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Obama quells push to 'Buy American'

After throwing hints in Rust Belt primaries a year ago that he would take a tough stand on free trade agreements, President Obama has become a sophisticated man of the world.

Obama's hand-wringing last week over "Buy American" demands in what he and the Democrats call a stimulus bill ought to leave working men and women wondering if they will ever again see a Democratic president who really cares about them.

Powerful globalist interests -- not steelworkers, autoworkers or machinists -- were behind Obama's warnings that the Senate should not pass Buy American provisions that violated existing trade agreements. The Senate quickly complied, softening the bill by voice vote.

Since the 1960s, it has become the habit of free-trade Democrats to throw bones to working people like "retraining," "trade adjustment" pay and unemployment insurance after Congress opened the nation's gates to subsidized imports from Asia.

It was the habit of Democratic President Bill Clinton to send these sops to the newly fired in Michigan, upstate New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania after their factories were shipped across the Pacific. The Rust Belt got soft welfare from insider Democrats instead of help with good-paying, private-sector jobs.

Why Obama groaned about foreign trade pacts at all was a surprise. The existing, largely unenforced Buy American laws already protect current trade agreements. And they currently permit the president to waive Buy American clauses.

Silence on Obama's part might have helped reorient Democratic Party thinking back to Main Street instead of the lobbyists from Wall Street who pay for its campaigns (and the inauguration.)

But Obama may be motivated by the same snob factors as Clinton. Both were poor kids who rose through gold-plated Ivy League law schools, and prospered from the schools' cachet.

Neither ever worked in the private sector, let alone made a factory payroll.

Both seem to have bought the establishment theory, hardened to dogma, that America can prosper without robust manufacturing, and grow indefinitely through consumer spending on borrowed money.

Obama, like Clinton did, needs millions in campaign money, and that can come only from the globalists who run this town.

The worldwide connections Clinton forged have made him and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, millionaires.

The new president signaled potential donors with his nomination of former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as his trade ambassador.

As a lawyer-lobbyist, Kirk was a strong supporter of Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement, and Clinton's cozy trade arrangements with Chinese exporters.

Obama's entire White House economic team is strongly free trade.

Canadian complaints against Buy American were a bit of a stretch.

The progressive advocacy group Global Trade Watch maintains Canada has already carved out protectionist exceptions in its NAFTA and World Trade Organization pacts that are wider and more absolute than anything Congress was considering for the United States.

For one example, "Canada simply altogether carves out steel, motor vehicles and coal altogether [for all provinces, for all sectors], and also carves out all construction contracts issued by the Departments of Transport," a Trade Watch analysis said.

Whatever the Senate passes as a so-called stimulus bill will have to be merged with the House bill in a Senate-House conference, and sent back to Congress for final votes.

In that process, Obama may render Buy American entirely toothless. So what. The jobless you always have with you.

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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