Tag Archive: NAFTA

Apparently, in supporting Wall Street over Main Street, the capitalists over the working class and citizenry, in health care, job policy, economic regulation (or lack thereof), consumer protections, and unpopular overseas conflicts, the Obama Administration apparently decided that it had not yet chosen enough plays from the Bush Administration playbook.

Democracy Now! reports:

Clinton: US “Deeply Concerned” about Venezuela

Clinton’s visit to Brazil came as part of her first visit to Latin America as Secretary of State. It comes one week after Latin American and Caribbean nations agreed to form a new regional body excluding the United States and Canada as an alternative to the Organization of American States. At a news conference, Clinton criticized the Venezuelan government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are deeply concerned about the behavior of the Venezuelan government, which we think is unproductive with respect to its relations with certain neighbors, which we believe is limiting slowly, but surely, the freedoms within Venezuela, therefore adversely impacting the Venezuelan people. And we would hope that there could be a new start on the part of the Venezuelan leadership to restore full democracy, to restore freedom of the press, to restore private property, and return to a free market economy. We wish Venezuela were looking more to its south and looking at Brazil and looking at Chile.”

So, I guess if you have to  defend the American Empire, you. . . uh, pick a fight with Venezuela?  Really?  Now, regarding issues such as the closure of oppositional press and attempts to delimit terms, I won’t say much. . . however, given that the majority of closed press have been closed due to expired licenses (a policy that we would uphold ourselves), and a number of oppositional press supported the 2002 coup attempt (which, if there was an attempted coup in America, there is no doubt we would shut down presses that supported it), and that the limitation of terms is, at least in one sense, arguably undemocratic, given that it restricts the population’s ability to vote for a popular president past a certain point, I don’t think her critique is totally valid (not so say that I would not change some things in Venezuelan policy).

However, let me make a few further points.  First, democracy and capitalism are polar opposites.  First of all, economic democracy, a key socialist principle, would render all corporations employee self managed, in a democratic a nonhierarchical manner.  To the extend that this is not the case in Venezuela, I disagree with Venezuelan policy on the matter. . .but is it the opposite of the case under capitalism, because private ownership of the tools and resources that go into production, exploitation, and the inequality and power that come from them can only be protected if the workers who actually produce the goods that form our world have no democratic say over them.  True economic democracy would allow each worker to see their true importance in the workplace, gain greater knowledge over their work processes, and render them powerful enough to get their fair share of the revenue they’ve produced.  Economic democracy would be better for all workers, and have a number of economic benefits, but would be less profitable for the ruling class.  But none of that under capitalism.

Political democracy is hindered by capitalism, too.  Certainly, the USSR was not a political democracy, and neither was China.  These were mistakes–just as it is a mistake to give economic power to any bureaucratic and hierarchical body, be it corporations or an undemocratic ‘state’ over and above the people.  In fact, convincing arguments have been made to see the USSR and the like as ‘state capitalist’ rather than ‘socialist’ because the people owned no means of production, but a hierarchical body owned and determined it.  That being said, ‘democracy’ in capitalist countries is capitalism in name only.  Because the state is organized in a hierarchical manner as all capitalist institutions, our ‘democratic’ government is actually very unresponsive to the will of the people.  Furthermore, there are ‘checks and balances’ against the popular will by design, such as (1) a president who is not directly elected, (2) a supreme court, seated effectively ‘for life’, and not elected by the people, and (3) the senate, giving states power over the country in disproportion to their populations.  Finally, in that the capitalist class, collectively, holds the means of production hostage from the public will, it commands the majority of social means, and whoever holds the social means controls the ends as well.  Consequentially, the American government must appease capitalists as constraints on any action they take.

An illustration: say Doctors Without Borders builds a hospital next to a village on a hill, and builds a bridge to connect the hill to the village.  The hospital is free for all, so it seems as though everyone has equal access, but Ronald Reagan builds a locked gate on the end of the bridge.  Consequentially, Reagan, who has the only key, controls access to the bridge, and thus to the hospital.  While the policy of the hospital looks officially as though everyone has equal access, Reagan in fact has complete control over whether or not someone can get to said hospital.  What looks like freedom is, in fact, nothing like it.  What is the difference, then, if instead of a locked gate blocking access to the hospital, the hospital charges fees?  And if not everyone can pay?  Whoever has ownership of any corporation or institution has the ability to restrict access to its products and services, and thus, has leverage over anyone who needs them.  Since America is a ‘free market’ country, corporations own the majority of the means of production, and so is the provider of jobs for citizens and some direct income for the state.  Since the state needs income through taxation and these corporations, because it owns no means of production itself, it has to hinge its policies not on what is best for citizens and workers, but what keeps corporations happy.  In addition to funding campaigns, they control jobs and, through which, the means for government to operate.  Capitalism controls political democracy, and keeps means from the people.

In other words, capitalism is an enemy to political AND economic democracy, and here Clinton shows her bias, the same bias present in her husband’s role in NAFTA and the WTO.  Clinton should do her homework. . . you cannot support but a ‘free market economy’ AND democracy at the same time.

