Summers Joins McConnell In Campaign to Kill Buy America Provisions Obama Promised

by: David Sirota

Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 17:44

From the Columbus Dispatch, we get this from the same man who deregulated the economy, the same man who promised his buddy Ken Lay big favors, the same man who says unions cause unemployment, the same man, sadly, who is running economic policy in the Obama White House:

Summers questions "Buy America" provision

A top Obama economic adviser appeared to question the wisdom of placing a "Buy America" in the massive economic stimulus package winding its way through Congress.

Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, told regional reporters in a briefing at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House today that the president is examining the provision in both the House-passed and Senate versions of the measure...

Summers added that Obama wants to ensure that the stimulus legislation is not an excuse for America to break existing trade commitments or embrace "any new kind of protectionism." Asked whether that mean Obama really does oppose the "Buy America" section, Summers told The Daily Briefing that he had already answered the question and wouldn't elaborate.

So now we have a Democratic president, who explicitly campaigned on a promise to support Buy America laws, dispatching his top economic aide to float discredited right-wing talking points about "protectionism" to undermine those very Buy America laws. Indeed, Summers sounds exactly like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who sounds (not surprisingly) exactly like one of the corporate lobbyists pushing to eliminate these laws.

Fucking incredible.

David Sirota :: Summers Joins McConnell In Campaign to Kill Buy America Provisions Obama Promised

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No so incredible... (0.00 / 0)
just good old-fashioned Dem inability to nail down and stick to a message....

Summers should be fired

he should have never been hired (4.00 / 7)
he is doing exactly what he is supposed to do. this is the position of Obama's entire economic team. I didn't support Clinton because I hated her husbands trade and economic policy among other things. It seems all I ended up doing was spend a lot of money to get a regurgitated version. this is certainly not the change I believed in.

[ Parent ]
My good news is that I got it for free, (4.00 / 1)
and it is exactly the change I believed in.  

[ Parent ]
There is one problem with the buy america provision.... (4.00 / 2) that it could set off a trade war.  Bush protected American steel and the rest of the world responded with retaliatory tariffs...  so, our steel exports suffered greatly...

It may not be a win/win to keep it in... after all, the purpose is to protect steel, but it may do the opposite...

I still think it's worth it, though...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

Or it may do the opposite (4.00 / 7)
It may get us accolades from the international community that has been worried about our exploding trade deficit. See here

[ Parent ]
Pls provide a quote from any G20 government for this! (4.00 / 3)
The IMF, that you quote in that other story, doesn't start trade wars, governemnts do! And the responses of foreign governments on "buy american" can be found all over the news, not a single positive voice among them! Accolades from the IMF (with its lot of US citizen among the staffers, btw) won't get you anywhere, when all other G20 nations complain about this unilateral move. That's just wishful thinking. You certainly don't want to hear that, but international retaliation is a real risk.

And, as I wrote repeatedly now, there are better ways to favor US jobs, and to cope with the Chinese. "Buy american" is a move back towards isolationism, and not the future. And it will result in collateral damage. That's not a change to believe in.

[ Parent ]
What about sending our medical records to India? (4.00 / 1)
How much of the stimulus money will be used to hire Americans to do it here instead of shipping it off to India to get done.   Do you support stimulus going to hire IT people in India to do this project?   Hiring American is buying American.    

[ Parent ]
Implement privacy laws to prevent this transfer of personal informations (0.00 / 0)
If you want to engage in protectionism, do it in a way that makes some sense. Why should it be allowed that extremely personal informations about US citizen should be transferred to other nations, where it can't be guaranteed that it stays confidential? Well, I wouldn't want my medical data files to spread all around the globe, either. Imho nobody could blame the US for establishing a law that prohibits this!  

[ Parent ]
You make protectionism sound like a dirty word. (0.00 / 0)
Anybody who doesn't protect themselves is a fool.  

[ Parent ]
It just depends on whether protection makes sense! (0.00 / 0)
As I pointed out in other comments, I'm not against reasonable protection against health or safety hazards and such, or against penaliteis for environmental polluters. So, no misunderstanding, pls!

[ Parent ]
Every country has a policy of using tax monies (4.00 / 3)
to pay for projects in their own country.  China is building a rail system using Chinese steel.  Germany builds roads with its own asphalt.

Sadly, we let contractors in Baghdad use Turkish cement companies instead of Iraqi cement factories, as Naomi Klein chronicles in "The Shock Doctrine"which led to mass unemployment in Iraq.

We are experiencing "The Shock Doctrine" here.  Summers hasn't changed a bit.  

[ Parent ]
Well, transporting asphalt doesn't make much sense economically (0.00 / 0)
and most of the other materials for infrastructure projects are produced domestically, too. And you can't outsource jobs to India for building a road in the US or Germany. At the same time, many industrial countries have a backlog of road and railway repairs, in the US estimates say its 2 trillion dollars. That's why focussing on infrastructure projects is a much better idea than any "buy national" provision. You won't make a joke of your own "free trade" arguments of the last decades, you won't get in trouble with the WTO or other governments, and you'll still get a lot of "bang for the buck". Plus, you're preparing your nation for the future, and don't simply hand those repairs down to the next generation. Obviously a much better approach than "buy american"! Really, why insist on unnecessary and damaging protectionism, when there is a superior alternative?

[ Parent ]
THIS IS NOT A TARIFF!!!!!!!!!! (4.00 / 3)
Sorry for the all caps and exclamation points but this point is getting mixed in with the buy american provision and it's a very dangerous conflation.

The Buy American provision applies to stimulus supported projects (i.e. government projects). This is so different from tariffs that it's ridiculous that they're even mentioned in the same sentence.

For those that are against this provision, then I assume they're also against fair wage laws (Davis-Bacon) that apply to government projects.

[ Parent ]
Doesn't matter, it's protectionism. (0.00 / 0)
No other G20 government has a similar "buy national" provision in it. And they all criticize this unilateral move by the US, which violates WTO treaties, and makes a total joke of decades of US stomping for free trade.

The much better alternative is to focus on infrastructure projects, which result in the creation of domestic jobs, and use lots of materials produced domestically. That's what other governments are doing to get a good "bang for the buck". Sadly, the US rescue plan comes a but short regarding infrstructure construction, even though there is a backlog of about 2 trillion in repairs! Why not press for more dollars being spent on those reasonable and necessary projects, instead of the risky and unnecessary "buy american" rule?

[ Parent ]
It does not violate WTO trade laws (4.00 / 3)
And are you saying Germany does not buy German cars for its government fleet?

[ Parent ]
Obama is concerned, they do. (0.00 / 0)
Read the news!

As for government fleet cars, don't tell me Obama's new car is really a BMW!

[ Parent ]
Obama does not have a monopoly on knowledge (4.00 / 1)
or ignorance.

Nice switch of the subject though on the BMW. I think you just showed that your argument is crap.

[ Parent ]
Blah. (0.00 / 0)
It's you who changed subjects. Government fleets have nothing to do with the problem at hand. Nobody expects government officials to drive a foreign car, if there is a domestic alternative. Show me a single WTO complaint about such "protectionism"! It's obvious that this is just a matter of national pride on the products of a domestic manufacturer.

[ Parent ]
No I didn't (4.00 / 2)
It's actually the crux of the argument. Once again, this is not a tariff. This is a provision for government procurement.

Germany does not just have "government officials" that drive Beamers and Benz's, no? It's their entire government fleet, right?

It's the same thing here. It's a government procurement provision and it does not violate WTO rules and it is not a tariff.

[ Parent ]
Once again, Adam, nobody says its a tariff! (0.00 / 0)
The point is, it's protectionism, and contrary to what David wants you to believe, protectionism consists of more ways than just tariffs. And the US will set an ugly precedent by including "buy american" in the rescue bill. No other government has done that so far. Most have gone that other, reasonable and undiscriminatory way of earmarking large sums for infrastructure projects, that will provide jobs and bring a good "bang for the buck". And I guess that's what Obama will focus on now, too, after he already acknoledged that "buy american" is "a protectionist message".

[ Parent ]
You still do not address the issue (0.00 / 0)
If Germany as a policy buys german cars for its government fleet then that is also protectionism.  

[ Parent ]
Oh sure, I did! (0.00 / 0)
Look upthread: I stated that I don't think it's worth discussing about an issue that every government engages in and that hasn't ever led to a WTO complaint, afaik.

Imho this is a useless waste of time about a total irrelvant side issue, sry.

[ Parent ]
Of course you think it's a waste of time (0.00 / 0)
because you are now admitting that "everyone does it" means it's ok! And since it's the exact same policy as buy american provisions, then it obviously is also ok and you have nothing to complain about.

[ Parent ]
"Buy american" would be an unilateral move, without precedent,... (0.00 / 0)
..because no other G20 government put a "buy national" rule into their rescue plans.

But I already pointed this out several times here. President Obama himself now stated that "buy american" would mean sending a wrong protectionist message. So, obviously, my point can't be totally wrong. Of course, we still could discuss this for the next week or so, but since I'm almost the only "buy american" opposition here, imho this would be a bit unfair to simply wear me down by exhaustion. I made a stand for an issue that I'm honestly concerned about, and I'm quite satisfied now that the president seems to recognize the problems associated with such a move. Your mileage may vary, of course.  

[ Parent ]
Unique trade deficit (0.00 / 0)
The U.S. has a unique problem (widely recognized) in that its trade deficit is out of control, subsidized by dollar hegemony, and is dragging down the entire world economy. The other G20 governments would be really, really dumb to get in a retaliatory pissing match with the U.S., because it is in all of their interests for the unique U.S. trade deficit problem to be lessened. Everyone will benefit if the U.S. economy actually starts doing something productive again.

