Phil Hare: The Real Opposition On Peru Deal

I mentioned the other day that a revolt was brewing in the Democratic rank-and-file over the unconscionable trade deal with Peru that the House plans to vote on today. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the party that the only opposition from Democrats is coming from freshmen representatives within its own ranks. Specifically, the movement to stop the Peru deal from going forward is led by Illinois Rep Phil Hare, who beat his primary opponents and his Republican opponent by running against any more trade pacts like NAFTA that were one-way giveaways to global corporations and did nothing to protect workers from losing their jobs to outsourcing, nothing to help them re-train or find new jobs when their old ones disappeared.

Rep Hare can already chalk up one victory of sorts: his little rebellion forced the House leadership to delay the vote, which was scheduled for last night. That’s more than most reluctant Dems have been able to accomplish as Pelosi & Co try to rush through votes on everything from backing Bush’s telecom amnesty bill to backing Bush’s nominee for AG. Hare, in an exclusive interview with David Sirota, has one alarming question for the leadership: What’s your hurry?

PH: My whole argument on this is, what’s the rush? A new administration is coming in in 15 months, hopefully a Democratic one, but nonetheless, a new one. To put this guy [Bush] in charge of environmental and child labor and workplace safety things in these trade deals is like putting the fox in charge of the chickenhouse here. He doesn’t enforce anything we have in this country, he doesn’t enforce workplace safety in our mines – we’re always just working, slugging it out with him on mine safety – (garbled) one OSHA standard here, he reneged on the Jordanian trade deal. So I don’t care about the political victory for this guy, that he can say “We got this.” I care very much about the 2 million kids in Peru working in the mines and service industry jobs. And if they think George Bush is going to do one thing, lift one finger to put an end to that –

DS: Right. He won’t do it for us, he’s not going to do it for them.

PH: Absolutely. I mean, they’re whistling while they walk through the graveyard.

The “they” that Hare is referring to are, of course, the Democrats supporting this deal who apparently, despite 7 years of being lied to, are comfortable with the part of the deal (worked out with Bush by Pelosi, Reid & Co at secret midnight meetings in the White House) that lets the executive decide which parts of the pact to enforce and which to ignore. The fact that there are so many Democratic pols who still think Bush can be trusted is bad enough. What’s worse is that according to a new report (.doc file) by Columbia Univ Prof of Law Mark Barenberg, this deal is even worse than we thought. The WaPo’s Harold Myerson wrote in his column yesterday about the Barenberg Report and the deal in general.

The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru. What’s not clear is why.

The Bush administration, of course, supports trade deals with just about anyone, as it has made clear by promoting an accord with Colombia, where murdering a union activist entitles the killer to a get-out-of-jail-free card. But Congress is run by the Democrats now, and some of its leaders have sought to craft a different kind of trade bill — one that takes workers’ rights and the environment almost as seriously as it does the right of global companies and investors to do what they will anywhere they roam. In particular, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and trade subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin have taken it upon themselves to devise these new-model trade bills.

How successful they’ve been is open to interpretation. “For the first time,” Levin wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues, “the U.S.-Peru FTA incorporates international labor standards in the trade agreement, enforceable like all other provisions.” This could be a breakthrough, since the enforcement of labor standards has generally been relegated to explicitly unenforceable side agreements in our trade pacts.

But Mark Barenberg, a Columbia University law professor who has drafted petitions for the AFL-CIO protesting the lack of labor rights in China, questions whether the Peru accord signals a breakthrough at all. The agreement, he argues in a paper released yesterday by groups opposing the pact, “does not require the Parties to comply with core labor rights” but rather with “vague, undefined, and unenforceable labor ‘principles’ and with their own domestic labor laws.” Rangel and Levin have won a pledge from the Peruvian government to toughen its labor laws, but, writes Barenberg, the agreement actually imposes lighter sanctions for labor standard violations than current trade law does.

(emphasis added)

So why is the Congress in such a hurry to pass a trade bill that’s worse than the one currently in place? Why is the leadership prepared to abandon the very provisions it got elected saying it would fight for? Those are the questions Phil Hare and his freshman cadre keep asking, and the answers they get aren’t really answers at all.

