(Another excellent take on Tauscher - promoted by juls)
Last year, after most of the members of Ellen Tauscher's New Democrat Coalition made a rare break with their globalist dogma to vote against CAFTA, NDC leaders scurried to assure K Street lobbyists that the Coalition was still on board to promote future free trade agreements. At the time Roll Call (subscription only) carried this story:
[T]he centrist House New Democrat Coalition is reasserting itself with the business community and sending the message that it has not abandoned its support for opening up global markets.
The first sign of the 43-member coalition's efforts came late last week when the New Democrat leadership met privately with high-profile business lobbyists to negotiate the terms of an upcoming free trade agreement with Thailand.
That session, the New Democrats say, was the first of many meetings with K Street to help troubleshoot trade deals that are set to come before Congress.
"We want to be sure the business community knows that we are at the ready to work with them, and we are interested in working with them," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), chairwoman of the New Democrats. […]
Now, the New Democrats are looking to help fine-tune future agreements, including those involving Thailand, the Andean nations, Panama and others. Tauscher said her group is "engaged" and "in the game" when it comes to helping put together upcoming trade policies.
Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), a New Democrat co-chairman, said the group has a long history of supporting small-scale trade agreements, including those with Chile and Singapore, as well as major deals, such as fast-track trade negotiating authority for the president and Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China.
|One Republican lobbyist who was initially disappointed when the New Democrats bucked K Street to oppose CAFTA last year, made this comment about the business/NDC relationship:
New Democrats since then "have been reaching out" and trying to find common ground with K Street.
The lobbyist added, however, that the test will come over time as New Democrats stay true to the center even if it means bucking their own party to support Republican ideas.
Now, I think most of us understand the problems presented by CAFTA that forced even Tauscher and the New Democrats to vote against it. But what about these "small-scale trade agreements"? What, exactly are their ramifications? Well, let's start with the most recent FTA which was passed by the House just a few days ago. David Sirota wrote last Friday about the passage of the Vietnam Free Trade Agreement earlier in the day:
The House tonight caved to K Street and passed the Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. I received a copy of the New Democrats' press release trumpeting the passage. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) claims that the deal "will help American workers and our economy by opening up a huge market for American industrial and agricultural goods and services."
Sirota then went on to quote from BusinessWeek regarding the benefits to American businesses that will be relocating their operations to Vietnam to take advantage of the bill passed by Tauscher and her NDC cohorts:
A big reason for the change is rock-bottom wages. As labor shortages in some regions of China drive up costs, factory hands in parts of the mainland can earn more than five times the $55 per month that Vietnamese workers in foreign-owned factories are paid. That differential is a big reason why Sparton Corp. (SPA ) of Jackson, Mich., chose Vietnam over China last year when it made its first investment outside North America. It sank $8 million into a 50,000-square-foot plant to produce chemical diagnostic equipment. "I think productivity and quality will far exceed the U.S.," says Jason Craft, managing director of Sparton subsidiary Spartronics Vietnam Co.
But it's not just American manufacturing jobs that are being outsourced to foreign countries under these agreements. American farmers are also under the gun, being forced to compete for market share with crops produced in other countries. American commodity producers are increasingly finding themselves in a bind, according to Jeff Gargiulo, CEO of Sunkist, a cooperative of US citrus growers:
Almost half the produce sold in the United States today is grown outside its borders. American producers face increasing competition as the domestic markets are opened to more imports.
Those low-cost products, entering virtually duty free, put American producers at a substantial competitive disadvantage, says Gargiulo. Sunkist lemons grown in California and Arizona, for example, command about $16.50 per 40-pound box wholesale, while lemons transported from Chile earn about $13.50 per box. The major reason for the difference is the average hourly cost for farm and packinghouse labor. In Chile, it's less than $1 vs. $16 in Sunkist country.
Couple this increasing domestic competition with stagnant export opportunities due to foreign tariff barriers, and American fresh citrus growers face enormous competitive challenges.
Obviously, Tauscher's highly touted free trade agreements are mostly fair to business, not to labor or Americans concerned with earning a living wage so that they can support themselves and their families.
Finally, not content to just ship American jobs overseas, Tauscher and the New Democrats have supported these "small-scale" free trade agreements which undermine American workers right here in America. Under the terms of the Chilean, Singaporean and, now, Vietnamese agreements which are to serve as a model for the future Thai, Andean and Panamanian agreements, an unlimited number of workers may enter the US workforce on L-1 visas. So what, exactly, is the problem with L-1 visas?
The L-1 visa has tended to attract less controversy in the popular press than its very contentious cousin, the H-1B visa. However, criticism has nevertheless been levelled that the L-1 visa allows foreign or multinational corporations to circumvent proper protections for US workers. For one thing, unlike with the H-1B visa, there is no requirement that the L-1 visa holder be paid a salary commensurate with that of US workers. For another, there is no limit on the number of L-1 visas that are granted annually. This has led to criticism that multinationals, especially consulting agencies, will hire a foreigner abroad for one year, and then transfer them to the US to work for US clients at a low salary as compared to US workers.
So is this how Ellen Tauscher and the New Democrat Coalition envision legislating to "help American workers and our economy"? Is this the behavior of "a loyal Democrat… a real Dem"?
I'm going to stop right here and make a small confession. I was motivated to write about Tauscher and her record of support for free trade agreements after reading Katie Merrill's California Majority Report post yesterday. You know, the part where she said this:
[F]or the netroots, it's not about an elected official's entire record, it's not about how they serve their district, it's whether the elected official agrees with the netroots on their issue du jour (or, more to the point, issue of the cycle).
You see, I live in CA-10, and I am both a Democratic grassroots activist and a member of the netroots. Ellen Tauscher gets paid $168,000 a year to go to Washington DC and represent me. And yet, over the years, Tauscher has been very clear about whose interests she represents in DC, going so far as to make the following statement when she received the US Chamber of Commerce "Spirit of Enterprise" Award for her pro-business agenda: "I am pleased that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce finally set the record straight by putting policy above politics and acknowledging my voting record on behalf of business." On the other hand, she has never felt particularly constrained by loyalty to her Democratic base:
Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, said in an interview that party loyalty isn't the issue. "I don't remember being elected to go to Washington to be a Democrat," she said.
So instead of listening to her constituents and the activists who got her elected in the first place, Tauscher sends her lackey to accuse us of fracturing the Democratic party because we have the temerity to question her commitment to Democratic ideals. Well, Katie Merrill can babble until she gets tired. At the end of the day, Ellen Tauscher quite simply does not share the Democratic values held by me or any other Democrat in CA-10 of my acquaintance.