Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FTA passage

While there is much that economists disagree about, one agree where there is widespread consensus is the virtue of free trade. Greg Mankiw claims there is astonishing 93 percent agreement on the issue among economists while Dan Griswold cites a lower but still impressive figure of 83 percent (and only 10 percent opposed). That's fairly overwhelming.

With that in mind, let's note last week's vote on the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements:
In the House, 219 Republicans and 59 Democrats voted for the KORUS bill, while 21 Republicans and 130 Democrats voted against it. In the Senate, 37 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted “yes” for the deal with Korea, while 14 Democrats and one Republican (Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine) voted “no.”

In the Panama FTA House vote, 234 Republicans and 66 Democrats voted for, and six Republicans and 123 Democrats voted against the measure; in the Senate’s 77-22 vote, the “no” votes all came from Democrats, plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

The Colombia FTA was approved in the House by 231 Republicans and 31 Democrats, while nine Republicans and 158 Democrats voted against it; the Senate approved the agreement by a 66-33 vote, with 30 of the “no” votes coming from Democrats, one from Sanders, and two from Republicans (Snowe and her colleague from Maine, Sen. Susan Collins.)
In other words, anywhere from 91 to 97 percent of Republicans voted for the three agreements while Democrats mustered a high of 40 percent (Panama) to a low of 33 percent (Colombia). What's more amazing is that this tepid support comes despite renegotiation of the treaties by the Obama adminsitration to make them more palatable to Democratic constituencies.

Compare to this to the 1993 vote on the contentious NAFTA, when 41 percent of Democrats voted in favor compared to 76 percent of Republicans, and one sees the free trade divide between the two parties is actually growing. The economic illiteracy present in the Democratic party never ceases to depress.

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