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By Allan Uthman
Here’s New York Times columnist and pillar of mediocrity, David Brooks, at his gag-inducing best on the issue of free trade:
“Economists differ over how much outsourcing will change the American job market in the future, but there is little evidence that trade has been a major cause of job loss or even wage stagnation so far.”
How’s this for evidence, Brooks: There were factories; now they’re gone. The people who worked in them lost their jobs; many were screwed out of their pensions. Now some of them have found inferior work in the service sector, for less money and paltry benefits, if any. None of this is refutable. Surely you have a fact sheet from the Cato Institute to support your claims, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are lying.
Brooks yawned out this claptrap while complaining about a speech Barack Obama gave in Pennsylvania on the economy and the working class. Obama’s focus on free trade deals rankled the centrist manchild, who, like virtually everyone else at The New York Times and, for that matter, every other major news outlet in the country, has a boner for economic globalization.
Brooks’s gall in this column is so pronounced, it can only be that he really doesn’t know anyone that makes less than a million dollars a year. He calls the damage caused by NAFTA and CAFTA “barely measurable,” and then, in a disgustingly opportunistic ploy, cites the effects of these deals on workers as evidence of the irrelevance of all that labor talk:
“What I don’t understand is why the political consultants prefer this kind of rhetoric. Aren’t there windows in the vans they use to drive around the state? Don’t they see that most middle-class voters are service workers in suburban office parks, not 1930s-style proletarians in the steel mills?”
That’s right, David. The steel mills closed. Now the only jobs left are in services, because it’s the only industry left that can’t be outsourced. Brooks, regaler of all things bland and modern, talks about “suburban office parks” like they’re enclaves of hipness and sophistication, especially compared to those dingy, old-fashioned steel mills, but carefully fails to mention that steel mills paid a shitload better.
But he’s right, in a way. The pattern goes: Economic collapse, then invigorated labor movement. We’re still in the collapse phase now, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s terrible to admit, but Brooks is right again when he writes that Obama “hedged,” rather than delve into “the realm of economic populism.”
“He made a series of on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand distinctions about which sort of trade deals he’d support and which he wouldn’t,” Brooks wrote. “It added up to a vague, watered-down version of economic light beer... The ideas he sketched out in the speech aren’t dangerous. They’re just trivial.”
Aside from the “watered-down light beer” redundancy, Brooks is on the money here. About half of the unprecedented deluge of cash Obama has been consistently raising comes from small donors, theoretically giving him broad leeway, even an obligation, to represent the interests of regular working class and poor Americans. But aside from expressing vague misgivings on free trade, he has offered nothing concrete against it. This is for the best, because he would only be lying.
Let me lay it out for you: There is no way in hell Clinton, Obama, or the Democrats in congress will fight the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement’s passage. They will pretend to oppose it, delay the vote until after the election, and then pass it as quietly as possible. I will personally bet any takers on this, for actual money.
It’s astounding how credulous the press is when Democrats, who have already pulled this bait-and-switch tactic before, pretend to give a damn about their constituents’ financial pain due to economic globalization. Clinton’s deceptions are more egregious than Obama’s, because she’s not hedging at all—she has chosen to lie openly. It’s kind of hilarious to hear Clinton avow staunch opposition to the Colombia deal, when her husband made $800,000 in 2005 giving speeches on behalf of Gold Service International, a Colombian business development group that supports the trade agreement. Also funny is the fact that her recently “fired” chief strategist, reptilian scumbag Mark Penn, has also been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his PR firm’s services is securing passage for the pact.
Here’s the thing: Penn was never fired. He was demoted, as his supposed conflict of interest was an obstacle for Clinton’s perception management, not her principles. In fact, her supposed “anger” at Penn was such that he was heading a conference call for her the very next morning after his spurious, but still widely reported, firing. It’s important to note that Colombian President Uribe blasted Obama specifically in the press the very day after Mark Penn met with the Colombian Ambassador, despite Clinton’s more pronounced opposition to the free trade deal. At best, Hillary’s opposition is not a major sticking point, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely that she’s just lying. It’s very nearly an open secret that Clinton’s current stance against free trade agreements is total bullshit.
