TRADE REPORT: GOP Cites America's Richest County As Proof Economy Doing Well
By David Sirota
August 21, 2008 - 11:34am ET
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In this week's edition of The Trade Report, Barack Obama visits Virginia to discuss how unfair globalization policies have hurt rural areas of that state - and the Republican Party responds by citing the wealthiest county in America as proof everything is swell. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, a debate over NAFTA could turn one of the most contested congressional races in the country - all while corporate front groups in Washington desperately try to claim that NAFTA is the best way to stop Al Qaeda (no kidding).
MUST READS: NYT SAYS EXTREMISTS ARE “CENTRISTS”; TRADE ACTIVIST FORCES DEMS’ HAND
The New York Times Magazine this week publishes an article by David Leonhardt attempting to explain Barack Obama’s fundamental economic ideology. To echo Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous, “it’s a think-piece about a mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom.” And, indeed, many of its passages should make Wall Streeters wet themselves. Within the first nine paragraphs, for instance, Leonhardt bills Citigroup Chairman Bob Rubin the “center,” despite his deregulatory and pro-NAFTA policies lying far outside the center of American public opinion. That said, the article provides some interesting insights into what Obama will – and will not – do as president.
Meanwhile, the Madison Capital Times’ John Nichols reports on the successful effort to amend the Democratic Party platform to acknowledge its complicity in rigging America’s trade policy. Read the full story here.
WHITE HOUSE '08 - GOP CITES RICHEST COUNTY IN AMERICA AS PROOF ECONOMY IS GREAT
The Roanoke Times reports that as Barack Obama convened a discussion about unfair trade policies in economically ravaged regions of Virginia, the national Republican Party countered by citing Fairfax County as proof the economy is doing just fine. "It doesn't take a lot of courage to go to Martinsville and talk about trade," said U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R) said in a Tuesday conference call arranged by McCain's campaign. "What would be courageous is to come to Fairfax County, where you have 362 foreign-owned companies and tens of thousands of employees with foreign-owned firms...and take the same stand up here."
Besides the tone deafness of holding up foreign-owned firms as proof of a solid domestic economy, Davis forgot to mention that according to Forbes magazine, Fairfax County has long been the wealthiest county in the United States - a place where the median (the median!) household income is over $100,000 a year. The county is home to many of the millionaire corporate lobbyists that have been instrumental in the passage of rigged trade deals. Davis citing Fairfax County today as proof that trade policies are working for the vast majority of the country would be like Herbert Hoover citing the Rockefeller family as proof that the economy was working for most Americans during the Great Depression.
TRUMKA: "IT WILL DO LITTLE GOOD IF NEXT DEM ALLOWS WALL STREET TO TAKE COMMAND"
Bloomberg News reports that AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka is turning up the heat on economic issues in advance of the stretch run of the presidential campaign. In a powerpoint presentation slamming Citigroup Chairman Robert Rubin's deregulatory, pro-NAFTA agenda, Trumka said, "It will do us little good if, when the next Democrat moves into the White House, Wall Street takes command of our country's economic policy.''
Trumka has the winds of public opinion at his back. Over the last year, polls have consistently shown the vast majority of Americans want America's trade policies reformed. The problem - as it always is in politics - is money.
As reported last week, Obama's campaign is quietly courting the same CEOs that oppose trade policy reform. While there are certainly huge differences on trade between Obama and McCain's stated positions, the two campaigns are both being advised by top executives from UBS, one of the largest investment banks in the world. Indeed, the McCain campaign continues to solicit advice from UBS vice-chairman Phil Gramm, while the Obama campaign has long been shaped by Gramm's UBS boss, Robert Wolf. That kind of Wall Street influence will likely make a fair trade agenda much more difficult in 2009.
CONGRESS '08: TRADE TAKES CENTER STAGE IN MARQUIS RACE
NBC News reports that a debate over unfair trade policies is taking center stage in one of the hottest congressional races in the nation. Democratic candidate Eric Massa is hammering Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) for supporting NAFTA and CAFTA in an upstate New York congressional district that has seen its job base crushed by those pacts. As Public Citizen has already reported, the 2006 congressional elections pivoted on Democratic challengers running populist campaigns on trade. 2008 looks like it is shaping up the same way.
DLC: WHEN THE GOING GETS ROUGH, START FEARMONGERING
Ripping a page straight out of George W. Bush's playbook, the Democratic Leadership Council this week attempted to justify its corporate sponsors' trade agenda by writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed insisting that NAFTA-style trade deals fight Islamic terrorism. Yes - you read that right, and the DLC wasn't joking. They really want America to believe that passing trade deals that are unpopular both here and abroad is the way to stop Al Qaeda.
In fact, the BBC's landmark 2008 poll undercuts the DLC's fact-free rhetoric with hard data. The survey of international opinion shows widespread unease with the United States' trade and globalization policies - and that unease is particularly acute in the Middle East, where the DLC claims that NAFTA-style policies will stop terrorism.
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