They have a press conference to talk about their eagerness to
complete the Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiated by President Bush.
"The president has long said we want to try and address the outstanding
issues regarding the Free Trade Agreement in order to bring it forward
for approval," said Mike Froman, Obama's deputy national security
advisor for international economic affairs. "[W]e're going to put every
effort into achieving ... an acceptable agreement, a satisfactory
agreement, by the time the president comes to Seoul," he told a news
conference on Monday.
Are these people nuts?
In case they had not noticed, Democrats across the country were
getting hammered on the charge of exporting jobs to China via the
stimulus package. It does not matter that the charge is false and that
Democrats leapt into action to block U.S. companies who were considering
ordering wind turbines from their subsidiaries in China. The republican
ads, which ran in key races nationwide, cleverly turned a democratic advantage on fair trade into a republican advantage.
This latest free trade idiocy caps a long list of failures from the White House economic team:
-Failure to treat sustained high-levels of unemployment as the national emergency it is.
-Failure to pass a bank bailout package that placed any tough conditions on the banks.
-Failure to pass a Wall Street reform bill that was big enough or bad
enough to make the big banks reign in those infuriating bonuses.
-Failure to put even a single CEO responsible for the financial crisis behind bars.
-Shameful failure to address the housing and foreclosure mess that
will soon put one in four families in American underwater with their
No wonder the people are voting to throw the bums out.
Much of the blame for the staggering electoral losses has to be laid
at the feet of the president's economic team who seems to think that 14
months of near double-digit unemployment is acceptable.
"Their primary misjudgment is they did not understand how serious the
downturn would be," says economist Dean Baker who sounded the warning
about the accumulating housing bubble as early as 2002. "Summers,
Geithner, Greenspan, Bernanke, none of these guys thought bubbles were a
big deal. They expect the economy to bounce back on its own, and if it
didn't, unemployment was not such a big deal either."
As a consequence, Team Obama's one shot to get the economy going
again -- the stimulus/jobs package -- was not big enough. Christina
Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers recommended over
a trillion dollars in direct job creation funding, but the final
package contained about half of that.
"Summers managed to marginalize alternative views on nearly
everything ... the size and composition of the stimulus, whether and how
to discipline the banksters or do a housing refinance," says Joel
Rogers, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and COWS, the national
"high road" strategy center. "He very ably represented Wall Street and
the rich against everyone else." But you can't exactly blame him for
success in that. The president declares what economic discussion should
be about, and who's in it.
While some will celebrate the people throwing the bums out, the
tragedy of course is that the bums-in-waiting advocate policies like
tightening spending that is the opposite of what is needed in this type
of downturn. Plus, the best of the best - those who have always stood
with the people against the big banks, the bailouts and even the Obama
economics team, are being swept up in the mob mentality. Wisconsin's
Russ Feingold voted no to every free trade deal, no to the bailouts, no
to weak Wall Street reform and no Tim Geithner's appointment as U.S.
Treasury Secretary, but he was beaten by a self-financed tea party
millionaire who will advance exactly the pro-free trade, pro-corporate
agenda that Wisconsinites abhor.
Pass Out the Pink Slips or Receive One Yourself
If this president does not learn the lesson of this election, he will of course be forced to repeat it.
"In 2008, Obama only won the election because he won the critical
states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by differentiating
himself from McCain on trade. It's pretty obvious with Dems and GOP
nationwide running against the trade status quo and its job offshoring
damage, that if Obama flip flops now in favor of more job-killing NAFTA
agreements, he will lose those states and end up a one term president,"
says trade expert Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
So the pink slips need to go to Summers, Geithner, Froman and the
other henchmen of the failed status quo. Even Obama's new chief of
staff, Peter Rouse, who touted an incredibly uninspiring forward agenda
of education and free trade in a New York Times magazine profile of Obama, needs to go.
Obama needs a new economics team, one that does not disregard the
suffering of families facing unemployment and foreclosure, and one that
puts job creation -- not free trade -- at the top of their economic