Friday, February 29, 2008

While Obama and Clinton Pose as Opponents of "Free (for a few) Trade"

On the matter of "free trade" (which is an Orwellian oxymoron), both Democratic presidential candidates need to win in Ohio, so they are grabbing proverbial pitchforks and acting the angry populists, even though both of them support NAFTA entirely hook, line, and sinker.

Those of us who criticized NAFTA (not because we want to hoard money and jobs at home but because it has become a vehicle of international oppression by allowing salaries about the value of dirt and by promoting long work days in sweatshops) risk being mislabeled by both callous bloggers and the comfortable mainstream media as "protectionist." Both groups generally ignore the horrible working conditions that NAFTA promotes. And if not talked about, it doesn't exist.

However, we continue to demand ideas from the presidential candidates rather than putting up with the rubber stamp of a flawed economic policy. A new populist blog, taking up the mantle of the John Edwards campaign, frames the issue perfectly:

we have an entirely inadequate system in this country just to watch over safety and health in the workplace, funded at a miniscule level of several hundred million dollars-and, yet, we even more ludicrously proposed to oversee labor rights enforcement over three countries (the U.S., Mexico and Canada) at a laughingly pathetic and criminal level of a couple of million bucks?

Senators [Obama and Clinton], how do you propose to change that scheme? By raising the budget for enforcement 10 times to say $20 million per year? Or go wild and hike it 50 times to $100 million per year--still a pittance compared to our own failed system here in the U.S. Pick a number.

The fact is enforcement is a farce. It was a farce created [by Bill Clinton] to buy a few votes to jam NAFTA through a Democratic Congress. It was a farce accepted by the labor movement, which, weak as it was (and continues to be) felt that it was the best deal it could get in the face of a Democratic president (and his Labor secretary) who was a full-throated champion of so-called "free trade."

Enforcement is a farce and both Dems have been disappointments in the answers on protecting workers. Not only do we lack a true alternative on NAFTA, but the Dems fail to offer anything different than warmed-over GOP trickle-down.


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