Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bush Waxes Philosophical on CAFTA

Yesterday, President Bush signed the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) after a contentious Senate battle (56-44) and a razor-thin victory in the House (217-215). Despite concerns of US job loss, corporate tax evasion, and international labor exploitation, Bush decided to shift the focus to national security and his "freedom is on the march" philosophy. He again confuses capitalism with democracy as is common in a Cold War mentality. According to the US President's speech, it is economic forces alone that drive the "democracy domino" effect:
CAFTA is more than a trade bill; it is a commitment among freedom-loving nations to advance peace and prosperity throughout the region. As the oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has a moral obligation and a vital national security interest in helping democracies in our neighborhood succeed, and CAFTA advances this goal.

By strengthening the democracies in the region, CAFTA will enhance our nation's security. Two decades ago, many of the CAFTA nations struggled with poverty and dictatorship and civil strife. Today, they're working democracies, and we must not take these gains for granted. These nations still face forces that oppose democracy, seek to limit economic freedom, and want to drive a wedge between the United States and the rest of the Americas. The small nations of CAFTA are making big and brave commitments, and CAFTA is a signal that the United States will stand with them and support them. By helping the CAFTA nations build free societies, we'll help them eliminate the lawlessness and instability that terrorists and criminals and drug traffickers feed on. And this will make our country safer.
Yeah, right . . . I feel safer. Everyone knows the reason why terrorists exist is because of trade tariffs and government's ignoring the rights of their businesses. Perhaps, worker unions have become the new breeding grounds for terrorist training! Thank God CAFTA will save the day. It is the international USA Patriot Act we need to fight the "War on Terror."

Seriously, this speech does belie the basic tenant of Bush Philosophy: the equality of corporate interests to individual interests. The assumption is there is no tension between labor and business or consumer and business, and especially no tension between the government and business. The concept that business might exploit its labor force, take advantage of customer ignorance or stash profits for the rich few is not understood in Bush World.

This is not the case in true Straussian neo-conservative ideology which understands these things and intentionally hides it from the ignorant public. But to be honest, George W. Bush was never really a neo-con, despite the majority of his cabinet. And now his Paul Wolfowitz has moved forward into the World Bank to corrupt it just as thoroughly as the current US Administration with these ideals of well-intentioned deception and individual subjugation to the greed of power.

But, I digress. Perhaps a discussion on Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind will have to wait until a future post.

What disturbs me most is the juxtaposition of what Bush said on signing CAFTA and what Clinton stated on signing NAFTA. Whereas Bush seems focused on the far-reaching future, Clinton described the current US economic situation fairly accurately:
But I want to say to my fellow Americans, when you live in a time of change the only way to recover your security and to broaden your horizons is to adapt to the change, to embrace, to move forward. Nothing we do -- nothing we do in this great capital can change the fact that factories or information can flash across the world; that people can move money around in the blink of an eye. Nothing can change the fact that technology can be adopted once created by people all across the world, and then rapidly adapted in new and different ways by people who have a little different take on the way the technology works.
That is it. The "adapt to the change, to embrace, to move forward" part was missing from Bush's speech. But to be honest, both Clinton and Bush and many presidents before them have failed to take the initiative to move the US workforce into the future, blindly believing that the invisible, magic forces of free-competition and capitalism will somehow transform US businesses.

The education system is so bad in the US that it takes someone like Bill Gates to point out, "America's high schools are obsolete." The frequency of out-sourcing and off-shoring is so prevalent that there are a slew of companies in business just to help other companies do it as fiscally as possible. Meanwhile, the US workforce is facing sharp competition by cheaper, illegal labor overseas, never mind the illegal labor market within the country. Instead of ramping up for this free-trade agreement and embracing the future, the US is crossing its fingers it will work, hoping that market forces will somehow accomplish what the government and American corporations are unwilling to do.

So the Bush Philosophy on CAFTA is simply a red herring to the real mystery behind free-trade. The real mystery is how Mr. Bush can believe no plan is a good plan and why corporate interests are trumping those of the average US citizen.


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