Driving the Week: Is Today the Day?
UPDATE: Reports from the Hill say the President will send the three free trade agreements to Congress between 4 and 5pm today.
President Obama could send the three pending free trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress as early as today.
As we’ve said before (here, here, and here), the reason that these trade deals have not been sent to Congress is because the President wants to link them to – you guessed it – a big-government spending program. We’re approaching $15 trillion of debt, and the White House wants, you know, just a few billion more spent on a small amount of people.
It’s just a few billion dollars, right? But we know how government works. A few billion here, a few billion there, and look where we are now?
There is not enough evidence to show that Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) – which gives generous benefits to a small percentage of unemployed workers – results in increased employment or higher wages.
Not only that, but this program has nothing to do with South Korea, Colombia or Panama. Do you think this program has anything to do with trade between these countries? It doesn’t. It’s a handout to Big Labor.
While the President has held back these agreements over a few billion of wasted dollars, South Korea, Colombia and Panama have all forged trade pacts with the European Union. Colombia and Panama have also signed trade deals with Canada as well as other Asian and South American countries. The U.S. is now behind in global competitiveness.
And for what? These Big Labor handouts that don’t benefit the workers?
Congress has been working on a TAA “compromise” in order to get the President to send the trade agreements to the House. The so-called compromise would cut TAA unemployment payments from 156 weeks to 130 weeks (regular unemployment now lasts an astounding 99 weeks), and cap the amount that TAA beneficiaries can deduct for healthcare from 80% down to 72.5% (regular unemployment allows for 65% of COBRA premiums for up to 15 months).
That’s still far more generous than normal unemployment benefits, and it helps about 1% of the unemployed. Why should taxpayers spend billions more to help just a few unemployed persons whom the President favors?