As Obama travels through America's heartland on his teleprompter tours bus, he is touting a new plan to create jobs. While he has offered few specifics thus far, Obama is calling for the ratification of the free trade agreements (FTAs) with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea as vehicles for job creation. The rest of his jobs (killing) plan will be released at some later date, possibly at the time when Huntsman releases his proposal.
This newfound support for free enterprise is quite perplexing, given that he has held the FTAs hostage for a pet welfare program, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), since the day he became president.
Democrats, at the behest of their Big Labor puppet masters, have held up the FTAs with three allied nations for over four years. Now, amidst growing pressure to create jobs and keep up with other allied nations like Canada, Obama is willing to send the trade pacts to Congress on condition that they reauthorize the TAA. The TAA is a subsidy program created in 1962, which arbitrarily rewards job training, relocation allowances, loans, grants, and unemployment pay to workers who supposedly lost jobs from FTAs.
So Obama is holding up a free market policy, which he readily admits will create jobs, for a program that indiscriminately throws money at obsolete jobs of special interests that are dubiously connected to FTAs. What a jobs plan, Mr. President.
While these FTAs will add billions of dollars to our GDP, bolster our exports, and create thousands of jobs – without spending a dime, the same cannot be said for the TAA program. Like many other programs, the TAA, which is set to expire in February, was drastically expanded under the stimulus bill to include all sorts of workers at a cost of over $1 billion, and has been used as a slush fund for special interests. This subsidy for those supposedly unemployed as a result of economic progression is doled out on top of the record 99 weeks of conventional unemployment payments. Even though this ridiculous program has been reauthorized 16 times over the past 30 years, there is no empirical data that it has engendered income growth and job creation.
Republicans should let this inefficacious program expire, along with other Keynesian joblessness perpetuation programs, while demanding a clean passage of the FTAs. Unfortunately, Rep. Dave Camp is in the process of consummating a deal with Max Baucus, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell to pass a pre-stimulus level extension of TAA, in exchange for the FTAs. Although the TAA extension will not be included in the FTA draft implementation bills, it will be required to pass the House on a separate vote as ransom, in order for Harry Reid to release the FTA hostages. In the Senate, 12 Republicans have already committed to voting for cloture on TAA.
Republicans are now confronted with a quintessential opportunity to contrast themselves from Obama regarding job creation and economic growth. The TAA is a paradigm of Obama's belief that creative destruction through economic progression is a grave issue, requiring government-induced life support for failed industries. Much like bank tellers, wagon drivers, and toll collectors, Obama believes that we must battle the inertia of economic progression with nostalgic support towards those industries that have become obsolete, as a result of advancement in trade. He is willing to do so even at the expense of real job creation and improved relations with our allies. Meanwhile, Canada has approved their trade agreement with Columbia, while our exports are still incurring billion in tariffs to the Latin American country.
The self-professed progressives have shown themselves to be the true regressives in the policy arena, by promoting policies which preclude economic innovation and perpetuate failure and stagnation. Obama would call it bad luck; Republicans should show voters how it is bad policy. Congressional Republicans must call them out on their regressiveness – and hold the line on the Free Trade Agreements.