Hillary Clinton's Free Trade Flip Flop

Just like her super delegates and supporters, Senator Clinton’s campaign staff is heading for the doors. The latest exit stage right is chief presidential campaign strategist, Mark Penn, who was forced out due to secretly meeting with Colombian trade officials while simultaneously telling the Senator to continue bashing free trade. Although Clinton has supported free trade in the past, she has recently put up an anti-NAFTA facade in order to mesmerize the labor union vote and keep them pinned in her corner.

Early last week, Penn visited with Colombian leaders to discuss the pending free trade pact which Clinton (since Ohio’s primary) has criticized. While she supported NAFTA in her biography and as the First Lady, she now opposes it and other free trade agreements. Surprised? Of course not! Now that she needs the far reaching, deep pocketed, liberal, union vote, she’ll say and do whatever it takes to win their vote.

In fact, while First Lady, her husband supported trade agreements with Mexico, China, Canada and other nations and free-trade continues to be one of the most important parts of his post-presidency work. Records show that she attended meetings that were designed to build support for NAFTA and other trade agreements. She says now that she spoke up in opposition at those meetings, and that Bill Clinton’s staffers support that fact, but her claim seems more than farfetched.

NAFTA’s importance lingers far beyond the union vote and simple trading deals with America’s neighbors; it puts confidence in the quality of American-made goods, and it creates or stirs markets where none existed or thrived. Free trade forces manufacturers to find efficient and economical ways to improve technology and goods, keeping American products competitive with the developing products of places like India and China. I’ve heard every anti-free trade, “fair” trade rhetoric out there. But the bottom line is that international commerce has kept this country strong. It’s even, at times, kept us from slipping into recession or losing confidence in our economy. Plus, whether you are an economist or philanthropist, idealist or realist, you must admit that trade agreements help other countries, which help our brothers and sisters around the world and in turn helps us.

The issue of free trade speaks to one of every nine jobs in America, both directly and indirectly. Understandably Clinton is bidding for those blue-collar votes out there — especially the ones coming up on April 22 in Pennsylvania — and clamoring that she is against these international deals because she wants to protect American jobs. The problem is that she had it right the first time. Free trade may hurt today, but it will help tomorrow.  And besides, how will a “Fortress America” mentality help to restore our rightful place in the world as she and Senator Obama love to tout?

When Clinton waffles or flip-flops on these issues simply to pick up a few union votes, the American economy and workforce are put at risk. Competition is crucial in this global economy. If the United States practices only protectionist policies, then we will find ourselves isolated and technologically behind the rest of the world. Global economic forces cannot be stopped and we must sometimes, as Joseph Schumpeter popularized, destroy in order to create. For, he believed, “out of destruction, a new spirit of creativity arises.”

It’s too late now for Clinton to do the right thing for America and actually support free trade, but unless she wants us to start losing products, jobs, and trading partners like she is losing super delegates, staffers, and supporters, she needs to at least stop clamoring for the stoppage of trade deals. Truth be told, she must stand up for what’s good for America, and not what’s good for her.