Friday, September 9, 2011

Obama's Jobs Speech Reveals His True Trade Priority

Last night, President Obama once again mentioned how pending FTAs with Korea, Panama and Colombia can help kickstart the ailing US economy, but his speech contained a subtle, yet significant, rhetorical shift that laid bare his real priority: passing a $1 billion worker subsidy in the form of the dubious and controversial (and greatly expanded) Trade Adjustment Assistance.  As you may recall, over the last two months Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the FTAs "right now," despite the fact that Congress can't actually implement the deals because the White House has refused to send them to Capitol Hill until the GOP relents on TAA expansion.

Several of us called the President on his misleading rhetoric, yet it continued (again and again and...).  But last night, President Obama didn't actually call on Congress to pass the FTAs:
So, some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require congressional action.... Now it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea – while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words: “Made in America.” That’s what we need to get done.
Notice here that the President did not say "pass a series of trade agreements"; he said "clear the way" for the deals.  Of course, the only thing standing in "the way" of the FTAs is the President, and he won't get out of "the way" until TAA expansion is secure.

And just how secure, you ask?  Well, according to Harry Reid - who's certainly working in concert with the President - nothing but TAA's passage into law will free the three FTAs.  As Cato's Sallie James discovered yesterday:
After much back-and-forth on sequencing and strategy [subscription required], and many fine words from both sides about how the long-pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea are a bipartisan priority (President Obama’s failure to send the agreements for a vote notwithstanding), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) finally laid all his cards cleanly on the table yesterday.

A deal reached in August seemed to imply that the House would merely have to put Trade Adjustment Assistance to a vote before passage of the trade agreements, but yesterday Senator Reid said that the Senate would not vote on the trade agreements unless and until the House PASSES (not merely “considers”, as the Republican House leadership was always careful to specify) an extenstion of Trade Adjustment Assistance. (By the way, just to clarify, the stimulus-enhanced version of TAA is the main issue here. The basic TAA program has been running without authorization since the start of the year, when OMB ruled that it could continue unauthorized, so long as it was funded. So while the entire program “needs” reauthorization, the 2009 version is the most urgent priority for TAA advocates and their political supporters.)

So there you have it, folks, with all the niceties stripped away: If TAA doesn’t pass, then Harry Reid will ensure the trade agreements won’t even see the Senate floor. Pay the bribe, or pay the price.
Reid's statements establish, unequivocally, that when President Obama last night called on Congress to "clear the way" for the pending FTAs, what he actually meant was: "Hey Republicans, pass TAA expansion into law or the FTAs will never, ever see the light of day."

And that, my friends, is The Chicago Way.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I was literally yelling at the TV when he made his comment about Fords in Korea. SUBMIT THE G-D FTA's DUDE!