Et Tu, Barack?

Awhile ago I posted on Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wal-Mart. The link to that post, and all the articles I mention, will be posted at the end of this discussion.

I concluded with: “Quite frankly, Hillary’s appeals to labor and claims to want to increase the American “middle class” are hollow, empty appeals towards an audience, the American labor force (not to mention Wal-Mart’s notorious international sweatshop labor force, local communities affected by Wal-Mart’s practices, etc), that Hillary seems perpetually intent on betraying. A vote for Hillary is a vote against the poor and the working class.”

At the time, I defended Obama, after Kucinich was systematically and undemocratically prevented by the powers-that-be from getting his message out. But a few things have come out that are changing my mind, and to be intellectually honest, I must post on Obama as well.

Obama, too, seems to have been co-opted by global capitalist class, if he had not been already. He claimed a desire to help the U.S. working class, and opposition to NAFTA. Let’s examine some important moves he’s made since becoming the nominee.

About his earlier aim to ‘renegotiate NAFTA’ . . .

Joe Nichols of “The Nation” reports the following:

“In her interview with the candidate, Fortune‘s Nina Easton reminded Obama that earlier this year he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake” and suggested that he would use an opt-out clause in the trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico to demand changes that would be more favorable to workers and farmers in all three countries.”

Obama’s taking a stand for the working class in Canada, Mexico, and the United States . . . committed to saving American jobs, ending foreign exploitation, gaining some democratic ground over the hegemonic dominance of international capital . . . oh, wait. Never mind. That would be the result if he had taken a stand. He actually said:

“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified . . . politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.” In short, he doesn’t mean it, New World Order. So rest peacefully.

In his Fortune Interview, he says:

“”There’s a reason why the business community in Chicago as a whole has been very supportive of me . . . they know I am a pro-growth guy, and I’m a pro-market guy. And I always have been. What I do get frustrated with is an economy that is out of balance, that rewards a very few – with rewards that are all out of proportion to their actual success – while ordinary, hardworking Americans continue to get squeezed. Over the last decade or so, this economy grew substantially, and more than half of the total growth was captured by the top 1%.”

Is the economy out of balance? Do the top 1% capture most of the results of growth? Absolutely; Obama is correct. Had Obama been sincere, he would realize that this is an inherent consequence of ‘free markets’ and the laws of the capitalist system itself, yet he remains a ‘pro-market guy’. I think that Obama is trying to appease business while simulaneously looking objective. For example:

He simultaneously says that part of the economic causes of this are that “with globalization and with global capital being able to move everywhere it wants . . . it has meant a winner-take-all environment.” This is true. Capital flight gives international capital a huge bargaining tool over governments unwilling to impose sanctions or invest in capital itself. But yet, he says: ”

“I still believe that the business of America is business . . . but what I also think is that with all that power and talent, and all those resources at their disposal, comes some responsibilities – to not game the system, to not oppose increased transparency in the marketplace, to not oppose fiscally prudent measures to balance our budget.”

How does Obama plan on imposing responsibility with so much of the game rigged as a consequence of Market operations alone? Exactly. Obama has turned face, given in. Strike one.

Perhaps he can be redeemed. Who are his economic advisors? They will both reflect his ideology, his aims, and color the options he sees for the future.

David Sirota of the Creators’ Syndicate reports:

“For every loud speech Obama has given about making sure trade pacts “are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street,” he has made a quiet move reassuring Wall Street that Main Street will be ignored. Last week, for example, he named Jason Furman as his top economic adviser. Furman has spent the last few years defending Wal-Mart and working closely with Bob Rubin, the Citigroup chairman who championed NAFTA as Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary.”

Furman, Wal-Mart defender and associate of a NAFTA champion?  Hmm . . .

Naomi Klein of “The Nation” further reports:

“Furman is one of Wal-Mart’s most prominent defenders, anointing the company a “progressive success story.” On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged, “I won’t shop there.” For Furman, however, it’s Wal-Mart’s critics who are the real threat: the “efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits” are creating “collateral damage” that is “way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy more broadly for me to sit by idly and sing ‘Kum-Ba-Ya’ in the interests of progressive harmony.””  I won’t analyze that argument . . . it’s incoherent.  But besides Furman’s ridiculous, lie-filled, and callous attempt at defending Wal-Mart, it appears that Obama will, in fact, shop at Wal-Mart . . . but not for cheap-foreign-sweatshop-made goods, but for economic advisors.

In addition to Furman, “He chose as his chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right. Goolsbee, unlike his more Friedmanite colleagues, sees inequality as a problem. His primary solution, however, is more education — a line you can also get from Alan Greenspan. In their hometown, Goolsbee has been eager to link Obama to the Chicago School. “If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament, the guy’s got a healthy respect for markets,” he told Chicago magazine. “It’s in the ethos of the [University of Chicago], which is something different from saying he is laissez-faire.””

