Back in 2005, our Congress trampled the majority of Americans who opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and passed the pact with the strong backing of K Street lobbyists. This was a victory of the Money Party over the People Party - of buypartisanship over bipartisanship. Now, as I show in my nationally syndicated column out today, congressional Republicans and the Bush administration are trying to trample the people of Costa Rica - using threats and intimidation to try to force voters there to approve CAFTA in a national referendum this Sunday, October 7th.
It is very possible you haven't heard anything about what's going on. Despite the fact that Costa Rica is one of the oldest and most stable democracies in the Western Hemisphere, and despite the fact that this referendum could be the first time a lobbyist-written trade pact is rejected so publicly on the global stage, most American newspapers have barely covered the upcoming vote - even as protests about CAFTA's worker, environmental and health care provisions continue to grow in Costa Rica. And - big shocker - I have not seen a single nationally syndicated columnist even mention this truly monumental vote this weekend - monumental not just for Central America, but for our own country as well (FYI - It's possible I just haven't seen something that's been written, but I read a lot of stuff, and so if I've missed a syndicated columnist who has written on this, let me know - the point, however, stands: this has gotten very, very little media coverage).
The celebrity-obsessed punditocracy barricaded in Washington is more interested in covering what presidential candidates wear on their lapels, regurgitating the latest cocktail party gossip, and penning puff pieces about presidential campaign aides than, you know, major economic events with both domestic and international consequences for working-class people. Apparently, "reporting" and "journalism" has gone out of style, though that shouldn't be a surprise. As Jeff Faux recounted in his book The Global Class War, the Washington Post acknowledged that media decision-makers had made a conscious choice to blackout any real debate over NAFTA back in the early 1990s when it was being debated. The punditocracy, in other words, has made a habit out of refusing to seriously cover trade and globalization in any kind of fair way. This is one of the reasons I am thrilled to be writing a column - because it means I can help amplify the stories, positions and beliefs of the vast majority of Americans that are so regularly drowned out by the media.
Make no mistake about it: Whatever happens with this weekend's vote, what we are seeing in Costa Rica both from our government and voters there is nothing short of monumental. Reuters reports that the latest opinion poll shows "shows Costa Ricans rejecting CAFTA 55 percent to 43 percent." The fact that it is even close is stunning, because - as my column shows - the Bush administration has mobilized the State Department and Republicans in Congress in a campaign of fear down in Costa Rica - one that seems eerily consistent with a scandalous memo that recently leaked out of the official pro-CAFTA campaign. These business-backed forces are threatening economic retributions against Costa Rica - threats that are basically lies, because they don't have much leverage to make them a reality as this Public Citizen fact sheet shows.
Whether you care about Costa Rica or not, what's going on down there has implications that go far beyond Central America. What we are seeing is that, at the same time GOP voters say they are sick of lobbyist-written trade policies like CAFTA, the Republican White House is nonetheless so corrupt that it is going to bat on behalf of the GOP's pharmaceutical, insurance and telecommunications donors that inserted language into the deal making sure countries like Costa Rica privatize those services there. The arm-twisting shows that despite all the Iraq-related criticism that this administration doesn't know how to play diplomatic hardball, this White House is willing and able to get what it wants when it has its corporate donors' interests in mind.
And when it comes to trade policies in general, the same can be said for both Republicans and Democrats. Whether it was Democrats trading votes for campaign contributions in order to help the GOP pass CAFTA in the first place, Democratic lawmakers going down to Costa Rica to echo GOP threats against voters there, Democrats now trying to pass a whole new package of NAFTAs - the global class war is truly buypartisan.
Go read the whole column here and let me know what you think. And if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site.
Cross-posted from Working Assets