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Dobbs: We're on a 'fast track' to bad trade policy

By Lou Dobbs
CNN
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Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears weekly on CNN.com

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charlie Rangel, and I sat down together last night to talk about, among other things, his new book, "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since."

For 36 years, Rangel has served the constituents of Harlem -- what the new Ways and Means chairman calls "the capital of black America." The chairman's new book is a terrific read and tells the fascinating story of his rise from the impoverished streets of New York to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill.

You'll love the book and the story of Rangel's life. And I suspect you'll have the same thought I did when you finally set the book down: How many more Charlie Rangels will be denied their shot at the American dream because Capitol Hill's corridors are now filled with corporate America's lobbyists, who are working to assure that our middle class and those who aspire to it have as little representation as possible? (Watch Lou's interview with Rep. Rangel Video)

Chairman Rangel and other House and Senate leaders face an early test of the Democratic Party's commitment to restoring the vigor of the world's most successful political economy. The test will come in the form of the mind-numbingly dull piece of legislation called Trade Promotion Authority, or "fast track." But there is nothing dull about the impact of the legislation, through which Congress cedes its constitutional authority on trade policymaking to the White House (as cited in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution).

Thirty-one years of consecutive trade deficits and the loss -- in just the last six years -- of millions of manufacturing and good-paying middle-class jobs to outsourcing have been the result of what I consider this unconstitutional ceding of power to the executive branch in the form of fast-track authority.

Last week, I testified to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade that our failed "free trade" of the past three decades has been the most expensive policy the U.S. government has ever pursued.

I also told the committee: "The pursuit of so-called free trade has resulted in the opening of the world's richest consumer market to foreign competitors without negotiating a reciprocal opening of world markets for U.S. goods and services. That isn't free trade by any definition, whether that of classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo or that of current propaganda ministers who use the almost Orwellian term to promote continuation of the trade policies followed for the last three decades." Extending fast-track authority assures that continuation.

I'm not alone in the view that free-trade-at-all-costs has harmed American workers. Princeton University economist and former Federal Reserve Board vice chairman Alan S. Blinder has joined Nobel laureates Paul Samuelson and Joseph Stiglitz and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers as skeptics of the benefits the faith-based economists in this administration love to tout.

Blinder is now stating loudly that a new industrial revolution will put as many as 40 million American jobs at risk of being shipped out of the country in the next decade or two. Blinder has said, "Economists who insist that 'offshore outsourcing' is just a routine extension of international trade are overlooking how major a transformation it will likely bring -- and how significant the consequences could be. The governments and societies of the developed world must start preparing, and fast."

I hope that Chairman Rangel and the Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate will refuse to renew fast-track authority and demand their constitutional power over trade policymaking and begin representing working men and women in all future trade negotiations.

I'm sure Charlie Rangel would agree with me that every American deserves the right to better days, a promise that is the foundation of our country and the American dream.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.


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