“Change” Looks Quite Familar
In an effort to position himself as a business-friendly moderate ahead of 2012’s presidential election, current White House occupant Barack Obama has reshuffled his staff, bringing in a trio of free trade advocates who could spearhead the passage of the South Korea trade agreement.
To replace Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council, Obama brought in Gene Sperling, who held the same position in the Clinton administration. With Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel back in Chicago running for mayor of the Windy City, the president brought in the former mayor’s brother, William Daley, a former Clinton administration official and banker. And to top it off, General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt was tapped to lead a newly created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Before becoming the director of the NEC in the 1990s Sperling worked behind the scenes to secure the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“He supported fundamentals of the Clinton administration policies which were really wrongheaded,” Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Washington Post.
By the time Sperling moved up to take over the NEC, he was working on China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, an event which caused millions of manufacturing jobs in U.S. to be permanently lost.
Sperling also played a major role in repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking. Many observers credit the act’s repeal with causing the financial crisis that brought the economy to its knees.
Daley too was instrumental in the passage of NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO. During the debate over NAFTA, he served as a special council to the president. His only responsibility during that time was ensuring that the trade deal passed.
After delivering the trade pact that cost America 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs in just 14 years, Daley moved on to serve as Clinton’s Commerce Secretary from 1997-2000. During that time, he helped pave the way for China’s entry into the WTO.
Daley’s work in the Clinton administration earned him a reputation as someone who is ”squarely on the opposite side of working families.” At least that’s what labor leaders said about him as he left the Clinton administration to run Al Gore’s failed presidential campaign.
Immelt, who will now have the president’s ear in an advisory role, has consistently supported the same failed trade policies that have cost America millions of jobs. As the leader of one of the world’s largest companies, he has been at the forefront of the outsourcing movement.
“You would have difficulty finding a company that has outsourced more jobs and closed more American factories than GE,” Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing writes. “While they have slashed their American workforce to fewer than 150,000, GE has dramatically expanded its global presence, now employing over 300,000 workers worldwide.”
In the past, Immelt was a vocal supporter for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. He also spoke out against the proposed “buy American” provision.
Immelt, Daley and Sperling certainly do not represent the “change” the president was fond of referring to in 2008. In fact, all three represent more of the same – failed trade policies that result in the loss of millions of jobs.