[ Parent ]
No, I heard the manufacturing guy on "To the Point" (4.00 / 2)
yesterday say that most of these countries have "buy national"in the monies they use for their infrastructure projects.  As Adam says, "THIS IS NOT A TARIFF". This is just the same provisions that we've had for years.  The military is supposed to use only American made stuff.  

In Great Britain, workers are striking the attempt to build nuclear power plants with foreign labor.  Don't listen to anybody at Davos.  That's like listening to John Thain for advice  on plumbing fixtures.

[ Parent ]
And I just heard a drunkard at the next corner say, "not true"! (0.00 / 0)
Uh, more reliable sources, pls.  

[ Parent ]
OK then (0.00 / 0)
What are your sources that this is a violation of WTO rules? Seems like the burden of proof should be on you since you're the one complaining about this provision which is already US law and which has been on the books since at least 1982.

[ Parent ]
Here (0.00 / 0)
"The EU spokesman said Europe would launch a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the clause remained. "

Going to bed now. Good night!

[ Parent ]
Filing a complaint (0.00 / 0)
does not mean it's a violation. If the buy america provisions have not led to WTO sanctions for the last 30 years, then I doubt they would lead to them now.

[ Parent ]
I already posted a report that says the EUis considering it. (0.00 / 0)
Really, it all has been already said. Pls check previous comments. I won't repeat everything for you. Especially since Obama's statements this is rapidly becoming yesterday's discussion.

Why don't you mail the WH instead with your ideas? There's more to be gained from this than by boring a simple commenter here, who's just voicing his opinion, without any poltical leverage.

[ Parent ]
oh man (4.00 / 1)
cant believe they used the right wing talking point,

etu obama

whatever you think people owe you, that is what you owe people

Obama should keep his campaign promise. (0.00 / 0)
If the provision does violate NAFTA, then it should be reworded or an alternative devised.  I don't think it makes sense to sign legislation that violates treaties.

If the provision doesn't violate NAFTA, then Obama should support it.

I have a couple observations about your framing, though:

1.  Obama is the President, not Larry Summers.  

2.  Larry Summers hasn't stated that Obama won't support the provision.

3.  Whatever your issue is with Larry Summers, it doesn't have anything to do with Mitch McConnell.  It doesn't have anything to do with your strange problem with Summers accurately describing "classical unemployment" in an economics book.  It doesn't have anything to do with Ken Lay.  It most particularly doesn't have anything to do with whether Obama has the spine and integrity to keep his campaign promises.

In short, why are you taking cheap, irrelevant shots at an advisor, instead of holding our elected leader accountable?  I sense an agenda.

Shots at an advisor are not irrelvant (4.00 / 3)
Very little gets said to the press on record from high level officials wihout an explicit reason. You need to start reading more carefully what's been going on in congress as this stimulus bill moves forward.

Congress Daily and The Hill are a good place to start. You'd see then that Summers is basically in charge of the stimulus plan from the White House. Obama has been hands off, or at least letting Summers take the lead on what gets put in there.
When Democrats first cried foul over the huge tax cuts, it was Summers that Obama sent to capital hill to talk to Democrats. Why? Because he's in charge of the stimulus.

[ Parent ]
If Obama is hands off (4.00 / 1)
that's Obama's fault.  

And it doesn't change the fact that comments about Ken Lay or Summers' textbook discussions of classical unemployment or Mitch McConnell's position are irrelevant. Summers can torture kittens in his spare time, and it doesn't relieve Obama of the responsiblity of keeping his campaign promises.

You really DON'T know what the division of responsibility is between Obama and Summers, and neither does The Hill or Politico.  (Why would you assume I don't read them?)   That sort of information is still trickling out about the Bush administration.

And, if you're paying attention to this particular issue (as I'm sure you are), you know that Canada and the European Union are putting pressure on the Congress, even writing letters.  I would be surprised, no matter what Obama's ultimate position, if high level officials weren't treading lightly at the moment.  

Sirota, unfortunately, is the same as the rest of the political press.  He is obsessively focused on pigeonholing individuals and taking cheap shots instead of policy, and constructing a narrative that suits his vision of the world.

[ Parent ]
I didn't say anything about the politico (4.00 / 1)
I said congress daily where they actually spend time analyzing the bills. And I assumed you weren't following closely because you said shots at Summers are irrelevant when criticism of him is entirely warranted given how heavily involved he is with Obama's entire economic plan.

[ Parent ]
question (2.00 / 2)
Does David Sirota ever have anything good to say about the Obama administration? Not saying we shouldn't be critical, but it just seems his criticism is never ending.

