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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/13/09

A Legion of Rabid "Free Traders"

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Message Dustin Ensinger
During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama often spoke of the ills of “free trade” (“Look, people don’t want a cheaper T-shirt if they’re losing a job in the process,” he said during a Democratic Primary debate. “They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt.”) but his actions and appointments have suggested that his economic policy in regard to trade will be nothing more than a continuation of the failed ideas of administrations past.

Obama has stockpiled his cabinet and the West Wing of the White House with men and women that have not only supported, but been instrumental in shaping the policies that have decimated the nation’s manufacturing base over the past two decades. The American people were promised “change” but it appears that when it comes to trade, Obama will simply deliver more of the same.

As the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, the White House Chief of Staff is regarded as a very powerful position.  Depending on the influence of the office, the person holding the position is sometimes referred to as the “second most powerful man in Washington.”  The Chief of Staff has the ability to have extraordinary influence on a president’s agenda through his role as a gatekeeper of information and people, the negotiator with congress and other political actors and overseer of White House staff.

As such, anyone who wishes to see an American economic revival through an emphasis on reinvigorating the nation’s manufacturing base, a more “fair trade” policy, and the use of the stick rather than carrot for Wall Street crooks should be extremely disappointed that Rahm Emanuel will be filling that role.   

Emanuel is among the legion of rabid “free trade” ideologues in the Obama administration that include Ron Kirk as the U.S. Trade Representative, Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary and Larry Summers as head of the White House’s National Eocnomic Council.   

Emanuel is perhaps most notorious for his key role in shepherding NAFTA through Congress during the Clinton administration.  Emanuel has been credited with being Clinton’s point-man on NAFTA, lobbying for votes in the House. He crafted and implemented a media strategy, which many observers now recognize as mere “free trade” propaganda.  

“You know, politics is about mending and tacking and so on, and setting your priorities,“ Emanuel has bragged in the past. “We were a very determined administration. We made a lot of compromises to get NAFTA passed and a lot of deals to get NAFTA passed.” 

During his time in Congress, Emanuel supported “free trade” agreements with Singapore, Chile, the Andean nations of South America and Peru. He also voted against withdrawing from the World Trade Organization.

In addition, Emanuel has cosponsored H.R. 4262 to increase the cap on H-2B visas so that more foreign workers could be imported. He cosponsored H.R. 2330 to increase foreign-worker importation of unskilled workers and voted against the Tancredo Amendment to H.R. 2862 to prevent the U.S. Trade Representative from including immigration provisions in Free Trade Agreements. Most recently Emanuel cosponsored H.R. 1645 (STRIVE Act) to drastically increase foreign-worker importation by using EB green cards, H-2C, H-1B, and L-1 visas. 

His support of the same Wall Street crooks that ran the economy into the ground has been just as steadfast as his support for the failed policies of “free trade” - perhaps because for a short stint, he was one of them, making millions.  During his two-and-a-half years as an investment banker, Emanuel took in the sum of $16.2 million.  By the time he got back to Congress, he had developed quite a few friendships on Wall Street, Open Secrets reported that Emanuel "was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry."   

So whose interests will Emanuel represent in the White House?  Those of Wall Street or those of Main Street?  American workers or multinational corporations?   

Jon Nichols of Public Citizen believes he already has it figured out.   

“Unfortunately, the Republican National Committee, Rahm Emanuel and their media echo chamber don't want the U.S. to adapt better to the global economy,” he wrote. “Rather, they want to maintain trade policies that benefit only the multinational corporations that fund campaigns and own media in a country with an economy that is wobbling under the weight of the largest trade deficit in the history of the planet.”

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Dustin Ensinger graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. He is a contributing journalist for
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