Tire Tracks On My Back

Dems Cut Trade Deal with Bush; Poised to Throw American Workers Under Bus
By Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker, AlterNet. Posted May 23, 2007.

Democrats talked tough on trade to win a majority. Now they’re poised to enter into a deal with Bush and his cronies that not one labor, environmental, small business, public health or consumer group supports.

Just 100 days after the Democrats rode into Washington on a fair trade mandate, shock has morphed into rage over last Thursday’s surprise announcement by the Bush administration, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means and Finance Committee Chairs Charles Rangel and Max Baucus, and a coterie of New Democrats and CAFTA 15’ers of a “Deathstar Deal” on trade. The deal could facilitate passage of various awful, pending Bush “free trade agreements” (FTAs), not to mention the danger it may pose to Democrats who go along with its terms. (See here and here for the blow by blow.)

Not one labor, environmental, small business, public health or consumer group supports the deal. Huge corporations praised it — they see it as essential to the passage of more corporate trade agreements. Among these monied voices was the Chamber of Commerce president, who celebrated the deal’s unveiling with a statement in which he said he was psyched about “assurances” he had received that the deal’s labor provisions “cannot be read to require compliance” with international labor standards.

Why would Democrats pass a politically poisonous trade deal with the Bush administration instead of launching their own proactive trade agenda? Why not propose a forward-looking strategy that could satisfy public demand for new trade rules that tackle the stability-threatening trade deficit, stagnant wages and other urgent problems?

Most Democrats are asking the same question. The Deathstar Deal was negotiated in secret, legal texts were not made public, and it was abruptly announced without warning to most Democrats or Democratic base groups.

Reaction from the majority-making House Democratic freshmen, key Democratic members and labor and other party constituents concerned with trade ranged from stunned to horrified. Former Teamster President Jim Hoffa summed up what many were thinking when he said that the Deathstar Deal “sells out American workers” and that his union “will fight like hell to oppose this shortsighted agreement.”

White House political czar Karl Rove did not issue a statement, but we bet he was gleeful. If this deal, which so far is only on the conceptual level, results in Congress having to vote on more Bush trade agreements, the political implications are even more cataclysmic than the policy damage. In one blast, this Deathstar Deal could result in the newly Democratic-controlled Congress passing Bush trade agreements by a majority of the minority GOP and a minority of the majority Democrats. This will alienate the Democratic base, split the Democratic Congressional Caucus, blur the distinction on economic issues between the parties à la NAFTA, give President Bush a major victory (and one that gets his foreign policy message off the Iraq disaster), and undermine the re-election chances of the many freshmen Democrats who won races in socially conservative districts campaigning against incumbents’ NAFTA-CAFTA voting records.

Read it here.

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