Howard Rich's Blog

June 24, 2008

Columbia Free Trade – Pelosi’s Dangerous Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — howierich @ 2:16 pm

With America’s economic, national security and geopolitical interests teetering on an extraordinarily precarious footing, now is not the time for our nation’s leaders to allow a narrow special interest to circumvent the will of our democratic institutions.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what’s happening in Washington, D.C. right now as Speaker Nancy Pelosi – in an unprecedented display of partisan obstructionism – changed the rules of the U.S. House to block a vote on a free trade agreement with Columbia.

In the words of one of her home-state columnists, Pelosi is “aligning herself with a wing of the Democratic Party that has grown increasingly hostile to consensual acts of commerce.”

Not coincidentally, this “wing of the Democratic Party” is funded by none other than organized labor, which continues to ignore the inescapable economic reality that free trade benefits American workers by lowering or eliminating costly tariffs and opening new markets for our products.

Since the 2005-06 election cycle, labor unions have contributed over $80 million to Democratic candidates – including over $500,000 to Pelosi individually.

No wonder the Speaker was able to carve out enough Democratic support to block a bipartisan effort to pass the Columbian trade agreement.

Pelosi’s obstructionism is a dangerous game on many levels, most importantly in its impact on the American economy. According to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, over $1 billion in tariffs have been levied on American products in the year-and-a-half that Congress has failed to vote on the agreement.

These harmful tariffs choke off economic growth at a time when America should be doing everything within its power to generate more jobs, higher income levels and new capital investment to stimulate our flagging economy.

Additionally, Pelosi’s refusal to permit a vote at the unions’ behest has profoundly counterproductive ramifications for our national interests South America, most notably in the gift-wrapped victory it provides for Venezuela’s rabidly anti-American dictator, Hugo Chávez.

As a recent editorial from the Mobile Press-Register aptly summarizes, “in trying to appease anti-free trade labor bosses, (Pelosi) lost sight of the broader economic and national security issues.”

Indeed, a diminished American influence in Columbia plays directly in Chávez’s plan to destabilize the continent. Already seeking to undermine the Columbian government at every turn due to its close diplomatic ties to America, Chavez is widely-suspected of clandestinely supporting the “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia,” or FARC, which is seeking to give its drug cartel backers a new foothold by systematically infiltrating the labor movement in that country.

Incidentally, the Columbian government is quick to point out that many of the so-called “attacks” on organized labor leaders that Pelosi and her AFL-CIO allies bemoan are in fact directed at suppressing this violently anti-American terrorist organization.

In a column in The Wall Street Journal last week, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker described the potential cost of Pelosi’s pandering.

“If our leaders in Congress don’t change their approach, a critical building block for stability in an important region of South America may fall victim to domestic partisan squabbling,” Baker wrote, adding that “the world is watching to determine if the United States will remain committed to embracing a free-market global economy, or display a growing isolationist attitude that can befuddle and vex our allies around the world.”

Speaker Pelosi has a clear choice – she can continue to put America’s economy and national security at risk by kowtowing to her big labor bosses, or she can allow our elected officials to do their job and vote on an agreement that creates jobs and stability both at home and abroad.

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