and treaties out there that may be able to stop corporate power from running amok.
For example, several years ago, the WTO prevented Boeing from getting $300 million in tax breaks by stopping the Fortune 500 company from channelling sales through overseas subsidiaries.