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On the faux populism of Clinton and Obama

I’m obviously sympathetic to Matthew Cooper’s complaint that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are cynically donning populist garb for the Ohio primary, but this is the wrong way to make the argument: Likewise, Barack Obama who voted along with Clinton for recent trade agreements with Peru and Oman is also outraged by NAFTA. Please. Cooper ...

I’m obviously sympathetic to Matthew Cooper’s complaint that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are cynically donning populist garb for the Ohio primary, but this is the wrong way to make the argument:

Likewise, Barack Obama who voted along with Clinton for recent trade agreements with Peru and Oman is also outraged by NAFTA. Please.

Cooper is comparing apples and watermelons. The Peru deal, as noted here, is a miniscule agreement that is primarily about lowering Peruvian trade barriers to U.S. goods. Similarly, the Oman deal includes a lot of language about opening the financial sector there to U.S. firms. Annual bilateral trade between the United States and Oman is not much more than $1 billion, and the two countries are not major trading partners. In both cases, the stated rationale for the deal was primarily geopolitical, not economic. So, it might be perfectly consistent to see the far larger NAFTA as a bad deal and yet support Peru and Oman.

Of course, neither Obama nor Clinton want to actually repeal NAFTA, mind you. They just want to "renegotiate" it — a promise you can safely file in the same category as "closing tax loopholes" and "cracking down on wasteful government spending."

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