Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Presidential vs. Congressional Parties

Felix Salmon writes:

RGE - Are Republicans better on trade?: since it's such a politically-fraught day, I'll concede one post to political matters, and give the floor to Greg Mankiw, who reckons the Republicans are much better than the Democrats on free trade:

The 1993 roll call vote in the House found 132 Republicans in favor of NAFTA, 43 against. Among House Democrats, there were 102 in favor, 156 against. In the Senate, the same story. Among Republican senators, there were 34 in favor of NAFTA, 10 against. Among Democratic senators, 27 were in favor, 28 against.

Since NAFTA, the difference between the two parties has, if anything, grown larger. When the Central America Free Trade Agreement came up for a vote in 2005, the House produced 202 Republicans in favor, 27 against. The Democrats had only 15 in favor, 187 against.

Of course, Mankiw's commenters (who seem to be a pretty Dem-leaning bunch) aren't taking this lying down. Some concede his point, but others contest it.... twicebitten:

Clinton was also much more successful at culminating the Uruguay round that coincided with his Presidency (which included important agreements and led to the creation of the WTO). Under Bush and with Republican leadership of both houses of Congress the Republicans have absolutely squandered the Doha round.

The difference seems to me to be that Mankiw's talking about the legislature and not the executive. The Bush White House has achieved very little on the free-trade front, in contrast to the Clinton White House. But if you put it to a vote, Republican legislators are more likely to support free-trade initiatives than Democratic ones.

Free trade appears to be a priority for the types of Democratic politicians who get elected president and for a solid majority of the types of Democratic apparatchiks who staff their administrations--this is, I think, because Democratic presidents and administrations understand not just the economic but the foreign policy political "soft power" arguments for free trade. Free trade hasn't been a priority for the types of Democrats who get elected to congress since the Reagan deficits of the 1980s and their side-effect creation of the "rust belt."

By contrast, free trade appears to be a priority for the types of Republican politicians who get elected to congress--or is it? The George W. Bush administration's apology for its trade restrictions was that the Republican congresscreatures were neanderthals, and that trade restrictions were the price of getting CAFTA and negotiating authority. But free trade does not appear to be a priority for the types of Republicans who get elected president--and definitely not for their staffs, a solid majority of whom understand neither the economic nor the foreign policy arguments for free trade.

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