With Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) scheduled for a vote today, in debate on the measure yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) gave a spirited speech outlining his opposition to the legislation. TAA was established to provide reemployment and assistance programs to people who lose or are at risk of losing their jobs because of trade. With dubious results, this program has also led to some questionable certification of workers eligible for TAA money, as CEI pointed out.
This wasteful policy will most likely be extended by Senate vote. The renewal is seen by many as a Republican handout to Democratic labor union interests, so that the administration will submit the pending Free Trade Agreement deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
In his speech on the Senate floor, Hatch pointed to the losses to the American consumer and producers from holding up the three trade agreements, as well as the expansion of the program to just about every worker who has lost his job:
TAA money now goes to farmers, firms, community colleges, and service workers. Even more troubling, the critical nexus between job loss caused by trade agreements and TAA eligibility has been jettisoned. Today, all workers who lose their jobs allegedly due to “Globalization” could be eligible. As the global economy and global supply chains become more integrated, I suspect the potential number of beneficiaries, and the costs to the U.S. taxpayer, will grow enormously.
He also noted that TAA is used as a justification for free trade opponents:
Another important point is that TAA fuels the fire of the virulent anti-trade propagandists. TAA supporters say the program keeps faith with American workers and helps build support for trade. I think just the opposite is true. Unions and other anti-trade zealots gleefully use TAA data to make the case that trade causes outsourcing and job loss. After all, the number of trade dislocated workers is certified by the government.
As the program is expanded to include more and more people and entities, including community colleges, firms, farmers, and fisherman, the myth that trade is bad for the American worker finds ready fodder and continues to build. Instead of helping build the case for trade, TAA certifications are used to show that trade is bad. In the end TAA really is just a government subsidy for anti-trade propaganda.
It is refreshing to see a senator with sensible views on trade and government handout programs. He seems to understand the hidden costs of the program, and how a program like this can lead to abuse by authorities and beneficiaries. Unfortunately, it’s not likely that his views will prevail in the TAA vote.