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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

Baucus Leads Fight for K Street's Latest Goodie

by: davidsirota

Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 11:54:07 AM MST


(From the Diaries. - promoted by Matt Singer)

A few weeks back, I reviewed the major policies that Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) will face as the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. One of those was trade. As I wrote in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, the lobbyist-written trade policies Baucus has pushed in the past have severely limited the ability of small towns in Montana and elsewhere to build their economies.

The question for Baucus, then, was simple: Will Baucus use his position to continue K Street's "free" trade agenda that sells out American workers? Or, will he adhere to the strong mandate of the last election and work to reform our trade policy so that these pacts include protections for workers alongside the corporate profit protections they already include? Put another way, will our Senator stand with regular people or will he stand with K Street? Today we have received an answer to this question: Max is going with K Street.

davidsirota :: Baucus Leads Fight for K Street's Latest Goodie
The Associated Press reports that Baucus is spearheading the last-minute fight to pass the Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, despite the fact that Democrats joined together last month with Republicans to vote the bill down because it includes no labor, wage, human rights or environmental protections. As AP notes, the pact would end the requirement "that trade with the communist state be reviewed every year." While supported by the Bush administration, the pact "has met opposition from critics of Vietnam's human rights record and those worried about the effect on American jobs."

Jobs, shmobs says Baucus. You may recall that less than a year ago our senior Senator traveled to India to give a speech berating American efforts to stop job outsourcing. It shows that even a Senator who represents a state with some of the lowest wages in the country can be made to say anything or support anything - as long as enough K Street cash is thrown his way.

Remember, this is no isolated incident, as Baucus has supported most lobbyist-written trade deals that have come before Congress. And, as the Financial Times notes, Baucus's move today previews his moves in the new Congress. Says the newspaper: "The comprehensive deal is a sign that lawmakers on the powerful Senate Finance Committee will continue to cooperate on trade when Democratic Senator Max Baucus takes over as chairman from Republican Senator Charles Grassley."

I had recently written that there was a decent chance Baucus would return to representing ordinary people and stop listening to the arrogant D.C. insiders around him who have long counseled him to sell Montana down the river. I optimistically hoped that he would do this both because of the new political environment in Washington and because the other major political icons in Montana - Gov. Brian Schweitzer  (D) and Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D) - have planted themselves firmly in the corner of regular folks. Sadly, it looks like I was wrong.

UPDATE: Oh, and by the way, you know how Democrats are preparing to fight President Bush's efforts to reauthorize "fast track" authority whereby he gets to write trade policy without any input from Congress? Yeah, Max has a nice fat note on his website bragging about being "a long-time promoter of fast track" - yet another signal about what he's going to do in the new Congress.

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There he (David) goes again. (0.00 / 0)
Some notes:

Sirota says "As I wrote in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, the lobbyist-written trade policies Baucus has pushed in the past have severely limited the ability of small towns in Montana and elsewhere to build their economies."

In actuality, trade is vital to the economy of Montana. Several thousand jobs in Montana depend on manufactured exports and more than 700 mostly small & medium sized companies export from Montana. More than 70% of wheat produced in Montana sells abroad & beef produced in Montana sells abroad for a higher price than it does domestically. This wouldn't be possible if Mexico still maintained it's tariffs on frozen beef from Montana.

In just a decade, Montana's exports to Mexico have increased by more than 700%, and it's exports to Canada (which the U.S. was already on Free Trade terms with) rose by a third. The export of crops produced in Montana to Canada & Mexico, in particular wheat & dry beans, has increased over 200%, well above the national average.

In other words, trade, rather than being a burden, has been a boon to the Montana economy.

--

Sirota says Max Baucus "spearheading the last-minute fight to pass the Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, despite the fact that Democrats joined together last month with Republicans to vote the bill down because it includes no labor, wage, human rights or environmental protections."

First of all it's not a "Free Trade Agreement" it was a vote to establish normal trade relations with Vietnam (As a relic of the cold war, trade status with former communist/socialist countries is treated differently than other countries). Far from being a "Free Trade Agreement" the measure would actually submit imports from Vietnam to the same tariffs we level on imports from other countries.

Second of all, the measure was only not adopted because under the procedure it was being proposed (suspended debate) it needed a supermajority to pass, in which it only  achieved a majority. The bill, which 90 Democrats voted in favor of and 94 against, was endorsed by Charles Rangel, and voted in favor of by Nancy Pelosi, Howard Berman, Michael Capuano, Jim Clyburn, Diana DeGette, John Dingell, Barney Frank, Rush Holt, Sander Levin, Jim McDermott, James McGovern, George Miller, Robert Wexler and Henry Waxman among others. Although I suppose the case could be made that they too are all shameless corporatists doing the bidding of their K Street masters, though I wouldn't find it especially convincing.

--------

"Sirota says less than a year ago our senior Senator traveled to India to give a speech berating American efforts to stop job outsourcing. It shows that even a Senator who represents a state with some of the lowest wages in the country can be made to say anything or support anything - as long as enough K Street cash is thrown his way."

