Health groups bash process and substance of "deal"
Korean Americans against deal

Krugman on deal's soft bigotry

Tasini and Sirota have already responded to the column by Paul Krugman, who was on the Laura Flanders's Radio Nation show on Air America with me Saturday night.

Tasini takes Krugman to task for claiming that Democratic base group "furor subsided a bit " (it hasn't), and for raising the misleading specter of "old-fashioned protectionism" (because NO ONE in the trade debate is advocating blanket tariff protection, not even small manufacturers who would probably benefit from it). Meanwhile, Sirota praises Krugman for acknowledging that “fears that low-wage competition is driving down U.S. wages have a real basis in both theory and fact."

My take on Krugman's piece can be summarized by, "You've come a long way, baby." Krugman made his name as a trade economist who rigorously showed that countries can use protection to shelter their infant industries until they build up economies of scale, and that this can actually lead to increasing gains for everyone - pretty much the opposite of what a lot of economics orthodoxy believed at the time. Still, he pulled back from aligning with anyone who was calling for more active (i.e. not even necessarily protectionist) government policies on trade.

Actually, Krugman's non-involvement allows him to note the forest that a lot of Washington groups focused on the minor trade legislative trees can't or won't:

Realistically, ... labor standards won’t do all that much for American workers. No matter how free third-world workers are to organize, they’re still going to be paid very little, and trade will continue to place pressure on U.S. wages...

By all means, let’s have strong labor standards in our pending trade agreements, and let’s approach proposals for new agreements with an appropriate degree of skepticism. But if Democrats really want to help American workers, they’ll have to do it with a pro-labor policy that relies on better tools than trade policy. Universal health care, paid for by taxing the economy’s winners, would be a good place to start.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the most generous thing you can say about the deal. That some micro reforms were brought on by the latest deal, but in the absence of minimum wage boosts, Employee Free Choice Act and other labor law reform, labor will not be better off AND more NAFTA-like trade policy will continue to put downward pressure on wages. Again, is further NAFTA expansion the one legacy item Democrats want to be campaigning on next year?? It seems ridiculous.

The Krugman piece is just the latest in a series of interventions that are trying to really raise the debate beyond micro reforms towards a real progressive ASK on national policy. For some other great interventions in this vein of eliminating the soft bigotry of low policy expectations, visit our friends at Inclusion.

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