BlogWood Redux: Why does Jim Davis hate Florida families?

July 27, 2005

Note: as promised earlier, during the next week or so of light blogging, I’ll be re-posting some stuff that may be relevant tocurrent events. This post first appeared in May. More on CAFTA here.

May 13th, 2005
Why does Jim Davis hate Florida families?

Actually, maybe I’m being a little too hard on Jim – maybe it’s his love of big corporations, rather than his hatred of the Florida family, that spurred him to vote for the bankruptcy bill and publicly support DR-CAFTA.

The bill would make it much harder for families in distress to write off their debts and make a fresh start. Instead, many debtors would find themselves on an endless treadmill of payments.

The credit card companies say this is needed because people have been abusing the bankruptcy law, borrowing irresponsibly and walking away from debts. The facts say otherwise.

A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce.

To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it’s concentrated among the wealthy – including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors – who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.

Furthermore ,

It makes it harder for average people to file for bankruptcy protection; it makes it easier for landlords to evict a bankrupt tenant; it endangers child support payments by giving a wider array of creditors a shot at post-bankruptcy income; it allows millionaires to shield an unlimited amount of value in homes and asset protection trusts; it makes it more difficult for small businesses to reorganize, while opening new loopholes for the Enrons of the world; it allows creditors to provide misleading information; and it does nothing to rein in lending abuses that frequently turn manageable debt into unmanageable crises. Even in failure, ordinary Americans do not get a level playing field.

As for DR-CAFTA ,

-CAFTA does NOT include adequate enforcement for violations of internationally recognized labor and environmental standards. It only requires enforcement of national law, which is often inadequate, and the penalty for violations is a set of modest fines, which the government pays back to itself.

-CAFTA’s worker rights protections are substantially weaker than those under current U.S. law, with higher standards (international standards) and tougher penalties (loss of trade privileges).

- CAFTA threatens the livelihoods of millions of small farmers in Central America and the Dominican Republic, while increasing domination by agricultural monopolies and hurting U.S. family farmers.

- CAFTA would prevent access to affordable life saving medicines in a region where half the population live in poverty.

- CAFTA will prohibit governments in the region from ensuring that foreign investment serves national development goals, and has a provision like NAFTA that would allow foreign corporations to sue governments that pass strong labor, public health or environmental laws.

CAFTA includes rules that promote privatization and deregulation of services including education, health care, postal service, construction, transportation and water supply. Such policies have proved particularly devastating for families living in poverty.

So, Jim, as he prepares his run for governor, seems much more concerned with the wants of powerful corporations than with the actual needs of his constituents. Call Mr. Davis and ask him why he hates Florida families.

WASHINGTON:
409 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3376
FAX: (202) 225-5652

DISTRICT:
3315 Henderson Boulevard
Suite 100
Tampa, Florida 33609
(813) 354-9217
Florida Toll Free: 1 (888) 266-0205
Fax: (813) 354-9514

Satellite Office:
1186 62nd Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 867-5301
FAX: (727) 867-5302

Sweatshop

The vote may be very close, so call now.

The trade agreement that would erase tariffs between the United States and the Dominican Republic as well as Central America, opening the prospect of a vast exchange of crops and goods, once seemed to be the inevitable next step after NAFTA.

But now, a mix of influences has President Bush contemplating a losing fight for congressional approval. The problem is that the agreement’s heavy tilt toward agriculture has cost DR-CAFTA, as it is known, some key GOP votes, including those of several Floridians. In addition, this latest free-trade proposal seems to be more harmed than helped by the record of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which opened economic borders between the United States, Mexico and Canada in 1994.
……

Though DR-CAFTA was signed by country leaders in May last year, the Bush administration has delayed sending a bill to ratify it in Congress. Under special fast-track authority, the White House can speedily push through trade agreements, bypassing often lengthy committee proceedings that would try to amend the agreement.

“They haven’t pulled the trigger because they don’t want the embarrassment of losing,” said Lori Wallach, a former trade lawyer and DR-CAFTA opponent who is director of Public Citizen Global Trade Watch. “There’s never been a situation where an agreement has sat around this long.”

Analysts say the blame lies with the poor track record of DR-CAFTA’s big brother. NAFTA, which took effect more than a decade ago.

“It’s very hard to make a case that NAFTA has had any benefits,” said Mark Weisbrot, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, which is critical of U.S. trade deals.

Indeed, it’s hard to pin down conclusive data on NAFTA’s effect. Business interests highlight increased cross-border trade and a boom in the garment assembly industry in Mexico. But grass-roots activists stress job losses in the United States. Tomato and pepper farmers in Hillsborough County were among those hardest hit.

Whatever the truth, most agree there is a widespread perception that NAFTA has failed to live up to expectations. As a result, new agreements are met with less enthusiasm.

Several key Hispanic groups who backed NAFTA in the ’90s are opposed to DR-CAFTA or have declined to support it.

“These agreements are a very hard sell,” Weisbrot said. “They are incredibly unpopular.”

Even so, the Bush administration says it intends to proceed as early as late May. “Over the next few months, one of our trade priorities will be the free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic,” Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said at a March 30 board meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers in Miami-Dade County.

But it remains doubtful that the deal has the votes in Congress. A number of Republican members have broken ranks with the White House, including Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Crystal River and Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach.

“There’s no question that members remain concerned over the impact of NAFTA,” Foley said after a committee hearing attended by Central American trade and labor ministers Thursday. “It’s one of those steep inclines for the administration to climb.”

Even so, the battle in Congress is just getting started, and there is time for compromise.

“There’s maybe some tweaking that could be done” to make it more palatable for Floridians, said Foley, who represents a heavy sugar-growing constituency. “We’d like to be helpful. If they took sugar off the table, it would certainly help.”

On the other hand, Democrat Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa says he is inclined to support free trade with Latin America. DR-CAFTA presents “important business opportunities” for Tampa Bay. “It’s important to have ties with these countries,” he said.

It is vehemently opposed by a statewide coalition of farm worker, labor, environmental and church groups. Labor activists say the deal fails to offer protection to workers in countries where workers rights are not enforced. Cheap U.S. exports could wipe out Central American farmers, raising unemployment and migration.

“Our opposition is based on the human factor and the practical effects of NAFTA,” said Eric Rubin, state coordinator for the St. Petersburg-based Florida Fair Trade Coalition. The coalition has campaigned statewide via hundreds of thousands of mailings and weekly speaking engagements.

Rubin says DR-CAFTA enjoys little public support. “It’s only a small and powerful segment of the business community that back it.”

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