May 26, 2002
Political Prostitution on Trade

Tapped has this to say about the fast track authority bill passed recently by the senate:

The latest confirmation of our Postest with the Mostest theory came this morning, when both the Post and the Times (NY) ran stories on the Senate's final passage yesterday of the fast track trade bill. Both papers noted the final vote (it passed 66 to 30), but only the Post broke down that vote by party. And lo and behold, it turns out the Democrats actually opposed final passage, albeit by the narrowest of margins (25 Nos, 24 Ayes).
This, of course, is the only notable aspect of the bill's passage, which has been assured since time immemorial. While House Democrats have routinely opposed free-trade accords by steadily widening margins, Senate Democrats have long been staunch free-traders. For instance, when Congress voted two years ago on permanent normalizing trade relations with China (essentially, paving the way for China's entry into the WTO), House Democrats opposed the bill by a two-to-one margin, while Senate Dems approved it 37-to-7, as visions of business contributions danced in their heads.

Whereas I, cynic that I am, have to note this:

Democrats in the Senate supported Clinton, while opposing Bush. Partisanship trumps principles.

Remember, NAFTA only passed due to overwhelming GOP support, despite the fact that it was a victory for Clinton. Clinton also got fast-track trade authority with the assistance of the Republicans. Even though they were the opposition party, they supported the president (because his aims coincided with theirs). The Democrats in the senate appear to be willing to prostitute their vote, depending on which party controls the White House.

Tapped goes on to lament:

As to the votes of the individual Democratic senators, one fact stands out: all of the four potential 2004 presidential candidates (Daschle, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman) voted yes. This reflects more than the gang-of-four's personal convictions, of course. It also acknowledges one of the grimmer political realities these days: No one can run for president without a huge war chest, and no one can amass such a war chest absent major support from American business. Voting No might mean you'll get money from steel and textiles, not to mention unions, but all the other money (oodles, by actual count) is on the other side. Today, for the first time, the odds that a Democratic Senator is not a free trader may be just under 50-50. But the chances of a Democratic President not being a free-trader is precisely zilch.

Big business, Tapped seems to forget, provides jobs to millions of people. They donate money to candidates that are willing to support the issues that are important to them, and these days, globalization is one of those issues. The presidential candidates know this, and vote accordingly. Perhaps it really *is* personal convictions that led these four to support the bill. Besides, there is always Dick Gephardt to nominate for president if you want an anti-business crusader rather than a potentially electable candidate.

Besides, given Bush's trade record, what is Tapped squawking about? He's run well to the left of Clinton so far, with protectionary measures on steel, and ignoring Pakistani president Musharraf's request for an increase in the quota for textiles and clothing that can be imported to the US from that country. He seems to have an instinct to coddle American business if it is unable to compete with other countries.

UPDATE: 8:45 PM Radley Balko did a nice piece on Bush's trade sins (with plenty of links to articles discussing particular issues) two weeks ago; you can find it here.

posted on May 26, 2002 08:03 PM


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