TRADE AIN’T NOTHIN’ IF IT AIN’T FREE
As House Democratic whip against CAFTA, I’d like to point out that Alexander Cockburn has a little trouble with math when he claims that “through the 1990s Democrats and Republicans voted for the free-trade agreements” that cost America so many jobs [“Beat the Devil,” April 4]. The fact is that a growing majority of Democrats have opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and Fast Track Authority. This year, I expect more than 90 percent of House Democrats to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
REPRESENTATIVE SHERROD BROWN
Author, Myths of Free Trade
As with labor and Taft-Hartley, which tore the heart out of the Wagner Act in the 1940s, so with the trade votes in the 1990s. When it mattered, there were always enough Democrats on board to push the crucial bills through. On a fast-track disapproval vote in May 1991, ninety-one House Democrats supported Bush Senior (against 170 who opposed him); on the November 1993 vote on NAFTA, 102 Representatives and twenty-seven senators voted for the bill (versus 156 and twenty-eight, respectively, against). In both votes, although more Democrats were against free trade than for, Democratic votes made approval possible. The story gets worse: In November 1994, on the GATT approval bill, 167 House Democrats and forty-one senators were for it, only eighty-nine and fourteen, respectively, against. So Democrats, by a large majority, gave Clinton the free-trade bill he was looking for.
In July 1998, in a vote sponsored by Representative B. Sanders to prevent future bailouts of US banks and kindred investors, as had just happened in the Mexican peso collapse, only eighty-eight House Democrats supported Sanders; 110 voted to protect the banks. On a 1996 bill that disapproved extending MFN status to China, seventy-five Democrats voted for, 119 against. Then, when it was all far too late, after free trade had momentarily lost its luster in the wake of the Asian economic crisis, the Democrats voted 171 against extending MFN, twenty-nine for.
At this rate, when the last job has left America, we may well see Democrats bolting the stable door in the numbers that Representative Sherrod Brown confidently presages.