Thursday, July 28, 2005
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So CAFTA passes...
The Bush administration is getting really, really good at using William Riker's "minimum winning coalition" theory of passing trade bills. Here's the Washington Post story by Paul Blustein and Mike Allen:
As that bolded portion suggests, whether using Riker's theory is good for public policy is another question entirely.
As I said before, I supprted CAFTA's passage, and I'm glad to see President Bush used some of those reasons to get it through. But I confess I can't muster a great deal of enthusiasm about this passage, except in so far as it preserves the possibility of achieving the Doha round.
Oh, and since the Bush administration won't do it, let me take the opportunity to thank the fifteen Democrats who voted for the bill -- without whom, I suspect, CAFTA would have gone down. You're a shrinking breed.
One interesting question for the future will be how the defections from the AFL-CIO will affect the lobbying power of unions on trade-related issues. I suspect that their trade policy shop is going to get seriously dented by this change. [But Nathan Newman says that competition among unions for organizing will be good for the labor movement!--ed. Check out Robert Fitch's take in Slate and see if Newman's optimism is still well-placed.]
UPDATE: Well, it looks like the Bushies aren't the only ones playing hardball:
posted by Dan on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM
I have to say that it looks as if the statement written for Rob Portman would have been more accurate had it said that the CAFTA House vote sent "...a powerful signal to the region and the world that the United States has gone as far as it can in opening markets and leveling the playing field."
The White House was lucky to get this through, and will not be able to get any future trade agreements approved by counting only on Republican votes. This may be a moot point, as the changes in policy areas like agriculture needed to accomodate a Doha agreement don't have a majority even of Republican Senators, let alone Democrats or congressmen.
As for the unions, they showed their clout effectively enough. They demanded that Democratic Congressmen take the anti-trade position, and all but 15 of them did, with several of the 15 being from weak union districts in the South. I'm glad CAFTA passed, but they way it got passed can't be a model for any future agreements.posted by: Zathras on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
What are the possibilities that CAFTA will lead to some form of an EU-style government for North America? Should conservatives support that?
From Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX):
Every member of Congress who votes for CAFTA is voting to abdicate power to an international body in direct violation of the Constitution... It is absurd to believe that CAFTA and other trade agreements do not diminish American sovereignty. When we grant quasi-governmental international bodies the power to make decisions about American trade rules, we lose sovereignty plain and simple...
It's also worth pointing out that when NAFTA passed the internet wasn't nearly as popular as it is now.
When CAFTA's downsides become widely apparent, people will be able to look back and see who favored and who opposed it way back when.posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
I agree that Bush is good at the Rikerian minimal winning coalitions business, but that Crooked Timber link far overstated it. It's not "increasingly" the trend that bills are squeaking by. In fact, in a lot of legislation passed out of the House, there are typically more Democrats who break party ranks than Republicans (trade issues notwithstanding), and most House legislation in this session of Congress has been met with very little nail-biting.posted by: Will Franklin on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
Whether using Riker's theory is good for public policy is another question entirely.
Well, there you go. If getting a larger majority to vote for the bill would've meant giving out even more pork and special favors, then having the whips stop at 50% plus one is just fine with me. Certainly I assume that we agree with that general sentiment.
I totally agree with you that the fifteen Democrats should be thanked. I'm not certain that CAFTA would've gone down-- rather, I think that the Republican whips would've gotten their number, but at a cost of even more favors and pork. So three cheers for those fifteen Democrats, and for all the Republicans who voted for the bill without demanding pork to mollify their districts.posted by: John Thacker on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
I didn't know the first officer of the Enterprise-D was also an economist!posted by: David Pinto on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
Woah, here's an interesting link from RollCall:
That's right. Voting for CAFTA is "betraying the party" and upsets the leader of the Democratic Party in the House. With pressure like that, I can't imagine that it's all Bush's fault more Democrats didn't vote for it.posted by: John Thacker on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
In his statement Portman practically guaranteed the US would have more jobs due to CAFTA.
Anyone wanna bet?
The race to the bottom continues.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
"save the rustbelt":
The trade pact, like most trade pacts, is unlikely to have a strong effect on jobs either way. It will rearrange what types of jobs people have. To the extent that happens, it will raise wages in both countries, because that's what happens when labor is redirected to more efficient jobs.
"race to the bottom," eh? Funny that wages and labor standards have been doing nothing but improving in Mexico since NAFTA was passed.posted by: John Thacker on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
I am not sure if you have followed the story around Rep. Charles Taylor's vote not being registered. He claims to have voted Ney, but it was not registered because of a supposed invalid voting card. If he had, the vote would have been 217-216, with one member not voting. The only other person not to vote was Jo Ann Davis of VA. Does anyone know her stance on CAFTA? Would she have created a tie? I am at work, and don't have time to research it today. Any ideas?posted by: Dan adams on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
Funny that wages and labor standards have been doing nothing but improving in Mexico since NAFTA was passed.
It's been so successful that one half of the population of the Mexican state of Zacatecas lives in the U.S. Perhaps an economist can weigh in on what percentage of that is due to NAFTA and what to other factors, but NAFTA clearly played a large part.
And, as we see time and time again, Bush has no interest in securing the border, so whatever (to us) negative effect CAFTA will have on illegal immigration was most likely considered a benefit.posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
I don't read much about improved wages and labor standards in Mexico.
And the destruction of American manufacturing jobs has depressed wage levels for blue collar workers.
There have been wage gains for executives, lawyers, lobbyists, etc., you know, the people who can afford to buy political influence.
When NAFTA was passed we were told:
1. Manufacturing jobs would be destroyed.
2. New high-value service jobs would replace them.
"Do you want fries with that?"
"Do you need a cart today?"posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
"With pressure like that, I can't imagine that it's all Bush's fault more Democrats didn't vote for it."
If Bush didn't want a mostly unified Democratic opposition to the bill, he could have negotiated with the Democrats, and let the Democrats take credit for getting him to agree to strengthen the worker's rights provisions of the treaty.
Bush got a number of Republicans to vote for the bill by offering them pork. If his goal were to get the bill though with a minimal cost in pork, he could have tried offering some pork to the 187 Democrats who opposed the bill, rather than limiting himself to the 60 or so Republicans. Instead, he specificly went after Republican, and only Republican, votes.
Free trade with poor countries is better then massive unskilled immigration. Unskilled immigration results in negative externalities such as more sprawl, more traffic congestion, higher policing and prison costs, higher schooling costs, more linguistic balkanization, and higher taxes while free trade does not do these things.posted by: scottynx on 07.28.05 at 12:25 PM [permalink]
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