President Obama says that one of the steps Congress can take now to help our ailing economy is to ratify several pending trade agreements. On his Midwest armored vehicle bus tour, he told a Minnesota audience, “We’ve put together a package that is going to allow us to start selling some Chevys and some Fords to Korea so that—we don’t mind having Hyundais and Kias here, but we want some ‘Made in America’ stuff in other countries.”
He’s echoed that theme in Iowa and on his weekly YouTube addresses.
And he’s right.
There are trade agreements pending with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that would reduce tariffs and make American products available to our friends in other countries, which really would stimulate manufacturing and economic growth here at home.
There’s only one problem.
Congress is waiting for Obama to submit these trade proposals formally to them so that it can act.
You see, while President Obama is chalking up the treaties’ delay to GOP partisanship, the reality is that he has been sitting on all three trade compacts since he took office. In fact, the three agreements were all finalized during the ending months of President Bush’s second term. After assuming the helm, Obama decided to rework the South Korean deal and even extracted some concessions from both Panama and Colombian officials over labor practices. The revamped versions have been ready to go for some time now, yet Obama has not officially presented them to Congress.
Why not, you ask? If you thought it has something to do with American labor unions, bingo. You are correct. Behind the scenes, liberal Democrats are demanding that Congress spend billions more on a union slush fund benignly called Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA). The program runs through the Department of Labor and exists to provide income stability and skills training to workers displaced by jobs going overseas. Democrats want to expand the program’s scope and increase the number of those eligible, as if this country needs even more government dependents.
In particular, the Obama administration is demanding that Congress reauthorize the TAA to ensure workers “have access to income support for their families as they undergo job training and other development that will lead to a credential or degree and increased reemployment opportunities.” This taxpayer support could continue for up to 130 weeks—nearly three years.
If that weren’t enough, taxpayers would also be on the hook for the health care costs and career resources for those deemed “trade-affected workers.”
Many of these “affected” workers belong to a union, which provides yet another instructive example of how damaging unions can be. First, union members become too expensive to employ and, as a result, plant operators set up shop or expand overseas. Then we the taxpayers must underwrite the costs of preparing these unemployed union squads to acquire new skills, as if their joblessness is our problem and had nothing to do with the fact that they inflated their wages and benefits packages above market level. And to top it all off, union-backed Democratic leaders are now stifling the creation of American wealth when it’s critically needed by holding the pending trade agreements hostage until they’re guaranteed that their reliable donor base, Big Labor, is slipped more taxpayer cash.
Bottom line: Unions are often very bad for the economy. And President Obama is tacitly acknowledging this fact by imploring Democrats and Republicans to pass these free trade measures, but he fails to put the process in motion until he gets publicly funded carve-outs for his union pals.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out the President’s duplicity when he said, “It is my hope that the President, who continues to refuse to send these agreements to Congress while simultaneously calling for Congress to act, will finally resolve this contradiction by sending the agreements immediately.”
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter