Fast Track to Congressional Irrelevance
By Patrick J. Buchanan
July, 2001

In the upcoming issue of Insight Magazine, TAC Chairman Pat Buchanan and Commerce Secretary Don Evans square off over fast track - the Bush Administration's top trade priority. Insight asked, "Should Congress give the president 'fast track' trade negotiating power?" Evans replied, "Yes. Removing trade barriers is good for everyone and furthers the cause of freedom." Buchanan countered, "No. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill shouldn't take the fast track to irrelevance." His full case against fast track follows:

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Within days, the 106th Congress will decide whether it wishes to be the first branch of government the Founding Fathers intended it to be. For Congress is being asked to yield to Mr. Bush a part of its birthright that it twice refused to surrender to Mr. Clinton.

Under "fast track," or Trade Promotion Authority as it has been hastily rebaptized, Congress gives up, sight unseen, all rights to amend U.S. trade treaties, and agrees, in advance, not to use the authority vested in it by the Constitution. Fast track is a capitulation, a surrender, an abdication to the executive.

Whether one believes in free trade or economic nationalism is not the issue. For fast track is less about trade than about power. Under fast track, a trade treaty sent to Congress may be 10,000 or 20,000 pages long, but Congress is restricted to a yes or no vote on the entire package. It is not allowed to alter or amend the treaty in any way. Fast track converts Congress from a partner in trade policy into a pair of rubber stamps, one of which says "Yea," the other "Nay."

By fast track, Congress cuts itself out of trade policy forever. What does it get in return? Nothing, except the ability to tell folks back home, sickened by some treaty sellout, "Hey, it's not my fault. There's nothing I could do. We don't have the right to amend trade treaties anymore. Don't blame me."

What Congress gets out of this Faustian bargain is plausible deniability, in return for selling its constitutional soul. This is not just rhetoric. There is a reason U.S. trade reps no longer strut about with fast track power in their pockets. That reason is the near-treasonous abuse of that authority by William Jefferson Clinton.

In 1994, after seven years of negotiations, Congress was handed a 23,000-page GATT treaty and told to swallow it whole. Under a previous fast track, Congress had given up it right to amend that GATT treaty. But due to collusion between Clintonites and Eurosocialists, that treaty, in its opening twenty pages, created a new institution, a World Trade Organization, the first international organization where the U.S. had neither a veto power, nor voting strength commensurate with its weight in world affairs.

In the WTO, the U.S. got one vote, the European Union 15, the Third World 80. Newt Gingrich called the GATT vote a "defining moment." "We need to be honest about the fact that we are transferring from the United States... significant authority to a new organization," said Gingrich, "This is a transformational moment. I would feel better if the people who favor this would just be honest about the scale of the change."

But the Clintonites had not been honest. They had been deceitful. Had Congress' hands not been tied, it would have voted to cut those 20 pages creating the WTO out of the treaty. But Congress did not because, under fast track, Congress could not. Like Esau, it had sold its birthright. So, both houses approved the treaty the globalists had written to transfer U.S. sovereignty to the WTO. No act of the 1990s did more to enrage and alienate patriots and populists than the GOP's delivery of that WTO pizza to the Oval Office of Bill Clinton.

But when Clinton's fast track authority expired, the memory of his act of extortion lingered, and Congress twice refused to renew it, despite the clamor of Corporate America, Big Media, and the Davos Republicans. Now Mr. Bush demands that fast track be renewed. Why not give it to him? Why not trust the president? The right answer is the one another president gave when presented a handsomely-bound treaty on arms control. "Trust, but verify!" said Ronald Reagan.

George W. Bush is a man to be trusted. Agree with him or not, he has kept his word. But he is also, from the tip of his Stetson to the toe of his snakeskin boot, just like his daddy, a free trade uber alles Republican. And the Clinton-Gore trade policy he has continued does not deserve the support of Congress. It is in drastic need of reevaluation and revision. As Al Smith used to say, let's look at the record. In Clinton-Gore's last year:

  • The U.S. merchandise trade deficit hit $450 billion, the largest in history, and almost 5% of America's entire GDP.

  • Our $324 billion deficit in manufactured goods in 2000 was 22 times the size of our disappearing trade surplus in agricultural goods.

  • Imported manufactures now equal 62% of U.S. manufactures.

  • Manufacturing jobs, 30% of all U.S. jobs in 1953, have fallen to 13%. Since last July, we have lost 785,000 more manufacturing jobs.
  • As our industrial base shrivels, America's economic independence is being lost. Last year, the U.S. imported $89 billion in oil, half of all we consumed. Oil dependency has sucked us into one war in the Gulf and is dragging us into the snake pit of Central Asian power politics, out of which future wars must come. Imports now equal 13% of U.S. GDP, the greatest level of import dependency since before the Civil War. Is this healthy for a republic that, not long ago, produced almost everything it consumed and was the most self-sufficient nation on earth?

    Do other nations really share our child-like faith that we are headed for a world of free markets and global democracy? Do the OPEC price-gougers who conspire to loot America while our sons defend their decrepit monarchies truly believe in global free markets? Do those Eurosocialists who colluded in that four-nation cartel to build an Airbus to take down the U.S. aircraft companies that built the planes that kept Europe free really believe in free and fair trade? Do the keiretsu of Japan who plotted to kill U.S. TV production and flooded our market and murdered every domestic producer we had really believe in a "level playing field?"

    Unlike think tank scribblers who ridicule economic patriots as they quote Ricardo, Cobden, Bastiat and Bright, the Founding Fathers lived in the real world. They had endured embargoes, blockades, invasions, and they understood strategic trade in a way that perhaps even a Bradley or an Olin scholar may not.

    Before Congress again embraces globalism, consider its costs. First, there is the corruption of our politics. Former Congressmen, Senators and Cabinet officers have become virtual pimps of hostile powers. As a result of their shilling for Beijing, China, in the Clinton decade, piled up $400 billion in trade surpluses at our expense, and $84 billion in 2000 alone. Beijing used that cash hoard to finance the greatest military build-up in Asia since Japan in the 1930s. U.S. dollars bought for Beijing Russian subs, destroyers, Sunburn anti-ship missiles, and fighters-bombers, to fight and kill our U.S. Pacific fleet. Had that Chinese F-8 pilot shot down Shane Osborn and his crew, as he requested authority to do, the missile he would have used was an American Python paid for with dollars obtained from U.S. consumers down at the mall.

    The Bushmen point to NAFTA as their model for a free trade zone from Patagonia to Prudhoe Bay. But before signing on to Big NAFTA, Congress should inspect the rotting fruits of the first deal. Since NAFTA passed, the U.S. has run $100 billion in trade deficits with Mexico, which has become the major source of the heroin, hashish, cocaine, and marijuana that are killing American kids. We were told that NAFTA would raise Mexico's standard of living and ease the border crisis. But since 1993, real wages in Mexico have fallen 15% and the U.S. border patrol last year apprehended 1.5 million illegals breaking in. Estimates of the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. now run between 9 and 11 million, or about as many undocumented foreigners wandering about within the U.S. as there are people in Massachussetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    Finally, there is the paramount issue of national sovereignty. When NAFTA was being debated, Henry Kissinger endorsed it as a "step toward the new world order." Henry was right. As we have seen in Europe, where a 1950s customs union evolved into a Common Market and now into a socialist superstate, trade treaties are the vehicles that smuggle the contraband of world government onto the statute books of the West. European patriots are awakening to and doing battle against this threat to nationhood, sovereignty, and independence. These are our true allies.

    In the U.S. the battle lines are being drawn for the great struggle of the 21st century. Patriotism or globalism. Nation-state or New World Order. John Adams' "Independence Forever!" or Kofi Annan's "global governance."

    Already, the Wall Street Journal has followed the money, defected, and, with Mr. Clinton, embraced Vicente Fox' "North American Union," a merger of our nations with "open borders" for people, vehicles and goods. That would be the end of America. But Congress's brave decision to keep the mammoth Mexican trucks, those rolling time bombs, off U.S. highways suggest that America, too, is waking up. And the White House decision not to permit foreign dumpers to kill the U.S. steel industry suggests a "Second Thoughts" conference for former free-trade ideologues may be at hand.

    Most Americans are patriots, and when they realize what is at stake in these trade treaties, they will put country before commerce. And when that day comes, and Congress takes its stand, Congress must retain the power to amend trade treaties the president sends down. The only way to guarantee Congress has that power is to politely tell the president: "Sir, negotiate any treaty you wish, but the Peoples House will retain its right of review, and its right to amend, as the Constitution commands and as our Founding Fathers ordained that it should be. So we say 'no' to fast track."

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