WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved free trade agreements Wednesday with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, ending a four-year drought in the forming of new trade partnerships and giving the White House and Capitol Hill the opportunity to show they can work together to stimulate the economy and put people back to work.
In rapid succession, the House and Senate voted on the three trade pacts, which the administration says could boost exports by $13 billion and support tens of thousands of American jobs. None of the votes were close, despite opposition from labor groups and other critics of free trade agreements who say they result in job losses and ignore labor rights problems in the partner countries.
"We don't do much around here that's bipartisan these days," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was U.S. Trade Representative during the George W. Bush administration. "This is an example of where we can come together as Republicans and Democrats realizing that with 14 million Americans out of work, we need to do things to move our economy forward."
President Barack Obama said passage of the agreements was "a major win for American workers and businesses."
"Tonight's vote, with bipartisan support, will significantly boost exports that bear the proud label 'Made in America,' support tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property. ... I look forward to signing these agreements."
The agreements would lower or eliminate tariffs that American exporters face in the three countries. They also take steps to better protect intellectual property and improve access for American investors in those countries. The last free trade agreement completed was with Peru in 2007
Nice piece of propaganda there about creating jobs and putting Americans to work. Because free-trade agreements have done such a bang-up job of that over the past few decades, right? Now Americans can look forward to competing with Panamanian and Columbian workers, and with South Koreans - the only people in the world who work longer hours than Americans. FireDogLake comments:
"That giant sucking sound you hear today is the sound of jobs being outsourced as President Obama signs into law three free trade deals; South Korea, Colombia and Panama. According to the Economic Policy Institute, passing the Korea Free Trade deal will likely cost this country 159,000 jobs."http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/10/13/that-giant-sucking-sound/
"The three trade deals remain basically unchanged since George W. Bush negotiated them in his last term when he was unable to get them approved by the Democrats in Congress. Just like it took Nixon to go to China, it apparently takes a Democratic president to force through NAFTA-style free trade agreements that destroy American jobs."
"Why would Obama push through jobs destroying trade deals in the middle of a jobs crisis? Possibly, as part of Obama’s extreme bipartisanship fetish he is willing to do anything to attract bipartisan support; but more likely, he did it because the biggest corporate lobbyists have been pushing hard it for years."
"The passage of these three free trade deals tells you something important about President Obama and many members of Congress. The problem isn’t that most of our elected officials actually want to destroy Americans who have jobs, all things being equal they do want Americans to have jobs. The problem is protecting American jobs is a much lower priority for Obama and most members of Congress than is giving the large corporate lobbyists what they are willing to donate millions to see advanced."
Gee didn't candidate Obama promise to "take a look at" free trade agreements like NAFTA? Isn't that why he won out in the primary over Hillary? And now he's passing George W. Bush's free trade bills. Jesus wept. The New York Times looks at who the losers will be:
"With Congress expected on Wednesday to take up trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama as well as a benefits package for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition, the Joint Economic Committee of Congress has released a report showing that the workers most likely to be hurt by free trade are the same groups that will have the most difficult time getting new jobs."http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/whose-jobs-are-at-risk-in-free-trade/
"According to the report, “Nowhere to Go: Geographic and Occupational Immobility and Free Trade,” the workers most likely to lose their jobs as a result of increased trade are older workers and those without a college education. The most obviously affected industry has traditionally been manufacturing, where workers tend not to have college degrees and an increasing number are 45 or older."
"Particularly in this dismal economy, finding new jobs is a challenge for these workers. According to Labor Department data, the unemployment rate among those with just high school diplomas is 9.7 percent, more than double the rate among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher."
"And while the unemployment rate among those 45 to 54 years old is actually lower than the rate for 25- to 34-year-olds, once they are unemployed, older workers tend to spend much longer searching for work."
So the answer is to get a college degree, eh? Maybe that's why the price has risen by 300 percent since the 1970s, and college degrees are basically debt slavery for most Americans. Actually, there are more college degreed people than ever before in American history, but it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference in overall wages or amount of jobs, has it? So much for a rising tide lifting all boats. And let's not forget to mention that non-college degree work nowadays is now given almost exclusively to illegal immigrants who work for a pittance and can easily be abused. Been to a restaurant lately? Ever seen a non-Mexican roofer or landscaper? I know I haven't. I guess NAFTA did create jobs after all. According to economist Richard Green:
"For free trade to fulfill its promise, the national government must redistribute income. As a card-carrying economist, I like trade--overall, it potentially enriches countries that engage in it. The problem is the meaning of enrichment."http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2011/10/fulfilling-free-trades-promise.html
"Trade theory says that trade enlarges the pie that people share. But among the most important contributions to trade theory is the Samuelson-Stolper Theorem, which says that relatively scarce factors of production see their returns fall when trade is introduced. In the context of an economy like the US, this means that low skilled workers see their wages fall in the presence of trade. The trajectory of wages in the US over the past 20 years or so are consistent with the predictions of Samuelson and Stolper."
"NAFTA was sold to the US public as something that would make everyone better off. And it principle, it could have done so, had some of the gains to those who benefited from NAFTA been redistributed to those who lost as a result of it. Instead we got the NAFTA but not redistribution. This likely explains the widening disparity of incomes."
Redistribute income eh? Sounds like Socialism to me. Good luck with that. Funny thing is, GOP candidate Herman Cain has a plan to do exacly that, but in the opposite direction:
So basically what we've learned is that the only thing that can get through congress are not jobs bills but free trade agreements that will make jobs for those hardest to employ vanish even faster. And that this is the only thing both parties overwhelmingly agree on.
Will the last person in America please turn off the lights?