John Edwards, "Safety" Populist

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/07/2007 03:28:00 PM
You've got to love all these Democrats vying for the highest job in America finding all sorts of ways to top each others' populist credentials. Now, John "Two Americas" Edwards is unleashing yet another broadside at those free-market degenerates intent on ruining the American dream. I've implied that labor and environmental stipulations for trade deals may be masquerading in place of protectionism, pure and simple. Well, with all the hullabaloo over "dangerous" products coming from China, you can chalk up another excuse for good 'ol protectionism: product safety. OTOH, maybe Edwards knows a thing or two about product safety as made a fortune being a personal injury trial attorney. Edwards' campaign website has a recent entry on how he intends to make trade smart and safe in a way that puts workers and families first [sniff...I am so touched...please gimme a hankie]:
Today, Senator John Edwards proposed his plan for "smart and safe" trade policies that will benefit working and middle class families instead of just big multinational corporations. Edwards believes our trade policies should give workers a level playing field. As president, he will insist on pro-worker provisions in new deals, hold trade partners to their commitments, invest more in dislocated workers and communities, and ensure that imports are safe. Edwards believes that the U.S. should not enter any new trade deals that do not meet these tests.

"Trade has become a bad word for working Americans for a simple reason - our trade policies have been bad for working Americans," said Edwards. "We need new trade policies in America that put workers, wages and families first. It is not enough for a trade deal to be popular on Wall Street or show up in economic statistics. My main measure is just this one - after considering the impact on jobs, wages and prices, will most families be better off?"

Current trade policies include special privileges for corporations, and make it more difficult working Americans to compete in the global economy. As president, Edwards will make sure we have smart and safe trade policies that help families and strengthen our economy. Edwards will:

  • Be a tough negotiator who will reject bad trade deals. Edwards will make sure trade deals help regular families, include strong labor and environmental standards and fight currency manipulation.
  • Demand a level playing field for trade. Edwards will assign top prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice to the job of enforcing trade laws, including the stronger labor and environment standards he will negotiate. He will eliminate tax incentives for corporations to move offshore.
  • Revamp trade assistance to help dislocated workers and communities. Edwards will create a new "Training Works" initiative, help communities recover from mass layoffs and strengthen the safety net for workers who lose their jobs.
  • Ensure the safety of imported food and drugs and enforce mandatory country-of-origin labeling, letting families choose the origin of their food. Edwards will also enforce a "zero tolerance" rule and immediately freeze the specific import of any food, toys, medicines, or other goods that threatens the health of our children and families.
  • Require Country-of-Origin labeling so that consumers have the option of choosing safe, American-raised meat and poultry and American-grown produce.

Edwards believes that in order to ensure that our trade policies and our economy work for regular Americans we need to end the influence of lobbyist money in Washington. He renewed his call for all federal officeholders and candidates from all political parties to join him in refusing to accept any form of campaign donation from federal lobbyists.

Also here's the Chicago Tribune reporting on Edwards' speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa from which the main points listed above are taken. Cited are a litany of evils emanating from dastardly free trade:
Asserting that corporate profits dictate the nation's foreign trade pacts, Democratic presidential contender John Edwards today called for a "zero tolerance" policy that would freeze imports of harmful foods, toys and other goods.

Speaking with an eye toward a forum of Democratic candidates sponsored by the AFL-CIO in Chicago on Tuesday, Edwards proposed new rules on trade policies that he said would boost the standing of workers in America and across the world.

Edwards said he would not abrogate the NAFTA trade agreement among the United States, Canada and Mexico. But, he said, he would renegotiate it to reflect his priorities for future trade pacts, including standards that allow for unionization of workers, environmental standards and controls on currency manipulation.

"When it comes to trade, the only thing that matters in Washington, D.C. is corporate profits," the former North Carolina senator told nearly 300 people at the union hall of Local 405 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "We need trade without tradeoffs for America."

Edwards said the nation needed trade rules that protected American consumers and said he would enforce mandatory labeling of foods and other products detailing their country of origin and give the federal Food and Drug Administration the resources needed to keep tainted food products out of the country.

"We'll enforce zero tolerance and immediately freeze the specific import of any food, toys, medicines or other goods that threaten the health of our families and our children," Edwards added. "We will not let them in until we, in fact, know they're safe."

In recent weeks, the Tribune has reported on the importation of lead-tainted toys and other products from China. Last week, more than 1 million Fisher-Price children's toys were recalled and before that, pet food manufactured with a tainted China-produced product was discovered.

"Regular families, their safety and their best interests, should come before the interests of multinational corporations," Edwards said. "This is what smart and safe trade is all about."

Edwards maintained that trade pacts between the United States and foreign governments that were reached in the past, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, came at the expense of workers.

Though he criticized trade polices under President Bush, Edwards said the downside of economic globalization "isn't just his doing."

"For far too long, presidents from both parties have entered into trade agreements, like NAFTA, promising that they would create millions of new jobs and enrich communities," said Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee. "Instead, too many of these agreements have cost us jobs and devastated communities across this country."

NAFTA was a major initiative of the administration of Bill Clinton, whose wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, is a main rival of Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in seeking the Democratic nomination. While Edwards brought up NAFTA, he never mentioned either Clinton by name.

Edwards said he would require all future agreements to also include "basic labor standards" prohibiting sweatshops and child labor.

He said he would eliminate business tax breaks that favor relocating jobs overseas and also would conduct economic impact assessments of proposed trade deals to determine industries, workers and communities that might be negatively impacted and how they could be helped.

"We need to restore some honesty to the trade deal debate and not claim, like too many presidents have in the past, from both parties by the way, that trade will help everybody," Edwards said.

Edwards' speech followed along his rhetorical "Two Americas" theme that the nation finds itself divided between powerful corporate interests and average workers. He denied that his proposals represented a protectionist policy and said it was possible to "protect the interests of American workers and still trade."

The Democratic candidate also said that as he tries to seek change in Washington, insiders "do not want voices like mine and yours to be heard. They want us to be silenced."

Later, Edwards told reporters that in addition to corporate interests representing the insurance, pharmaceutical and energy industry wanting him silenced, he also was referring to "people like Rupert Murdoch," the head of News Corp. and other media interests because of the candidate's opposition to media consolidation.

Asked if he believed media owners were actively working to prevent his call for change from being heard by the public, Edwards said, "I think they will actively work to keep us from being heard on those issues, yes."