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.
The following is a list of those men and women who will have the president's ear on economic policy over the next four years and the reasons why they are wrong for America:
The Commerce Department is charged with promoting economic growth in the U.S. The Cabinet Department's Web site states its mission is to "promote job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development." One of the ways in which Commerce is supposed to promote growth is helping to set industrial standards, which the U.S. completely and utterly lacks.
Obviously, someone has not been doing their job - at least effectively - for the last three decades or so. Now that tradition of incompetence, inaction and ineptitude will continue with the appointment of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg to head up the department.
He, along with a litany of other "free traders" like Ron Kirk, Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Robert Rubin, will look to use their influence to continue the failed policies of the past. To these people corporate profits and "free trade" are synonymous. Opening markets in the Third World simply provide their campaign contributors and other cronies with bigger profit margins.
Not only is Gregg a defender of the same policies that have cost millions of American jobs through open markets, but he is also one of Congress' biggest proponents of the controversial H-1B visa.
"It is not like we are taking jobs from Americans, which is what you hear from labor unions," he once said - inexplicably - of the program that has displaced hundreds of thousands educated and experienced American workers. "We are actually creating jobs by bringing bright people into this country." During his time in Congress, Gregg once sponsored a bill looking to increase the number of H-1B visas issued each year from 65,000 to 115,000.
His voting record on trade issues is even more worrisome. In the past, he has voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and bilateral deals with Singapore, Chile, Oman, Peru, the Andean nations of South America and the entire continent of Africa. He has also favored expanding trade with 70 Third World nations, granting the president fast-track negotiating authority and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and Vietnam. As a member of the 110th Congress he voted to lower trade barriers 90 percent of the time.
Moreover, Gregg is also a defender of the undemocratic and clandestine World Trade Organization.
"We use the WTO aggressively to try to defend our trade interests around the globe," Gregg falsely claimed, perhaps not realizing that the U.S. loses 90 percent of trade disputes it takes before the international body.
Now Gregg is in a position he is wholly unfit for. Not only his resume completely antithetical to the mission of the Commerce Department, he once voted in 1995 to dissolve the agency he is now running!
The selection of Judd Gregg put our fragile economy further in jeopardy. Without a comprehensive industrial policy, a return to manufacturing and an emphasis on employing and raising the living standards of American workers the economy will only further to continue deteriorating. Unfortunately, an avid "free trader" like Gregg seems unwilling to do so.
"The selection of Sen. Gregg completely contradicts what domestic manufacturers understand to be the president's stated views on U.S. trade policy," said U.S. Business and Industry Council President Kevin Kearns. "Sen. Gregg has voted nonstop for bad trade deals that have shipped overseas thousands of factories and large numbers of high-wage jobs, helping to create today's economic crisis.
"The choice of Sen. Gregg makes sense only if the president wants a secretary of Outsourcing," Kearns said.