Colombia Trade Deal, Principle, Politics and Stimulus

By October 21, 2008Economy, Taxation, Trade

So the passionate concern in Congress about violence against labor activists in Colombia was always feigned, really intended just as political positioning?

You could be forgiven for thinking that after reading accounts about the second round of economic stimulus being pushed by congressional Democratic leadership.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comments supporting more stimulus raised the possibility of a stimulus package coming to a post-election session of the 110th Congress. According to news accounts, the Democratic leadership might be willing to offer the Administration a quid pro quo to get a stimulus passed and signed into law.

Colombia would be the quid. From The New York Times, “Fed chairman backs second dose of stimulus“:

To draw in the White House as well as Republican lawmakers, Democrats are casting around for measures that Bush has wanted. One possible inducement could be passing a long-stalled free-trade agreement with Colombia. Republicans are also pushing for additional tax cuts.

But the opposition to Colombia was supposedly based on the horrible record of human rights violations in the country, the failure of the Uribe government to stop the violent attacks against labor leaders and activists. It was a matter of principle.

That’s how U.S. organized labor cast its opposition: “Our focus on Colombia is the continuing violence against trade unionists,” said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s legislative director, back in April, when the House leadership broke longstanding practice and shelved consideration of the agreement.

We’ve seen no reports that Colombia’s record of protecting union activists has changed much since April. Colombia’s human rights record was already dramatically improving, with special efforts made to ensure the safety of labor activists. So the same political opposition should exist here even today, right? If the opposition were a matter of principle.

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): Elsewhere on the stimulus front, Rep. Barney Frank calls for a dose of Keynesian economics (dose? Heck it’s a regimen), stimulating the economy through spending and then raising taxes on wealthy people to pay for it.

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