Friday, December 10, 2010

Supporters Need Not Apply

The Administration recently announced the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and, encouragingly, the AFL-CIO labor federation, the International Association of Machinists, the United Steelworkers Union, and the Communication Workers of America all have come out in opposition.

The Economic Policy Institute explains

The Obama administration has announced that it intends to finalize a new free trade agreement with South Korea (KORUS FTA) in time for the next G-20 summit in November. Although the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projects this will have a small positive impact on the U.S. trade balance, and “minimal or negligible “ impact on U.S. employment, history shows that such trade deals lead to rapidly growing trade deficits and job loss in the United States.

The Charts below compare USITC’s estimates of the impact of the forthcoming free trade agreement with Korea to EPI’s own calculation. Unlike USITC’s forecast of a small positive impact, EPI’s research shows it will increase the U.S. trade deficit with Korea by about $16.7 billion, and displace about 159,000 American jobs within the first seven years after it takes effect.

The USITC has a history of vastly underestimating the negative impacts that free trade agreements have on the U.S. economy. In 1999, it estimated that China’s entry into the World Trade Organization would increase the U.S. trade deficit with China by only $1.0 billion, and have no significant impact on U.S. employment. In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by $185 billion between 2001 (when China entered the WTO) and 2008, and 2.4 million U.S. jobs have been displaced or lost. The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico also rose rapidly after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994.

With U.S. unemployment close to 10%, and an employment gap of nearly 11 million jobs, it would be foolish and self destructive for the United States to implement a free trade agreement with Korea that leads to further job loss.

One union, however, seems a little less concerned about the loss of American jobs, the sort which can actually sustain a middle-class family. United Auto Workers President Bob King told Mike Elm of In These Times "It was important to endorse in order to reward the administration for its good behavior of including labor in negotiations."

A little consultation should be insufficient consolation when the Treaty will destroy good-paying jobs. Still, it is a little more than the White House consulted with House Democratic leaders before coming to an agreement with Senate Minority- that would be minority, not majority- Leader Mitch McConnell. More typical, and understable, was the reaction of IAM Political Director Matt McKinnon who (in these words or otherwise- tough to tell) referred to the deal as "a slap in the face" by the Obama Administration.

Take a number; get in line. Representative Henry Waxman of California (designation of party unnecessary, given the Administration's response) paraphrased Vice-President Biden telling him "This is the deal. Take it or leave it."

Even this was fairly diplomatic and respectful compared to the usual approach of the Administration toward its supporters. The then chief-of-staff referring to liberal interest groups as "f_ _ _ ing retarded." The press secretary dismissing Obama critics as "the professional left" who "ought to be drug-tested" and "will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon." The vice-president telling the base to "stop whining." And the President himself lecturing "Democrats around the country" to "wake up here."

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Tom Buffenbarger, the President of the International Association of Machinists, isn't. A Clinton supporter (and Obama voter in the general election), Buffenbarger told a Youngstown, Ohio audience on February 19, 2008 (video, below, from last night's Countdown; transcript from the conservative Media Research Center)

We began to take a closer look at the wunderkind. Know what we saw? A guy with two different positions. Nose in the air pontificating when the coast is clear. And as soon as anyone throws a punch, he's in a bum's rush to get the hell away from the conflict. Where was Barack Obama? Not on the picket line. Not with us in the state legislature. Not in the United States Senate passing a bill to help us. Not side by side with us at the negotiating table hammering out a deal. No, brothers and sisters. He was off by himself, polishing his wonderful speech about hope and change and, yes, we can.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

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