In a recent discussion on trade agreements, a Bloomberg TV panel summed up America’s free-trade dilemma this way:
Consumers want the cheap goods they get from trade agreements but voters don’t want to pay for the programs needed to accompany these deals.
By importing duty-free stuff from low-wage countries, Americans get low prices but lose jobs. So the panelists argued that before signing on the dotted line, Congress should pass laws to soften the impact of the ensuing job losses – retraining, public works projects, help for the unemployed and so on.
But, as I am sure you know, the Republicans have vowed to block any legislation of this kind.
By voting in a Republican Congress, “we the people” have said yes to trade deals and no to paying for programs that should accompany these deals.
American voters are faced with a radical alternative this election – scrap the trade deals.
We have to bear this in mind when we cast our primary votes. On the Republican side, all of the candidates favor trade agreements. Donald Trump is promising to rewrite them in America’s favor but he doesn’t say how.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders flatly opposes trade agreements that ship American jobs overseas. Hillary Clinton takes a more nuanced approach, calling for better deals and legislation to provide an accompanying safety net.
While I instinctively shrink from agreements based on low wages, deplorable working conditions, poor environmental protection and lax worker safety, I have to concede that the world has gone so far down the free-trade road that turning back now looks impossible.
Realistically, all we can insist on is more sophisticated planning that takes into account the intricate implications of such deals and provides help for those inevitably victimized. And we should insist on a tax structure that shares the profits corporations derive from these deals with the individuals and communities adversely affected by them.
And I think that’s what Hillary is proposing.
Once again, it seems to me that Hillary is the most realistic presidential candidate. She isn’t playing to the gallery or promising the moon. She tells us what can be done and spells out in detail how she plans to do it.
And we know from her past performance that she has the skill to do what she is promising to do.