American Elephants

Whatever Labor Wants, Labor Gets! Howcome? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama, in his State of the Union speech in January, said this:

Last month we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs.  This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.

That was then, this is now. This week U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and White House economic aide Gene Sperling told journalists that Mr. Obama won’t send any of the pending free trade agreements — with Korea, Colombia or Panama, that have been languishing on his desk — to Congress for a vote until Congress also agrees to expanded subsidies for jobless union workers, and renews the canceled Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

These free trade agreements represent some $10 billion in exports for American companies, and about 360,000 American jobs will be lost if the pacts don’t go through. Canada finalizes it’s pact with Colombia on July 1, so the U.S. will lose a big chunk of its Colombian market to Canada.

Congress dumped the $2.4 billion TAA program for 2011 -2014 because studies have shown it to be of “dubious value.” It encourages workers to blame all job losses, regardless or cause on trade, because it hands idled workers 156 weeks of “income support” on top of 99 weeks of unemployment, creating a five-year free ride instead of creating jobs.

Only three days ago Trade Representative Ron Kirk was testifying before Congress and describing free trade as a job-creating machine.

Big Labor’s political game is to put pressure on its puppet in the White House ahead of an election to extract the concessions they want. The White House plays political games, and the U.S. economy and U.S. workers suffer. Only 11.9 percent of American workers belong to unions, and it would be even fewer if more states were right-to-work states.

Orin Hatch (R-UT), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said:

It makes no sense to shut the door on increasing U.S. exports by  over $10 billion in order to fund a costly program. With our economy struggling and our nation broke, it’s time to stop the excuses and give our exporters fair access to international markets.

Whatever the unions want the unions get.  You’d think the president would want to do something about the unemployment rate, but campaign donations trump common sense, I guess.

It’s Time to Move on Free Trade! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has claimed to favor free trade. But as in so many cases, what he says doesn’t mean there will be any action.   The free-trade pacts with Columbia, Panama and South Korea have been “pending” for the last sixteen months.  Big Labor does not like free trade.  This one big interest group has driven much of Obama’s action or inaction on almost every administration program or policy.

This week there is some rumbling in the background.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an impassioned plea at the Council of the Americas for Columbia  to hang on just a bit longer, assuring Bogota of  U.S. “commitment”.

John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, is focusing on South Korea and the increasingly dangerous situation on the peninsula.  He made a forceful plea to Obama along with GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, to use the trade pact to seal ties.  It is critical to secure the relationship.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Defense Secretary have separately made pleas for action from Democrats.

Contrary to Union objections, these trade pacts mean job opportunities and markets for U.S. Companies.  The three countries are signing pacts with Europe and other countries while Obama dithers.  There are limits to how long pacts can languish before governments move on.

If this was Obama’s aim, it’s another job killer, and a legacy-killer for his presidency.  It does not serve American interests.

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