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CAFTA and Especially Special Interests.

About 24 hours ago, the United States Senate passed the "Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act" (full-text .pdf), approving hotly-debated CAFTA, 54-45.

If and when CAFTA passes the House of Representatives, it will mark a win for free trade, a win for President Bush's freedom agenda in the Americas (and a blow to the machinations of Hugo Chavez), and a win for American consumers.

Twelve Republicans and ten Democrats (+ Jeffords) broke the otherwise party-line vote. Counting Senator Jeffords as a Democrat, that means that 24% of Senate Democrats voted in favor of CAFTA; 22% of Republicans voted against it.

In some ways, the vote is a study in the power of special interests and oldschool coalition-building. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia only voted in favor of CAFTA after the White House pledged concessions to American sugar producers.

In other ways, the Senate passage of CAFTA is a triumph of free trade-- and a big win for American consumers-- over narrow special interests and short-term econo-political myopia ("OUTSOURCING!").

The Center for Responsive Politics points out that Senators who voted against CAFTA, predictably, received far more campaign cash from the sugar industry than those who voted against it:
cafta.gif

Correlation? Causation? Reward? Bribe? Coincidence? You can be the judge of that. In the 2004 campaign cycle, Senate Democrats received 57% of sugar industry campaign contributions, while Republicans received 43%.

Truthfully, the contributions from "big sugar" are chump change compared to the contributions of "big education," "big oil," "big trial law," "big tobacco," "big Hollywood," and "big labor."

Indeed, the Democrats' opposition to CAFTA probably has very little to do with its relatively meager debt to the sugar industry. If you want to follow the money on the CAFTA vote, look no further than the vast sums of money contributed over the years by labor unions.

This fight over CAFTA also signifies an interesting political shift in this country. In 1993, with 56 Democratic Senators and only 44 Republicans, NAFTA passed the Senate 61-38-1. In that vote, 10 Republicans (or ~22% of the party) voted no; meanwhile 27 Democrats (48%) voted yes on NAFTA.

breakingpartycafta.gif

In other words, the closeness of the CAFTA vote was not an indication that Republicans are suddenly betraying their historical free trade principles. Rather, it was the Democrats who moved in a big way, away from free trade.

While I believe that every industry, every corporation, every union, and most importantly, every individual, should have close-to-unfettered rights to contribute money to political causes, it strikes me as thoroughly disingenuous and galling, in the face of mounting evidence of special interest control of the left's agenda, for the Chairman of the Democratic Party to label Republicans as the party of special interests. And the establishment media plays the role of enabler, time and time again.

I am Will W. Franklin, and I approved this message. My blog is WILLisms.com.


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Comments (6)

Some politicians, of course... (Below threshold)
arb:

Some politicians, of course, were holding out, waiting for "big sugar" to... sweeten the deal.

OK I'll be the first to ask... (Below threshold)

OK I'll be the first to ask, "Was it a sweethart deal?"

You guys are horrible. Hor... (Below threshold)

You guys are horrible. Horrible I say!

Hey Kevin,While I ... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

Hey Kevin,

While I have always loved Wizbang the way it is -- and I do actually miss Paul's regular posts, liked the way he stirred things up with common sense mixed up with sarcasm that sent people reeling -- your guest bloggers are great.

When you get back to the day to day grind, please keep these folks around as they can find the time and you can allow as they add a lot to an already great format.

I already follow too many blogs, I was happy to have my blogoverse expanded by having to read backwards to catch up on your guest posters sites.

mesablue...Have you read WI... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

mesablue...Have you read WILLisms.com Rabid Donkeys on the loose? It is a classic WILLisms.com

Rather than repeat myself, ... (Below threshold)

Rather than repeat myself, I'd strongly suggest that anyone who thinks this is just a free trade pact should read the links provided here and here.

For the really short version, see the picture here.




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