House Republican Budget Cut Proposal Reveals An Anti-Worker Agenda, Schizophrenia On Trade

Our guest blogger is Sabina Dewan, Associate Director of International Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

House Republicans are on a roll, doing everything in their power to mar job creation and to pull out the rug from underneath millions of American workers already struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times. This week, they proposed a $93 million (17 percent) cut from the International Trade Administration’s budget, most of which goes toward the National Export Initiative –- an initiative seeking to double US exports in five years from 1.5 trillion at the beginning of 2010 to $3 trillion by 2015. This initiative is aimed at supporting 2 million American jobs, and increasing the presence of our small and medium businesses in overseas markets.

But that’s not all. Not only do House Republicans want to cut spending for a program that seeks to create jobs, but they also want to disadvantage thousands of workers that have been affected by the restructuring of the economy that comes with trade.

House Republicans are proposing to cut $2 billion (51 percent) for job training programs that will help unemployed workers play an active role in retooling their skills to be productive members of the economy. What more some conservatives are now holding the extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance hostage until the White House moves on the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.


The merits or demerits of these particular agreements aside, trade is complicated and it is anything but free — its benefits come at a cost. On the one hand, increasingly open and unrestricted trade in goods and services contributes to economic growth. Trade allows consumers to enjoy greater variety and cheaper goods. But on the other hand, trade sets off a restructuring of economic activity favoring some sectors and industries over others. In the process, some workers gain jobs while others loose them; some workers see their wages rise while others see them stagnate or worse, decline.

But the conservative schizophrenia on trade — pulling funding for the National Export Initiative designed to support American jobs, while threatening to let Trade Adjustment Assistance expire unless the administration ‘moves’ other trade agreements amounts to little more than a conservative anti-jobs and anti-worker agenda.

We have to harness the benefits of trade while giving workers the tools to readjust to changes in the economic landscape that come with trade. Reducing the deficit and making America more competitive entails creating just jobs and investing in our workers.