Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton and Obama ~ About this NAFTA stuff ...

Newsweek's Daniel Gross gives us Trade Talks: The NAFTA debate is shorthand for a broader policy problem and I think it is worth a read. I like this part:
... I also think there's something deeper at work. For the purposes of the Ohio primary, NAFTA is a two-syllable shorthand for the larger problems of trade policy. It's less about NAFTA than what came after. Call it the Great Risk Shift, or the cram down, or the fraying of the safety net. But people who have blue-collar jobs, or who have lost them, have suffered a series of blows over the past three decades: stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising health costs, and the loss of insurance and pension benefits. Free trade is a factor—not the factor, but a significant factor—behind these trends. Unfortunately, the policy response from the Bush administration and from the Republicans who have, until recently, dominated Congress has been: Suck on it. This decade, Washington has been quick to remind the public of the benefits of free trade, which are real, but has offered painfully little to those hurt by its effects. Even long-winded politicians speak in code and shorthand. And when Clinton and Obama traipse through Midwestern de-industrializing states and promise to revisit NAFTA, they're not really saying they want to stop the flow of goods and services from Mexico and Canada. They're trying to send a signal—clumsily, perhaps—that they understand that free trade hasn't been an unalloyed good. ...
I was at a Drinking Liberally meeting in Olympia last night and two folks tied up on "globalism" or "neo-liberalism" or whatever we choose to call this mess. Despite their differences, both would likely agree that "free trade" has hardly been an "unalloyed good" unless you are certain large corporate interests. That recognition is surely a step up from the GOP's "suck on it" approach.

Also, last night, while in Olympia, I bought a used copy of Professor Arthur MacEwan's Neo-Liberalism or Democracy?: Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the 21st Century last night. Once I wade into the thing, I'll try to drop a post on what I gleaned from it. John Gunn

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