Regular readers of this blog likely remember the back and forth I recently had with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) over his so-called "grand bargain." Frank was irritated that I raised objections to him offering to support more "free" trade deals in exchange for business accepting a raise in the minimum wage. Frank said I somehow misrepresented him, and that he is, in fact, fully committed to making sure Democrats use their new power to force trade agreements to include labor, human rights and environmental standards.
Frank's explanation sounded great. He cited a recent article of his promising that "Democrats will insist on incorporating labor and environmental standards in trade policy." I was happy that he went on record stating support for a fair trade agenda - one that proved decisive in the 2006 elections. That is, until I read this excerpt from Bloomberg News today:
"Frank's proposal includes Democratic backing to renew Bush's so-called 'fast track' authority to negotiate trade pacts that can't be amended by Congress."
You may recall, fast track has been the key authority that the executive branch has used to prevent labor, human rights or environmental standards from being put in trade deals. Fast track authority was created so that president's could prevent Congress from putting these standards in trade deals. Fast track authority was created, in short, to make sure Democrats CANNOT with any real power "insist on incorporating labor and environmental standards in trade policy."
So what we seem to be seeing here is political doubletalk, even though I am sure some folks will try to acrobatically explain it away as some sort of double secret super fakeout form of negotiation (which it most certainly is not). Congressman Frank seems to be telling us he is committed to fair trade, yet his "grand bargain" seems committed to something entirely different. I'm waiting to hear how he can square his fair trade rhetoric with the reality of what he is now pushing. Or, maybe like last time, he will claim that the Capitol Hill press corps misreported what he is pushing, and that actually he fully opposes fast track. I'm all ears for his explanation.