Sure... (3.43 / 7)
Read my past columns - like the one from a week ago...or during the primary, or my first post of the week.

Nice try to change the subject off the substance and to meta nonsense, though.

[ Parent ]
You can judge a man (4.00 / 6)
by the company he keeps. Obama hangs with Summers, Judd Gregg, Peter "cut Social Security by 5 percent" Orszag and Timothy Geithner.  

and Melody Barnes, Dawn Johnson, Steven Chu, George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, and Hilda Solis (4.00 / 3)
You can also judge someone by their enemies, and anyone who is angering General Betrayus and the entire delegation of house republicans is doing something right.  

[ Parent ]
Indeed (0.00 / 0)
These people have an agenda against him. They will see and promote any thing in bad light while ignoring any good.

[ Parent ]
Cliches (4.00 / 1)
are usually a substitute for thinking.

You can't judge anyone by the company they keep.  You can only judge people by their actions.

[ Parent ]
Hiring people is action (4.00 / 5)

[ Parent ]
Rec. for a logical reply (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
I think we liked Orzag? (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
That logo that you keep running your posts with (0.00 / 0)
was in response to buying American motorcycles (where MCcain went to a campaign rally for motor cycle to mock the Berlin speech but voted to buy foreign motorcycles). I see blogger are no better than traditional media in taking things out of context then attack it. for shame. Sure he should do it and it is the right thing but it is not a promise broken.

Link me a speech or an interview where he promises buy American provisions for his stimulus (before and after the elections)and I will take this post back.

Why don't you (4.00 / 3)
take a look at the ad that Obama ran over McCain's statements regarding buying American?

Here's the text:

Announcer: Listen to John McCain speaking to motorcycle enthusiasts in Sturgis, South Dakota, on Tuesday.

McCain: Not long ago a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day...

Announcer: But when it comes to his record, American-made motorcycles like Harleys don't matter to John McCain. Back in Washington, McCain opposed the requirement that the government buy American-made motorcycles. And he said all buy-American provisions were quote "disgraceful." Surprised? You shouldn't be. This is the same John McCain who supported billions in tax breaks for companies who ship American jobs overseas.

(More motors revving)

Announcer: It's time to hear the roar of the strong American economy again -- and stop John McCain from shipping our jobs overseas.

Obama: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for president, and I approved this message. Paid for by Obama for America.

I simply ask, how different is the position Larry Summers is suggesting that Obama is considering from the position of McCain's that Obama is ridiculing in the ad?

[ Parent ]
Just another example... (4.00 / 1)
of Obama's poor, poor decision making!  Hey, call it what you will, but the more you look at this guy the more you have to "hold your nose!"  Banks and their lobbysists own Obama - lock stock and barrel!  Anyone who can't see this is either totally fucking blind, incompenent, just plain stupid, or just another Obama apologist!!  Facts are Facts!

you seem pretty happy (0.00 / 0)
I think you exposed your feelings already when you called obama a fascist republican yesterday, don't try too hard to out yourself!

[ Parent ]
We all knew (0.00 / 0)
W wasn't driving the bus. Now we gotta wonder, is Obama diving his bus?

The bus (4.00 / 1)
drives itself.  Obama gets to put air in the tires and change the oil.  Bush couldn't even handle that.  

[ Parent ]
I did my best to trust Obama to keep his promises. (4.00 / 2)
But it's increasingly obvious he has no intention of doing so. I will, however, continue to think of him as the best Republican president since Eisenhower.

NYT -- "President Obama agreed with Republicans that provisions should be stripped from the House and Senate stimulus bills requiring the use of made-in-the U.S.A ..." (4.00 / 1)
Stimulus in the Senate: P.M. Update -- http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes...

... Buy America -  In television interviews tonight, President Obama agreed with Republicans that provisions should be stripped from the House and Senate stimulus bills requiring the use of made-in-the U.S.A. steel, iron or other goods in these financed projects. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups called the measures protectionist.

& the GOP has a whole list now that Obama will probably drop -- (4.00 / 1) --  What GOP Leaders deem wasteful in Senate stimulus bill

they're running this show -- entirely. pathetic.

Having watched C-SPAN2 All day (4.00 / 1)
I don't think it's just them. A lot of Democrats have been railing against some of this stuff

and a lot of other people I've talked to and seen on other blogs.  

[ Parent ]
& Obama is not defending it at all (0.00 / 0)
-- only in the most vague and general ways.

he's not invested in any of it.

[ Parent ]
Wildly unpopular (4.00 / 2)
Stimulus without Buy American provisions will put a major dent in Obama's image as an agent of Change. We have a chance to make the Industrial North a strong bastion of progressive values if only we treat the working class with decency, fairness and respect. That is not happening. If Obama's current trend holds up, we'll sadly be back to running (and losing) elections on social issues alone.


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