Alex Aichinger
Kirsten Andersen
Brent Barksdale
Jim Couture
Andrew Downey
Natalie Farr
Joe Giardiello
Bret Hrbek
Sang Mi Kim
Ramesh Ponnuru
Tom Scerbo
Dorothy Seese
Jason Soter

Senate Candidate Bob Franks of New Jersey

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel

Altruistic Unions?

Union arguments on free trade are disingenuous With permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status for China passing in the House of Representatives by a wider than expected 236-198 margin, the battle will now move to the United States Senate. The vote in the Senate is a foregone conclusion by most expectations, yet this will not halt the persistent attacks launched by the supposedly altruistic concerns of unions and Democratic leaders who consistently tell us that engaging in free trade instead of "fair trade" is a risky proposition - a proposition that enriches a billion Chinese at the expense of American citizens. A proposition, which, by conservative estimates, will lead to the loss of 860,000 American jobs, an alarming estimate by any measure. No moral patriot could condone such a destructive course of action, they claim. Greedy businessmen, multinational corporations, and the right-wing conservatives who defend them are another issue entirely.

Democrats and unions, such as the AFL/CIO, have a long held strategy of portraying free trade supporters as disingenuous. The motives of any group that embraces the notion of free trade are always challenged. After all, they argue, how can these people support free trade when this support will lead to the loss of American jobs and the general decline in the American standard of living?

Painted in those terms the answer seems obvious: only those who are bought and paid for by the big businesses that will benefit by setting up shop overseas can support free trade. These businesses use their ill-gotten gains (profits to you and me) to shower the Republican Party, Libertarian groups, and other classic liberals with vast amounts of money in order to buy their support in perpetrating the fraud of free trade on the American public. The moral high ground is defaulted to these groups because they couch their argument in concern for other people, namely American citizens who will lose their jobs, and people of the Third World, who, while taking these American jobs, will be exploited and relegated to slave labor and sweatshop conditions.

The altruistic concerns of the unions and Democratic leaders never seem to be scrutinized for their validity and as is usually the case, the truth is not always as it seems. In reality, the unions and other vested interests matched the business lobby almost dollar for dollar in contributions during the House vote on PNTR, giving to both the Democrats and the Republicans. Free trade does benefit businesses and corporations, but by the same token it benefits the consumer through cheaper products and it benefits the economy through freed-up capital that can be used to generate more business, i.e. more jobs.

Union concerns, on the other hand, benefit a select group of workers to the detriment of the economy as a whole. There is no widespread union concern for sweatshop conditions. The unions just fear a wage competition that they cannot win, thereby losing bargaining power. To allow the Democrats, and the unions that support them, to claim altruistic concerns over free trade is the definition of disingenuous.





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