House Majority Whip Tom DeLay has built such a reputation for hitting up Washington lobbyists for contributions he is known as “the Hammer.” In Sept. 21’s Washington Times, the Hammer came down on me. On “fast track” for NAFTA expansion, says Tom, I sound “Marxist” — “more like John Sweeney than Adam Smith.”
Well, Tom, if I sound like Sweeney on the issue of protecting the wages of our workers and keeping manufacturing at home, it is because, on this issue, I agree with the AFL-CIO leader. And in the Republican era from Abraham Lincoln (“Give us a protective tariff, and we will have the greatest country on Earth”) to Theodore Roosevelt (“Thank God I am not a free trader”), all Republicans believed that. In that GOP era, U.S. economic growth averaged 4 percent a year — for 50 years.
That’s why I’m standing with Sweeney. Now, you tell me, Tom, what you’re doing standing with Bill and Al, The Washington Post, the Council on Foreign Relations, Strobe Talbott and the Trilateral Commission. What are you guys forming up there — the New World Order Conservative Club?
As for Adam Smith, he was no free-trade-uber-alles libertarian. To maintain British naval supremacy, he believed foreign ships should be kept out of British ports. He favored tariffs as “revenge” on nations that discriminated against British goods, as levers to pry open foreign markets and as weapons to recapture lost markets.
He believed in tariffs on imported manufactures to offset direct taxes on domestic manufactures. From 1778 until his death, he served as commissioner of customs enforcing Britain’s protectionist policy against America’s trade. “To expect…. that freedom of trade should ever be entirely restored in Great Britain is as absurd as to expect that an Oceana or a Utopia should ever be established in it,” said Commissioner Smith. Adam Smith believed in “Britain First.”
Hailing NAFTA, the Hammer says that in supporting fast-track “negotiating authority,” the GOP is “willing to give the president the tools to negotiate a free-trade agreement with South America.”
Come off it, Tom. Clinton doesn’t need “authority” or “tools” to negotiate NAFTA II. He can cut any deal he wants. What “fast track” means is your surrender of Congress’ right to amend the deal he brings home. Tell him no! We elected a GOP Congress to put a conservative stamp on Clinton policy, not a rubber stamp.
DeLay claims NAFTA and GATT are responsible for “the lowest unemployment rate in recent memory.” Excuse me, we had 5 percent unemployment under Nixon. But the dollar then was worth 360 yen, not 120. Imports equaled 10 percent of U.S. manufacturing, not 50 percent. U.S. wages were the highest in the world, not lower than Japan’s. One man could decently support a family; today, it often takes the earnings of husband and wife. Most moms with kids under 6 were at home; today, two-thirds are in the labor force.
To most Americans, NAFTA means plant closings, lost jobs, drug cartels, dangerous trucks, illegal aliens, border pollution, kids getting sick on NAFTA berries and $50 billion bailouts of the Salinas Boys. Business Week reports that a majority of Americans now oppose expanding NAFTA to Latin America, with Republicans against “by a 63 percent to 27 percent margin, and Independents by 53 percent to 35 percent.” The GOP is cutting its throat — for Clinton! Greater love than this hath no man.
Why is it that Republicans, on hearing the phrase “free trade,” react like Laurence Harvey in “The Manchurian Candidate,” when he saw the Queen of Diamonds? Eyeballs click; and they follow the first command they hear.
But is it free trade we have with China, when they steal our intellectual property, shake down our companies for technology, put a combined VAT tax-tariff of 40 percent on U.S. goods and run a $50 billion trade surplus at our expense? In the trade wars China and other mercantilist regimes are waging against America, Republican “free trade” amounts to unilateral disarmament.
“Wherever you look in Asia, America’s trade numbers are about to go bonkers,” says Kenneth Curtis, global economist at Deutsche Bank in Tokyo, in The New York Times: “We are just beginning to see the political fallout.” Japan’s trade surplus at our expense is headed to $65 billion in 1997! If those numbers hit after the GOP has given Clinton fast track, good luck in November, Hammer.
As for my Marxist rhetoric, Tom, Karl would have been with you, Bill and Al. In 1848, he wrote, “the Free Trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favor of Free Trade.”