A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, arid in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Publisher: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: James Cullen Production: Peter Szymczak, Diana Paciocco Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Editorial Intern: Julie K. Richie. 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Contributing Artists: Michael Alexander, Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Dan Hubig, Pat Johnson, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Carlos Lowry, Gary Oliver, Ben Sargent, Dan Thibodeau, Gail Woods, Matt Wuerker. Managing Publisher: Cliff Olofson Subscription Manager: Stefan Wanstrom Executive Assistant: Gail Woods Special Projects Director: Bill Simmons Development Consultant: Frances Barton SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Any current subscriber who finds the price a burden should say so at renewal time; no one need forgo reading the Observer simply because of the cost. INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981. The Texas Observer Index. copyrighted, 0 1992. is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Progressive for NAFTA I am writing as a progressive and a supporter of free trade and NAFTA in order to prove that the two are not mutually exclusive, a position that would not be gleaned from your pages in recent months. I will not deny that there may be lost jobs in the short run but, as most economists have pointed out with the exception of Perot’s intellectual backbone, Pat Choate, there will be a net gain over the long run. In the meantime, we would be wise as a nation to follow Labor Secretary Reich’s proposals for financing worker retraining and revamping the unemployment compensation system. I find it somewhat surprising that organized labor has been so virulent in its anti-NAFTA campaign, considering that in the post-World War II period the large unions supported trade liberalization. It is not so surprising for me anymore, though, after reading a recent article by John Judis in the New Republic in which he points out that the unions were free traders until they realized that free trade works in both directions, imports as well as exports. The unions have clung to the idea of protectionism at all cost, so much so that it has become an incontrovertible ideology. The fact of the matter is, again citing Judis, that the tariff on Mexican exports into the United States is only 2.2 percent while exports to Mexico face a 100-percent tariff. Common sense would tell us that if American firms were going to move operations to Mexico in droves they already would have because that 2.2 percent tariff would be largely inconsequential compared to the lower wages, property values and lacking fringe benefits in Mexico. It is precisely the intangibles that the United States possesses, an educated workforce, strong infrastructure and strong government support that will keep most businesses in the United States. As far as the unions are concerned, they should take the advice of one of their own, Teamster President Ron Carey. A few years ago the leaders of the large unions met to discuss what they should do about NAFTA. Carey, interestingly the first ever rank-and-filer elected president of the Teamsters, said that they should get down to Mexico and start organizing. Nobody said it was going to be easy to raise the Mexican wage and standard of living but neither was early unionization in this country. One could see the unions’ lack of commitment to their Mexican brethren as laziness or bigotry, but I would prefer to believe that it lies more in their inability to break with a two-decade commitment to high tariffs and government protection. The Mexicans can only gain from NAFTA. There will be increased investment and they will gain many low-skilled jobs. In this respect I repeat the ideas of President Salinas: Trade not aid. It is what we progressives have been saying for years in areas such as the rain forests to the African nations. The best thing we can do as a nation to ensure stability and growth in the Third World is to engage those nations in economic partnerships not based on mercantilist policies but as equals where both countries benefit. This is inherent in the negotiated pact with Mexico and Canada. The environmental concerns are more troubling to me. While there is dispute as to whether the side agreement concerning environmental protection has teeth, it is clear that the pollution levels in Mexico are going to rise whether NAFTA passes or not. During the last week of September President Salinas began courting the [European Community] and Japan to invest in Mexico in lieu of American rejection of NAFTA. Does anyone really believe that the Europeans or the Japanese will care about pollution halfway around the world? And what would we be able to do about the pollution stemming from such investment? Invariably the answer is nothing to very little. At least if we have a pact with the Mexicans we will have a certain amount of leverage in order to protect the environment. At this point in the debate we must weigh the options in a reasonable manner instead of allowing ourselves to degenerate into prejudiced and uninformed rhetoric. After sitting on the NAFTA fence, wavering from one side to the other, for the past two years, this progressive has come down unequivocally on the pro-NAFTA side. The American consumer will benefit from lower prices \(albeit from new union members and increased demand for capital and consumer goods in Mexico and the Mexican economy will grow, helping to raise the overall standard of living which will have the eventual effect of slowing, if not ending, the flow of illegal Mexican immigrants into the United States, thus helping to defuse the arcane arguments of FAIR and other racist organizations. It would be at this point, if I were to rely on prejudiced rhetoric, that I would make a joke at the Observer’s expense for being on the same side of the issue as Patrick Buchanan and Ross Perot but … I’m still scratching the bed bug bites I have from sleeping in the same political bed as Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. Aric Isaacs, Denton DIALOGUE 2 OCTOBER 15, 1993
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