Because Tom Friedman keeps saying "just wait another few months" on Iraq, many have started referring short-hand to "Friedmans" as time periods of doing the same thing that people in Washington perpetually ask the public to accept as our country goes down the drain. A "Friedman" is the political version of the mantra from the movie the Money Pit where the builder keeps telling Tom Hanks to wait "just another two weeks" before everything is OK. Now, as President Bush this week asks Congress to reauthorize his "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals with no labor/enviro/human rights standards, the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party is on the Hill begging Congress to accept the demand in order to let our current trade policy "work" for a few more Friedmans.
Here's the Financial Times today:
"The Democratic leadership in Congress has turned this week to old-school Clintonites to help persuade the freshman class of '06 to moderate the militant critique of globalisation that helped get them elected. Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser in the Clinton administration, on Tuesday testified before the House ways and means committee on the need for a new consensus on free trade during a hearing addressed by both corporate cheerleaders and labour movement critics of trade policy. The architect of Bill Clinton's pro-trade economic policies has also held private meetings with the new Democratic representatives. Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin - former Treasury secretaries under Mr Clinton - will on Wednesday add their voices to the debate as they advocate a centrist economic policy that ensures middle-class prosperity."
I can't say that I am shocked that the same people who told us NAFTA, WTO and China PNTR would help the country are now frantically running around trying to get lawmakers to keep going along for more Friedmans, no matter how much these trade deals have hurt ordinary workers, and no matter how strong a fair trade mandate the 2006 elections were. The question is whether Democrats will once again believe the propaganda the Wall Street/Clinton wing keeps selling, or whether they will put their foot down?
Here's hoping they put their foot down, because in the same Financial Times story, we see the benefits of Democrats getting tough on trade. Just a few weeks after 39 freshman Democrats sent a letter to the House leadership demanding a change in our trade policy, the Financial Times reports that:
"Business leaders have accepted the new political realities that will shape trade policy in the wake of the mid-term elections. Terry McGraw, the head of the Business Roundtable, told the Congressional hearing: 'We need changes in our trade policy.' The roundtable, which represents 160 of the top US chief executives, indicated it would drop its opposition to the inclusion of tougher labour standards in bilateral agreements."
That's real progress, but again - it will only continue to be real if Democrats in Congress get up enough courage to reject the people who got us into this mess, and start taking a stand for working people by rejecting Bush's request for fast track.