Still, most in the media are willing to “take her at her word” on this, even though she seems liable to fall apart onstage when challenged on it. Anyone who doubts Clinton’s lack of sincerity on the free trade issue should take a look at the widely available video of her flailing, convulsive laughter when asked a perfectly legitimate question about it on Friday. Asked if her husband’s paid peddling of the trade deal posed a conflict of interest, considering her “donations” to her own campaign, Clinton erupted in frenzied laughter, gesticulated exasperation, and “answered” dismissively, as if the CNN reporter had asked what she was going to do about Bigfoot. Per CNN:
“ ‘How many angels dance on the head of the pin?,’ she responded, continuing to giggle. ‘I have really, uh, nothing to… I mean, how do you answer that?’ ”
Calming a bit, she revealed her long-term strategy unwittingly, with a Kerry-esque caveat:
“I am against the Colombia free trade deal. It doesn’t matter who talks to me. It doesn’t matter any circumstances. I have been against it. I am against it. I will be against it absent the kind of changes in behavior that I have been calling for from the Colombian government.” [Emphasis added.]
There’s the pivot, right there. You see, while most reports on Democratic opposition to the Colombia agreement seem content to stop at saying this or that Democrat opposes it, the next sentence is always the same: The opposition is not to expanded free trade; it’s not about the negative economic effects Americans have suffered and are suffering; it’s about human rights in Colombia.
Here’s Obama, reacting to criticism from Uribe, citing that 25 union activists were murdered in Colombia last year, a statistic cited as “progress” by Uribe and his supporters: “That’s not the kind of behavior that we want to reward. I think until we get that straightened out it’s inappropriate for us to move forward.” [Emphsasis added.]
Here’s a statement from Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel:
“Despite progress made by President Uribe, Colombia remains a dangerous place to be a labor activist, and for those who commit these acts of violence, there is little threat of prosecution or punishment. Sustained progress on the ground remains a prerequisite for our support.”
Of course, House Democrats didn’t vote against the bill; they just postponed the vote indefinitely, or, in other words, until the election is over.
Certainly, Colombia is a shitty place to be a leftist. But it’s kind of hilarious to hear American politicians decry that fact, when America has been funding, arming, training and supporting Uribe’s troops in what amounts to a civil war against the leftist FARC rebels there. All through the Clinton years, Plan Colombia involved military training, private mercenary groups, defoliation of huge swaths of land with poisonous chemicals, which sickened farmers and livestock and destroyed food crops, all to the tune of about a billion taxpayer dollars a year. The idea that the Democrats, especially Clinton, are now distraught about the poor unionists in Colombia is laughable. This human rights issue is a stalling tactic, and will suddenly evaporate when, soon after the election, new statistics will be released that House Democrats will find “encouraging” enough to go ahead and vote for the deal, maybe even before Bush leaves office.
And this is how it has been with the Democrats and their paper-thin mewlings about trade. The rhetoric is for election season, but the deals are made when no one’s looking. Remember the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement? Me neither. It passed easily, and with little fanfare, last November in the House (the vote was 285-132), and December in the Senate (77-18). Incidentally, there were no congressional elections whatsoever last year, although those Senators already running for president—Clinton, Obama, McCain, and even Dodd and Biden—didn’t vote on the Peru deal. But most Democrats who weren’t facing election pressures voted for it—including Pelosi, Waxman, Frank, Murtha, Hoyer, Kerry, Kennedy, Feinstein, Schumer, both Nelsons, Durbin, Bayh, and Levin.
That’s the story on the Democrats and free trade: Feign opposition, then vote for it when nobody’s paying attention. It’s a winning strategy in a country that scrutinizes the minutiae of election campaign public relations wars and calls it “politics,” but can’t be bothered with even perfunctory coverage of the actual deeds of government.
In truth, that’s how politicians, pundits, and think tank-spawned shills get away with insisting that unfettered free trade is good for America. The only media figures allowed to focus on its deleterious effects are cranky old bigots like Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan.
But what free trade ultimately means is that America is back in the slavery business, only now we’re outsourcing. There is precious little difference between outright slavery and the pathetic wages and conditions workers in third world countries toil under to feed our bottomless hunger for cheap plastic crap. Far away from our Chinese plasma HDTVs, impoverished peasants work endlessly in unsafe facilities, breathing putrid air and collapsing nightly in squalor. But we never have to see, let alone consider, this kind of slavery, until, in the end, we ourselves are reduced to it.
The ubiquitous free trade zealots in the media are wrong. Americans cannot all become computer programmers and engineers. Most will never even approach the kind of high-tech career that clueless “authorities” like David Brooks profess to be a panacea for Americans’ globalization woes. The inevitable effect of cheap foreign labor is to cheapen domestic labor. The “playing field” will indeed become level.
Look closely at these poor brown and yellow serfs: That is our future. Your children will live like them. And neither Republicans nor Democrats are going to lift a finger stop it.
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