First of all, as even Sirota's link states, all Baucus said was that outsourcing was a reality, he did not "berate efforts to stop job outsorcing", which Sirota reponds to with his automatic right-wing trops that so & so is an elite "out of touch" with the salt of the earth working people of his imagination. As someone for who'm Baucus' politics are a bit too conservative, I found this to be somewhat progressive, at least in comparison to people like Sirota promoting economic nationalism (with the delightfully xenophobic & jingoistic accusation that Baucus is really seving Indians rather than Americans & using Indians as a scapegoat for anxiety due to American economic volatility.)

Second of all, Sirota did not, in fact he didn't even make an effort to, connect Baucus' votes to the amounts of donations he reieves from various industries. Sirota's one trick. Simply posting a link to Baucus' opensecrets profile isn't reporting. Every single elected official has such a profile. Perhaps you could breakdown the industries and interested parties that gave him cash & try to at least superficially link those to certain votes. If you're feeling especially empirically rigorous, you might even compare those figures to those recieved by other elected officials  in the same chamber, both those who voted for & against certain measures, to make your conclusions stronger. 



It's always where they are silent (0.00 / 0)
You will notice that the commenter above doesn't mention why Baucus would support a deal with no labor, human rights, environmental or wage standards - all this person says is essentially that we'll be able to sell raw commodities to Vietnam. That's true, but that doesn't explain why the deal has to have none of the standards that protect people - and it sure doesn't explain why Baucus is refusing to use his position as the incoming chair of the Finance Committee to make sure those provisions are put in. We could have a great trade deal with Vietnam that lets us sell commodities to Vietnam while ALSO having those provisions in the deal. Shouldn't making sure our workers aren't forced to compete with slave labor be a priority?

The people opposed to those provisions are large multinational corporations who want cheap labor, no environmental standards, and no human rights laws, so that they can pick up their business operations in America and move them overseas. These large corporations give generously to politicians, and what they get is the behavior we're seeing today from Baucus.

And by the way - don't think for a second this only is about manufacturing workers. This is also about high-tech workers that we're trying to recruit to Montana. Think the call center and back-of-the-office jobs. Trade deals like these make it nearly impossible for Montana to attract those jobs, because those jobs are increasingly headed overseas, thanks to the fact that our trade policy has no basic wage standards in them. They are heading overseas because workers in our trading partners countries are often paid a few dollars a day. We could prevent that with a proactive trade policy - but that would mean we'd also need a proactive Finance Committee Chairman.


[ Parent ]
There he (David) goes again (again) (0.00 / 0)
David Sirota writes;

"You will notice that the commenter above doesn't mention why Baucus would support a deal with no labor, human rights, environmental or wage standards - all this person says is essentially that we'll be able to sell raw commodities to Vietnam."

Once again, David this is not a "Free Trade" deal. It's a measure to establish normal trade relations with Vietnam, in which Vietnam's imports will be subject to the same duties & tariffs as imports from other U.S. trading partners.

But let's assume for argument's sake that this was such a deal , and it was just as pernicious & disgusting as David maintains. In which case, I will agree to support whatever conclusion Mr. Sirota arrives at for why Max Baucus would support such a deal if he will in turn explain why if this measure is as pernicious & disgusting as David maintains, why was it endorsed by Charles Rangel, and voted in favor of by Speaker Pelosi, as well as;

Howard Berman(CA), Earl Blumenauer(OR), Michael Capuano(MA), Ben Cardin(MD), William Clay(MO), Majority Whip Jim Clyburn(SC), Diana DeGette(CO), John Dingell(MI), Sam Farr(CA), Barney Frank(MA), Rush Holt (NJ), Mike Honda(CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson(TX), John Larson(CT), Sander Levin(MI), Doris Matsui(CA), Jim McDermott(WA), James McGovern(MA), Brad Miller(NC), George Miller(CA), John Oliver(MA), Tom Udall(CO), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz(FL) Diana Watson(CA), Mel Watt(NC), Henry Waxman(CA) & Robert Wexler(FL). Most of these people are Progressive Caucus alumni. Some of these names were the same ones your source mentioned speaking up to Bob Rubin about trade. A handful have never voted in favor of a single trade liberalization measure.

So what do you say David? Are these people all corporate DLC sellouts too? Is Nancy Pelosi an enemy of the middle class? Is Rush Holt the slave of his K-Street masters? Is Henry Waxman the bought & paid for automatron of his corporate lobbyist owners? Is Barney Frank a GOP-lite corporate whore? 

Or...maybe....just maybe. This issue isn't as simplistic as David Sirota makes it out to be. That maybe voting to establish normal trade relations with vietnam doesen't mean you are a corporate tool and perhaps Max Baucus has certain reasons for wanting to establish these ties besides a hatred of the middle class & the desire to sell out the residents of his state to his corporate K-street DLC masters in exchange for money.


[ Parent ]
The answer is (0.00 / 0)
Yes, to a certain extent, the problem with people selling out on trade is a bipartisan one. Absolutely. However, don't pretend that Max isn't in a special position. He is going to be heading the committee that deals with these pacts. So as opposed to the other lawmakers, he has a chance to actually shape these pacts.

[ Parent ]
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