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February 28, 2008



I am a little bit leery of posting on this, because this blog is generally more about the meta-political debate than the nitty gritty of the issues. But here I go.

- NAFTA has been a net boon to the US economy. There are winners and losers in free trade, for sure, but NAFTA has brought more winners than losers in the USA.

It's more than fair to raise issues about whether the growth is going more to the rich than the poor. To that I have two responses:
1) Every serious economic study that has been done on free trade has shown that the growth it produces is generally neither progressive nor regressive in total. Certainly, some working poor and working lower middle class employees lose jobs, but others gain them. The effects can be crippling to some localities, but enormous boons to other localities. (If you have seen a study that contradicts this, let me know.)
2) Even if this were not true, the issue should be economic equity and tax fairness, not free trade. If the overall economy grows, then a sufficiently progressive tax code should ensure that that who get the lion's share of the growth support social justice for the rest of society. In short, more tax income drawn from rich people can help fund health care coverage and college credits for the working poor.

- Ohio's (and Michigan, Western Pennsylvania, Indiana, upstate NY, et al) economy has done pretty well overall in the years since NAFTA. Most of the decline can be explained by:
1) Brain drain to other states, which has nothing to do with NAFTA, and
2) The various mistakes and crises of GM, Ford, and Chrysler, which also have very little to do with NAFTA.

- I think Clinton AND Obama are BOTH, essentially, blowing hot air on this one, and I'm glad about it. I think both of them would make good on the promise to renegotiate NAFTA if they get elected, but the changes won't exactly be dramatic. Besides, it's not as if Canada's labor and environmental standards are so much worse than our own. Mexico has some labor issues, but it's not Indonesia.

- Finally, and by far most importantly, NAFTA is small potatoes. The only reason this is getting play is because the labor unions educated a lot of people in Ohio about NAFTA, so they know what it is and blame it for a lot of bad things.

The real issue is how a new-and-improved USA will act towards the WTO. If the USA joins forces with the EU to negotiate labor and environmental standards that can be enforced worldwide, that will have a drastically greater impact than any change to NAFTA ever would.

D. Cupples


I don't understand what you mean about our blog's being focused on the "meta" political debate more than issues.

We've fairly extensively covered issues like Justice Department politicization, economic stuff, torture, some corporate crime, FISA, government contractor fraud.... Do you not consider those substantive issues?

Our topics page has more:

As for NAFTA, Damozel has very strong thoughts on the issue, because her South Carolina mill-town suffered terribly due to NAFTA. You will find, as I have, that some people argue for it and others argue against it.

Damozel's main point in this post was that IF (and it's still an IF) Obama misled the Ohio debate-audience about his stance on NAFTA, then it would pose a credibility (i.e., veracity) issue that our media should probe until they have answers.

How are you, btw?


I'm doing well, thanks for asking. Spring is coming to Colorado and the high snowpack may mean an end to the drought.

I suppose you're right about the serious issues covered here, DCupples, and I apologize for characterizing the blog as focussed on the meta-political discourse. I suppose *I* have commented more on the meta-politics, so... it's not you, it's me.

I agree that if Obama and/or Clinton are blowing smoke on this issue it does paint them as, well, typical politicians who will say what they need to get elected. But now it appears there are conflicting stories about "assurances-gate".

I could easily imgine that this was a conversation that could be interpreted more than one way. My guess is that someone in Obama's campaign may have said to a Canadian official something to the effect of, "don't worry, Canada should have no problems conforming to the standards that Obama wants tp add to NAFTA", which, depending on your point of view, is or is not a contradiction with Obama's statements at the debate.

I'm a free trade guy, and I think that Clinton and Obama are both, basically, pro-free trade. I take them at face value that they want to enforce more labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. The battleground for those changes will not be NAFTA, but the WTO.

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