Over at Vox on Friday, Timothy B Lee wrote a surprisingly thin article based on a single source, These House Republicans Are Bucking Their Party Leaders — and Obama — on Trade. Mostly, it is just, “This is what my Cato friend, Bill Watson, thinks is going on in the House.” Watson is just your typical Cato ideologue who thinks that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is going to be like fairy dust on partner countries. That’s because he, like most proponents, claims, without proof, that the TPP is about “free trade.” Well, at least in Lee’s article, we don’t have to listen to such nonsense. But I do wonder if the Republican vote totals that he presents are any more grounded in reality than his arguments for the TPP.
He claims that there are between 15 and 50 Republicans in the House who will vote against fast track authority. If it is 50, bye-bye TPP! If it is only 15, then the president gets his “legacy” bill and we get another “trade” agreement that will cost American jobs and put more money into the pockets of the already rich. Given that this is is the raison d’être for the American government, the people will probably not even notice. The modern American is used to slipping further and further behind. She might have a heart attack if our long slide down were interrupted.
But what I found really interesting in the article was Lee’s comparison of the Democrats’ reasons for being against the deal and the Republicans’ reasons. The Democrats oppose the treaty on the basis of practical concerns. For example, one of my biggest complaints is that greater enforcement of intellectual property rights in other countries will crowd out actual goods that Americans make. For example: Hollywood is just going to take this money and run; it isn’t going to produce more and better films. So money that was once available to Vietnamese consumers to buy our stuff will instead go straight to the power elite in Hollywood. This is one of the mechanisms in the TPP that will redistribute income upward.
The Republicans, not surprisingly, don’t need no stinking practical concerns. Instead, they are concerned about the “Constitution” and “executive power.” But most of all, they are focused on the fact that they hate the current President of the United States. In addition, of course, Republicans are concerned about things that aren’t real. Lee mentioned, “And when Republican do complain about the contents of the TPP, they sometimes focus on topics that almost certainly won’t be part of the trade deal.” That includes the fear that the TPP will allow more brown people in the country.
This is, sadly, the great divide in American politics. And it is amusing that a libertarian like Lee would highlight it, even if he doesn’t frame it as systemic. “Liberalism” in America is just the practical business of governing. It is largely devoid of ideology. “Conservatism” in America is just the business of attaining ideological purity. But the ideology of the conservative movement is vague at best — having something to do with American exceptionalism: small government when it comes to the least dangerous aspects of public policy and large government when it comes to the most dangerous aspects of public policy. This is why most liberals can at least have a decent political discussion with libertarians. They may be lost in the ideological vapor, but at least their ideology is relatively coherent.
See also: TPP Could Create 4,000+ Minimum Wage Jobs.