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by Judith LeBlanc
Sunday, Oct. 07, 2001 at 9:31 PM
In what should be recognized as scandalous opportunism, the Bush Administration and the pro-free trade think tanks have been exploiting the political leverage they've gained in the wake of the S11 tragedies to try to win "Fast Track Trade Authority" for the pResident.
'Fast track' now?
By Judith Le Blanc
"The reminder is to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer at a recent press briefing.
But his admonition was not heeded by corporate think tanks and U.S. trade representitive Robert Zoellick when they called for giving Bush a blank check for trade agreement negotiations in the name of fighting terrorism.
At the National Press Club Sept. 27, the Brookings Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Institute for International Economics and the Heritage Foundation called for immediate Congressional action on "fast track" trade authority.
Zoellick, in a thinly veiled attempt to squash dissent, said in the Sept. 20 Washington Post, "This president and this administration will fight for open markets. We will not be intimidated by those who have taken to the streets to blame trade and America for the world's ills."
The reaction to these fast track calls was swift and adamant. In a joint letter to the Speaker of the House from churches, unions, environmental and citizens' groups it said that "pushing this controversial measure now would shatter the bipartisan focus on national security and economic recovery that this crisis demands."
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, "Their arguments are ludicrous and offensive, implying that those who don't support this overwhelmingly partisan fast track proposal now are somehow protectionist, isolationist or worse yet, unwilling to fight terrorism."
In the last six months fast track legislation was taken off the table by the Bush administration due to the lack of bipartisan Congressional support. Research has shown that past trade agreements have resulted in massive U.S. job loss - 367,000 in the case of NAFTA - and have not improved U.S. economic performance.
Yet the economic crisis, here and worldwide, accelerated by the impact of the terrorist attacks requires an economic recovery program. Proposals to address the economic crisis are now being discussed on Capitol Hill. The discussion includes renewed efforts for capital gains tax benefits that favor corporations and the rich. Others are calling for dramatic action on unemployment benefits, medical coverage and publically funded projects that can put people to work and rebuild long neglected infrastructure (See story on page 5).
What is clear is that the drive for profit continues even at a time of national crisis and great suffering. The situation requires a sure and steady approach by labor and the community to unite and organize for solutions based on the immediate and long-term needs of working people.
The struggle for the American people to exert their influence on the direction of the U.S. economy and the global role the U.S. should play is not separate from the struggle for peaceful, political solutions to terrorism. The struggle for the government's responsibility to meet the needs of the people at a time of crisis is the only path for a peaceful and secure future.
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