Date registered: Aug 2002
Vehicle: 2021 SL770
Location: Fountain Hills, AZ
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Quoted: 544 Post(s)
By Jim Hoagland (washingtonpost.com)
Democratic leaders in Congress are riding to the rescue of an unlikely beneficiary: the reputation of George W. Bush. They seem determined to exacerbate problems that he has created or long ignored.
They would deepen a budget deficit that, on Bush's watch, has lurched out of control. They undermine U.S. leadership in global trade negotiations. They champion politically rewarding but economically damaging agricultural subsidies during a world food crisis. On energy, the congressional Democrats seem intent on battling Bush to a draw on who can accomplish the least.
Okay. So Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and colleagues have seized their chance to out-pander the Republicans and are doing well in performing that uphill task. This is not exactly grounds for shock and awe, I hear you muttering.
But their actions allow Bush to pose as a fiscally responsible, veto-wielding leader -- a feat akin to enabling Typhoid Mary to pose as Florence Nightingale. This could help Bush inch up the ladder of the dank cellar of approval ratings expressed by his fellow Americans and much of the rest of the world.
The fallout is actually wider: The Democratic push on Capitol Hill for more budget-busting spending and greater protectionism bleeds into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who promise to deconstruct NAFTA and to avoid almost all new taxes from here to eternity.
Perhaps they dissemble. But even this causes allies and rivals abroad to water down expectations that changing administrations will automatically make for a more reliable and cooperative American partner. A clear advantage that the Democratic Party had in world opinion is withering, according to foreign officials and professionals I have encountered recently.
Such concerns made trade and protectionism the most hotly debated topics at the Trilateral Commission's annual meeting in Washington last week. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called Pelosi's unorthodox procedural moves to bury the Colombia Free Trade Agreement negotiated by the Bush team "a repudiation of the basis on which U.S. trade policy has proceeded for the past 35 years." These actions, he added, "endanger the credibility" of future administrations on trade.
Bergsten -- a senior Treasury official in the Carter administration who believes the United States needs a much stronger safety net to help workers displaced by globalization -- also urged Congress to shift money to job training programs and away from lavish and trade-distorting agricultural subsidies.
A $300 billion, five-year agricultural bill recently proposed by the Democratic leadership immediately drew a veto threat from Bush, who on this one economic topic is in touch: "America's farm economy is thriving. The value of farmland is skyrocketing. And this is the right time to reform our nation's farm policies by reducing unnecessary subsidies."
Pelosi drew another Bush veto threat (as well as heavy fire from her left) by advancing proposals to add a heavy dose of domestic spending to Bush's $108 billion Iraq war supplemental spending bill. How far she will retreat is not yet clear. But Bush can only welcome a chance to make the hottest argument about Iraq center on funding procedures and pork-barrel spending rather than on the war itself.
Trade is the best-performing sector of the American economy right now, adding 1 percent to gross domestic product and keeping the United States out of recession in the past two quarters, according to Bergsten. Attacks by leading Democrats on free-trade agreements contribute to the confusion and disillusionment that many union members already feel. The attacks also discourage other nations from making compromises in the stalled Doha round of trade negotiations.
So we should welcome Obama's straightforward rejection last week of the gasoline tax holiday proposed by both Clinton and John McCain. A suspension would encourage consumption, add to pollution and set back the painful adjustment to lower and more efficient energy use this country desperately needs to make.
Global trade as practiced in the 21st century does inflict pain and dislocation on workers in developed countries, largely through the unequal distribution of the gains that this trade brings. A sober discussion about remedies and a plan for urgent action is needed.
Unfortunately Reid, Pelosi, Obama, Clinton and most of their colleagues in Congress have contributed little to such a discussion. The Democrat who is nominated this summer in Denver should change that state of affairs immediately. Otherwise, Bush could wind up looking like a statesman by comparison and McCain could wind up becoming president by default.
"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon