Papers Pick a Midterms Winner: ‘Free Trade’ Agreements

Whatever lesson you want to draw the midterms, the nation’s top editorial pages want to make one thing perfectly clear: Now is the time to move on bipartisan, corporate-friendly “free trade” agreements.

“A time for free trade,” was the Washington Post‘s November 7 headline. “The Democratic majority in the House was heavily influenced by organized labor and hostile to trade,” the paper announced. “Now that the Republicans are in the majority, all three trade agreements have better prospects–good news for the American companies and workers who would benefit from expanded exports, and for the American consumers who would benefit from more choices in the marketplace.” American workers, consumers, companies–EVERYONE–wins!

The Post added that the election in Ohio suggests “that anti-trade animus has a more limited audience than is commonly believed,” before summing up: “Trade, in short, may offer that rare policy area in which prospects for bipartisan cooperation improved on November 2. Mr. Obama would be wise to take advantage of that fact.”

The next day (11/8/10) an editorial in the New York Times was headlined ” South Korea Is a Start.” The Times started off: ” With protectionist policies gaining dangerous traction everywhere, the global economy needs a strong champion of free trade.” The election outcome might be just the thing: “Getting these trade deals through Congress won’t be easy, although Mr. Obama may find new allies in the Republican-controlled House. American trade unions, an important Democratic constituency, are decidedly unenthusiastic.” The Times cheered the “symbolic value of these agreements,” mostly as an antidote to “protectionism.”

Andover at the L.A. Times (11/6/10), the paper’s editorial page declared that “Tuesday’s takeover of the House of Representatives by the GOP raises hopes for progress on at least one important initiative: It might help President Obama win approval of a U.S./ South Korea free-trade pact.”

The L.A. Times laments the fact that Obama is trying “appease” U.S. automakers who complain about lack of access to the Korean market, and “ranchers who fret” about the Korean restrictions on U.S. beef. (Funny that papers champion “free” trade but scold those who argue that free trade deals aren’t,in fact, “free.”) The paper lectures that it is “improbable that U.S. labor unions will ever support the deal–and where organized labor leads, the Democratic Party tends to follow.” One more point: the Times argues that while it is “questionable whether Obama will have the political courage to upset the Democrats’ political base by seriously pushing for the trade deal,” it holds out hope that maybe this will be Obama’s moment to shine: “But if only Richard Nixon could go to China, it may be that only Obama, with his labor credentials, could get away with opening our markets to South Korea.”

Explaining why these trade deals are unambiguously good is rarely, if ever, necessary in the corporate media–they just are, because the goal is “free trade,” and who could be against that? To hear (or read) an argument about why such trade policies might not in fact be a win for U.S. workers or consumers, check out Todd Tucker from Public Citizen on CounterSpin (9/24/10).

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.