How Craven Are The Democrats In Their Know-Nothing Appeasement of Economic Illiteracy?
So craven that Nancy Pelosi will rewrite the rules in the middle of the game to prevent consideration of a free-trade pact she helped craft in a blatantly obvious attempt to curry favor with protectionist progressives:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that Democrats will seek to delay consideration of a trade agreement with Colombia, prompting the White House to accuse Democrats of threatening the next administration’s bargaining power in trade talks.
Pelosi, who worked with the administration in crafting the Colombia Free Trade Agreement last year, said the House would vote on a rule change to freeze the clock on when it must consider the pact. Under the current provisions, the House has 60 legislative days to consider the measure after President Bush sent it to Capitol Hill on Monday.
Democrats instead want the trade deal considered as part of a broader economic relief package. Bush has rejected talk of a second stimulus package.
“We’re first and foremost here to look out for the concerns of America’s working families. I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country,” Pelosi said.
The delayed consideration for the trade deal leaves its final approval in grave doubt, and administration officials warned that it would also handcuff any future president’s bargaining power in talks.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino angrily criticized Pelosi’s move during a press briefing today, saying the administration has “bent over backwards” to meet Democratic demands. She said abandoning the agreement would have a chilling effect on future trade negotiations.
“What country, after this action, will look to the trade representative . . . and think that they’ll be able to count on their word?” Perino asked. “It’s very, very troubling.”
It’s particularly laughable to tie up a free trade agreement because it should be part of a ‘broader economic relief package’. Free trade should not be held hostage to the momentary rise or fall in a country’s economic fortune, and government stimulus packages are a dubious way of boosting the economy to begin with. By contrast, more free trade agreements of just the sort Pelosi is blocking consideration of would do more to help the hard-hit American consumer than any $600 check ever would…
UPDATE 8:22 p.m.: The editorial board of USA Today weighs in:
As they work their way through gritty blue-collar states, Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have each had what might best be called “trade moments.”
Obama was embarrassed after an aide told the Canadian government that Obama wasn’t really serious about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. And Clinton pushed aside her top strategist, Mark Penn, whose day job as public relations executive led him to promote a trade pact with Colombia that the candidate opposes.
These episodes have been dissected as gaffes, tactical errors or, in Penn’s case, conflicts of interest. What they really are is evidence of the candidates’ willingness to pander on free trade — and their party’s growing willingness to accept the labor movement’s defeatist anti-trade positions.
There is no compelling reason to reopen NAFTA, or to think that the United States could do any better on second effort. The addition of more than 30 million U.S. jobs since it went into effect in 1994 makes it hard to argue it has been bad for the nation.
Nor is there a good reason why Obama, Clinton and other leading Democrats should oppose a proposed free trade agreement with Colombia, set for a vote this year, considering that:
* Colombia would get nothing from it other than the permanent extension of the status quo. That’s because most of its products already come into this country duty-free thanks to a decision two decades ago to promote legitimate businesses in an Andean region rife with cocaine.
* Most U.S. exporters to Colombia would see their tariffs, now ranging from 7% to 80%, slashed to zero. For a company such as Illinois-based Caterpillar, a major exporter to Colombia, that could mean a $200,000 savings on a piece of heavy equipment.
* The government of Colombia is a solid ally and a counterweight to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. It has accepted decades of American arguments that free markets and trade are the best engines of growth and antidotes to extremism.