Unions. In Season Two of The Wire, Frank Sobotka, the head of the longshoremen's union, gives some lame speech about how his father worked on the docks, and his father's father worked on the docks, and now his son might not have a job on the docks. His point is that now, with advances in technology, many of his dwindling union membership's jobs are disappearing because robotic machines can do much of the loading and sorting, or something along those lines. And this is a bad thing? When politicians give speeches about how important it is to preserve specific types of jobs, I want to hold myself underwater until I go completely limp. Why should a longshoreman have any more job security than a waiter or a Starbuck's barista? Aren't the qualifications simply that you have a minimum amount of physical strength and the ability to follow orders? I don't get it. As has been mentioned many times on this blog, candidates like Barack Obama are the guys who would have been out there a hundred years ago giving emotional speeches about the importance of preserving the critical jobs of horse-and-buggy industry laborers, as if there's some moral obligation involved.
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Obama's Teamster "Diplomacy"
February 21, 2008; Page A16
Barack Obama has pledged to "renew American diplomacy." Except, apparently, when it might interfere with an endorsement from the Teamsters.
President James Hoffa bestowed the powerful union's blessing on Mr. Obama yesterday, not so coincidentally only days after the Senator declared his opposition to the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. In a statement inserted in the Congressional Record last week, Mr. Obama said he believes the pact doesn't pay "proper attention" to America's "key industries and agricultural sectors" like cars, rice and beef. Opposition to free-trade deals is now a union litmus test, especially for the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union, which endorsed the Senator last Friday.
Try squaring Mr. Obama's views on the FTA with his criticism of the Bush Administration for not negotiating with unfriendly regimes, taken straight from an online position paper: It "makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership." Or consider this promise from his Asia policy paper: Mr. Obama "will maintain strong ties with allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia" and "work to build an infrastructure with countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity."
Consider also that Seoul is willing to open up some of its own politically sensitive industries, such as banking and cars, for the FTA. Mr. Obama might take a look at a report last fall from the International Trade Commission, which says the FTA is expected to boost U.S. GDP by $10 billion to $12 billion annually and that the impact on American employment would be "negligible." In exchange, consumers in both countries would enjoy lower prices and a wider range of goods.
Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has put a lot of political capital behind the trade pact and President-elect Lee Myung-bak is also a strong supporter. The men, who represent opposing parties, don't agree on much but they have agreed to push the FTA through the National Assembly as early as this week. A U.S. "no" would be a huge embarrassment for them -- and for American "diplomacy."