By the time you read this, the Senate will no doubt have passed "fast track" legislation, forfeiting its right under the Constitution to set trade policy to the executive branch. This ought to be of grave concern to Americans.
It is the Constitution that sets us apart from other nations, not the fact that we have elections. If it is routinely violated, then we become no different from any other country. Our lives and our liberty will then exist, in reality, only by the leave of the government ó not as the Founding Fathers believed and intended, because we have God-given rights no government on Earth can legitimately take away from us.
A keystone of that Constitution, designed to ensure the liberty of the people, was the principle of separation of powers. The Constitution denies the president the power to set trade policy; it denies the president the power to commit this nation to war; and it denies to all but Congress the power to coin money and set its value.
But what is the reality? Despite the many wars this country has fought, there hasn't been a declaration of war by Congress since 1941. The power to set trade policy is handed over to the president with fast-track legislation. The power to coin money and set its value has been delegated to a private central bank, deliberately mislabeled as the Federal Reserve System. The American people have, in reality, been betrayed by the people they elected, who have in turn betrayed their oath of office ó which is to the Constitution, not to the party or the president.
What fast track does is authorize the executive branch to negotiate a multi-thousand-page document of special-interest trade deals that Congress must then vote "yes" or "no" on without alteration or amendment. It parades under the false banner of free trade, which is a code name for corporate colonialism.
True free-trade legislation could be written on one page. It would simply say that tariffs are designed to produce revenue and therefore the tariff on all imports is such and such a percentage. What these 20,000-page so-called free-trade documents contain are myriad special trade deals negotiated in secret for special-interest groups, inevitably at the expense of those with less political and monetary clout. It is managed trade, not free trade, and it has already destroyed hundreds of thousands of American jobs. If this practice is allowed to continue, America will end up with a rich aristocracy, a large class of urban peasants working for subsistence, and a middle class so small as to be virtually invisible.
Surely you are not so naive to believe that a pair of what were once called sneakers made for $5 in Thailand are sold to American kids for $20 or $25. No, they are sold to American kids for $100 or more. Thus, American corporations, which move their manufacturing jobs overseas, both exploit the foreign workers and gouge the American consumer. Americans are paying $30 to $50 a pair for bluejeans, which cost the manufacturer about $3 a pair in some foreign sweatshop. This is the true meaning of what is falsely labeled "free trade."
Manufacturing jobs are what allowed this country to transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized society. More important, it was manufacturing jobs that allowed men to transition from the bottom economic class to the middle class.
Middle-class status in most cases allowed people to help their children go to college and thus attain an even higher economic class. Thus, there was a flow from the bottom up.
If we allow greedy corporations to destroy all of these blue-collar jobs, that flow will be cut off. There will be no way for a man to get from common laborer to the middle class, and thus no way for him to get his children into colleges and universities.
The fact that all presidents ó be they Republican or Democrat, supposed liberals or supposed conservatives ó adopt identical policies in this regard tell you that real governing power in America is not the people, but the corporations and the super-rich.
Charley Reese can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2002 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. - http://reese.king-online.com/Reese_20020529/index.php