Perhaps I should go into why no one supportive of the Chicago School of Economics should ever touch anything that affects human beings due to their irrationality, poor economics, and more importantly, complete and utter heartlessness and shameless classism . . . but I won’t for now.  What is more important is that Obama seems to be in bed with these people.

It appears that, until he shows otherwise, Obama seems committed to handing American domestic policy to the forces that oppress people in this country and abroad, betraying the working class and the suffering.  I suppose that his message of ‘change’ still can hold, perhaps: he simply doesn’t seem to want the changes that would actually help America, or its poor and suffering.

In the paraphrased words of Julius Caesar: Et tu Barack?

Hillary Clinton and Wal-Mart: https://practicalutopian.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/wal-mart-hilary-clinton-and-unions/

Sirota’s Article: “Obama’s Clearest Path to the Presidency: Talk About Wages” : http://www.alternet.org/story/88791/

Nichols’ Article: “Obama Goes Soft on Free Trade”: http://www.alternet.org/election08/88754/

The Fortune Interview: http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/20/magazines/fortune/easton_obama.fortune/?postversion=2008062308

Naomi Klein’s article: “What Does Obama’s ‘Love of Markets’ Mean for Our Economic Future?”:


Historic Trade Bill Introduced

The Democratic Socialists of America sent me an e-News email that I think is important enough to share.  I will quote the first three paragraphs, and then share why I think it is important.

There has been an incredibly important trade bill introduced–

It’s called the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. Introduced in Congress on June 4,  its prime sponsors are Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). There are currently 58 co-sponsors of the bill in the House and four in the Senate. The bill’s numbers are HR 6180 and S 3083. Write them down and don’t lose them! Put them up on your refrigerator with a magnet, on your bulletin board, under your coffee cup or in your computer—wherever you put important political information that you will need again. Because this bill is a keeper.

The act would require the government to review its trade agreements, and it provides a process for renegotiating them, too. The bill also outlines principles that should be used in renegotiating those trade agreements–something that  is consistent with the precepts of DSA’s   Renegotiate NAFTA Project and which was described in the most recent issue of Democratic Left.
The bill is vigorously supported by major unions, environmental and other fair trade organizations. Said Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE HERE, “This bill breaks new ground on the enforcement of labor rights, environmental protection, food and product safety, procurement, safeguards against surges of imports, trade remedies against unfair trade practices and the ability for countries to regulate foreign investment.”
This was sent from Frank Llewellyn, National Director of the DSA, and the rest can be found here- http://community.icontact.com/p/democratic_socialists_of_america/newsletters/democratic_socialists_of_america/posts/5213048991778894381.
Why is this important?
In 1974, Richard Nixon introduced the concept of a fast track on trade, a procedure that would require Congress to vote on a trade agreement and all its changes it imposes on U.S. law, no amendments permitted, within 60 to 90 days of the president’s submission of the agreement and its legislation.  Debate on the bill is limited to 24 hours.  Trade bills are hundreds of pages, filled with clauses, subclauses, etc., ad nauseum, full of specialized trade terminology, and in 60 to 90 days it is barely even possible, with a full staff and advisors, to read all of it–even most of it.  Nixon proposed a council of private sector trade advisory groups to facilitate the process–hardly a disinterested group.  How does this affect procedures?  Let’s take the example of the Uruguay Round negotiations of the GATT, which created the WTO.
“During the . . . Uruguay Round negotiations, the advisory committees were composed of over eight hundred business executives and consultants (with limited labor representation), five representatives from the few environmental groups that were supportive or neutral on NAFTA, and no consumer rights or health representatives . . . [and] meetings of the advisory groups are closed to the public, with representatives required to obtain a security clearance from the government after a background check” (Nader, “GATT, NAFTA, and the Subversion of the Democratic Process,” from Mander and Goldsmith’s “The Case Against the Global Economy” p. 101).
Once trade agreements pass, attempts to figure out what, exactly, was passed face at least a few obstacles.  First, when George H.W. Bush promoted the NAFTA bill, he spoke positively, but the text was only made available to the American people in an unofficial version a month after his public appearance.  The 752 page official version was made available at a price of $41, and only after Bush Sr. left office in ’93.  Second, only those with an expansive knowledge of trade terminology can decipher exactly what the implications of the bill will be.  Third, in many countries (who are expected to pass these bills into their own legislation), the GATT text never became available, or became translated months after its passing.
A provision of the WTO rules, passed by the American government, is that WTO rules and restrictions are now fully enforcible, and governments must conform all laws, present and future, to the WTO.  Trade agreements, in other words, subvert even the constitution, and every law we have.  Combined with the fast track, trade rules are something to be debated more rigorously, considered more thoughtfully, and regulated more harshly than any other potential laws.  Beyond this, the fast track needs to be slowed down.
In the mean time, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is monumentally important, and in light of the history of International Capital’s consolidation of power and subversion of democracy, I urge anyone who reads this to talk to their congressmen and congresswomen, and forward the news to support this act to anyone concerned for the future.
In solidarity,
The Practical Utopian