PH: The other side gets tied up in this technical stuff. “Well, we can sue them, we can subpoena them.” Yeah, we can do all that, OK? But the fact of the matter remains…. I said on the trade deal, “Just tell me. What’s the cost to us in terms of manufacturing and agriculture? That’s what I want to know.”

They couldn’t tell him. He recounts one conversation with an unnamed Dem leader in which he asked the DL what he was supposed to tell a guy in his district about a trade deal that gives a free pass to offshoring global corps when the president’s going to veto training money for workers displaced by these trade deals and they don’t have enough votes to over-ride the veto?

PH: [talking about the current training program] (Say a thousand apply.) There’s only room for 300 of them and they tell the other 700 or whatever, “Well, have you ever thought about cosmetology?” After going through school for a year! And your unemployment’s out, you have no health care. Now, what are we doing to this guy? And then one member said to me, “Well, you know, you need to talk to him about – ”

I said, “What do you want me to say to David Barty and people like that in my district?”

“Well, you know, talk to him about currency manipulation.”

He’s been there 32 years, he lost his job, he gave up two wage concessions, his wife has cancer, he has no health insurance…he went to school for nothing, and now we tell him to be a barber or beautician and I should tell him about currency manipulation. I do that and that guy’s going to punch me in the nose. And I’d deserve to get it.

Currency manipulation???? And this is a Democrat?

This party isn’t running scared. It has genuinely become nothing but a slightly less toxic version of the GOP. Its concerns are the same and it’s just as badly out of touch. Twenty years ago no Democrat would have given that answer. Not one. Today, it’s common. The “new” Democrats created by Bill Clinton and the DLC are DINO’s. Even when they talk like Democrats, they vote like Republicans. They identify with the kind of people who can’t sleep nights worrying about currency manipulation. The kind of people who think – like BushCo – that a guy who lost his job to offshoring, doesn’t have health care, and is out of work long after his unemployment runs out, ought to be worrying about currency manipulation, too. Saying shit like that was the reason Poppy Bush lost to Clinton in ’92. But we’re supposed to jump up and down supporting these elitist assholes just because they’re – supposedly – Democrats?

Phil Hare is a hero, a guy who won’t sit still and keep his mouth shut while the “party of the working class” screws its own constituency because it’s more worried about currency manipulation than a crumbling economy or predatory corporations. He comes through as a decent guy baffled – like the rest of us – about what on earth the Donkey leadership is thinking. He knows the problems in his district and, like any non-rich human being, wants to do something about it. You know, like the old Democrats used to do. And he finds himself, much to his surprise, stymied not by Republicans but by his own party. Listen to the interview and you can hear the sadness, disappointment, and confusion in his voice all through it.

So listen and then do what David suggests:

[G]o over to Public Citizen’s website and use their tool to tell your representatives to vote against the upcoming Peru Free Trade Agreement and demand a trade policy that represents the interests of regular people – not just lobbyists.

While you’re at it, tell them Phil Hare sent you.

5 Responses to “Phil Hare: The Real Opposition On Peru Deal”

  1. U.S. – Peru trade agreement just passed by the House 285-132.

  2. Mick Arran says:

    Not a surprise. Things don’t look any better in the Senate. This thing is going to pass and, like NAFTA, we’ll be stuck with it for decades. All so George W Frigg’n’ Bush can have a trade victory to brag about. Are we willing to admit yet that the Donkeys don’t represent us any more than the Pubs do?

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  4. M. Simon says:

    One man’s output is another man’s input.

    If you can’t buy from the low cost supplier at the low price the down stream companies all get hurt. You gain some jobs in one industry by the restrictions and lose many more because the down stream companies are less competitive.

    The best way to keep the most jobs on shore is to let companies trade as freely as possible to get the best price on their inputs.

    Otherwise you get into a situation where you don’t just have uncompetitive companies but uncompetitive economies.

  5. M. Simon says:


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