Free Traders Against CAFTA

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E.J. Dionne reports today on growing opposition to CAFTA from the normally trade-friendly centrist Democrats. Petty politics? Hardly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who values freer trade should oppose CAFTA. Just listen to Adam Smith (D-WA):

“There has always been a certain attitude among some economists and trade advocates that the issue is simply trade: Reduce the barriers and move forward,” Smith says. “What we’ve discovered in the last 10 or 15 years is that, yes, that’s a part of it, but if you want to reduce poverty and move people to the middle class, you need more than that. You need an emphasis on workers’ rights. A balance must be struck between the short-term needs of business and the needs of workers.”

Quite so. Look, on balance, lower trade barriers are a good thing for the economy as a whole. Most economists will agree to that. I’ll agree to that. But economic upheavals still create clear winners and losers, and unless the government can cushion the blows for those who are hurt by globalization—through things like universal health care, unemployment assistance, or worker retraining—then long-term support for any sort of trade agenda will collapse. If you look at the latest Pew polling data here, there are only two voter groups that take an unabashedly positive view of trade: liberals (50 percent think trade agreements are good for the U.S.) and “upbeats,” or those who are generally optimistic about the economy (59 percent). That’s a fragile pro-trade coalition, and it’s clear that opposition only grows louder among workers who think the economy is doing poorly.

Now there are other reasons to oppose CAFTA too—from the way it guts labor standards in Central America to its protectionist handouts for pharmaceutical companies—but Rep. Smith gets at a big one. Allowing the White House to push a trade agenda free of worker assistance, while the Bush administration continues to gut trade adjustment assistance, will only fuel popular resentment against trade, and in the long run, make it that much harder to move public opinion away from protectionist sentiment.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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