The Institute for International Economics estimates that trade liberalization has added an additional $9,000 a year to the typical American household. Of that, the U.S. trade representative's office last year estimated that NAFTA and the Uruguay Round (modifications of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade in effect between 1986-1994) alone generated $1,300-$2,000 to the average family of four. International trade allows American consumers to buy lower-priced, foreign-produced goods, while providing 1-in-5 American jobs tied to exports. And those U.S. jobs in exporting industries pay more than other jobs, an estimated 13-18 percent more, according to the U.S. trade representative.
Hillary Clinton is too smart a woman not to know this. But acknowledging that lifting trade barriers is good for America is, nonetheless, bad politics in the Democratic Party. Labor unions are obsessed with "protecting" jobs -- which, of course, is a recipe for destroying jobs in the long run since it stifles competition and increased productivity. And since unions supply much of the money and "volunteers" -- often paid union staff -- for Democratic candidates, candidate Clinton is not likely to buck them on trade.
Sen. Clinton tried to cast herself as a fighter in the AFL-CIO debate, drawing hearty applause when she noted, "For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine, and I've come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."
But in Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, Sen. Clinton looked more like a Pander Bear than a principled politician. I guess she's more worried about losing the AFL-CIO's fat contribution to her campaign next fall -- in 2004, the AFL-CIO spent $44 million to try to elect John Kerry -- than she is about doing what's right for the economy and American families.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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