David Sirota recently posted some misrepresentations of my economic viewpoint. I should note that Mr. Sirota did not attempt to get in touch with me--either to speak with me about my ideas, or to get a fuller representation of them--and instead relied on referencing one quote from a newspaper. I would have been glad to provide my writings which clearly contradict some of the things he said, and I would have also been glad to have talked with him about this.
He says, for example, that I am offering "democrats help in pushing...more corporate-written trade pacts that have no wage, environmental or human rights protections." This is false. In fact, I have worked very closely with Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), who has been our leader on trade, to insist on the inclusion of all of these items in trade bills, and I have voted against trade bills including NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO for China, fast track authority, etc. for that very reason. I did vote for the Jordan trade bill because it had the standards we wanted. At no point have I suggested that we would change our position and start supporting trade pacts that do not contain labor and environmental standards and respect for human rights.
I believe we should continue our opposition to those items that are on the business community's agenda until they drop all opposition to people joining unions. I could only hope that card-check legislation is a given, but I don't think it will be easy to pass.
Another major omission is my insistence that American business support universal health care. I have always listed universally available health care that is not tied to employment as part of the deal. I have also talked about the importance of the public sector being expanded as a major source of jobs. And in that context I have especially talked about lowering the cost of college education both by greater public support for it at the state level and by increased funding for Pell grants and guaranteed student loans.
There are some things that the business community wants that are being stalled today that I believe many liberals want to support for our own reasons. First among these is immigration, and I have cited working together for a set of policies more supportive of immigration with the business community as one of the things that I believe we should do. I have also supported more direct foreign investment and I was a strong supporter of the successful domestic content bills for the auto industry in the 80s. Remember, we are talking here about direct investment, not simply buying stocks.
My Grand Bargain starts with a way for us to pass a broad liberal agenda - including raising wages (not just the minimum wage), health care, labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, more support for access to education, and an increased public sector in many other areas - and I am prepared to work with some aspects of the business community's agenda if we can get them. I should add that if we can get labor, human rights and environmental standards in trade bills, I think foreign trade can be a good thing when properly done, and can be particularly helpful to poor people in other countries, whose existence we should not entirely forget.
Finally, I do want to say that I think it is entirely reasonable for us to disagree about my argument or the tactics I use to enact our goals. I have been fighting for liberal causes in what I think has been the most pragmatic and sensible way for 26 years in Congress. But, for Mr. Sirota to impute to me the kind of improper motives that he does - charging that I am doing this to raise money or that I am selling out to K St. moneyed interests - has no basis in a legitimate debate over issues. I would encourage you to read my recent op-ed in the American Prospect magazine, the text of which you can find here.
If you are interested in more information, read this piece in the Boston Globe.