Friday :: Jan 16, 2004

The Phantom of the Congress

by pessimist

Richard Gephardt has troubles - lots of troubles. Missing work 90% of the time, hanging out with racists, still trying to justify supporting an unjustifiable war, and having difficulty raising support outside of organized labor. What's an egotistical presidential wannabe to do?

Payback Time for Gephardt?

The American Conservative Union has filed suit against Democratic presidential contender Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) to recover back pay for the days the congressman has spent out in the hustings instead of on the House floor. It seems there is an 1850s law that requires a congressman's pay to be docked for every day not present. Gephardt missed 506 votes in the House last year, or 90 percent of the total.

ACU asks where was Gephardt

In an 11th-hour attempt to inflict political damage on Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses, the nation’s largest grassroots conservative group is filing a lawsuit to force him to refund most of his official salary because he has spent so much time away from Capitol Hill campaigning. Gephardt missed 506 votes in the House last year, more than 90 percent of the total and considerably more than any other Democratic lawmaker seeking the presidency.

The federal suit, to be brought by the American Conservative Union (ACU) later this week, seeks to force the House clerk to garnish a fair chunk of Gephardt’s $154,700 annual wage under an obscure 1850s law last enforced 90 years ago. The little-noticed law, 2 USC Sec. 39, reads: "The Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payment authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family."

The ACU said in a statement: "According to this law, the House is under obligation to dock Rep. Gephardt’s pay for missing so many days of work, and the ACU intends to hold him accountable to the taxpayers who pay his salary. The law requires that the taxpayers of Missouri, who pay his salary, be compensated for such gross negligence. "Can you name another job in which someone can consistently miss nine out of every 10 days and still receive a full paycheck? Unless Dick Gephardt can produce a note from his doctor, he owes the taxpayers an explanation or back pay."

The last recorded instance of the law’s being enforced was in 1914, but it has been reviewed and updated at least twice since then, in 1981 and 1986. Although the rules of the House still say "deductions may be made from the salaries of members who are absent without sufficient excuse," the rules also note that "its general application is not practical under modern circumstances."

"It goes back to the old days in which members were paid by the day, rather than an annual salary," said Don Ritchie of the Senate Historical Office. "I’m not sure there’d be much chance of anything happening out of [the suit]. It’s usually up to the voters in the next election to make a decision of whether it makes any difference."

Gephardt’s campaign immediately dismissed the legal threat as no more than a partisan political stunt that is unlikely to generate any judicial traction. "We don’t comment on partisan lawsuits filed by partisan organizations," said spokesman Erik Smith. The ACU is active in the Republican cause. Its chairman, David Keene, also writes a weekly column for The Hill.

Keene acknowledged that the lawsuit is intended to cause political damage to Gephardt before Iowa’s caucuses on Monday. Polls show that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) maintains a slim lead over Gephardt, but the Missourian has been gaining ground in his make-or-break state. "We’d love to enforce the law," said Keene. "But at the very least, we would like to embarrass them in front of the people they’re asking to support them. Because if they won’t do the job they’re asked to do now, how can voters expect them to do a bigger job?

"I’m a Midwesterner, and I can tell you that Midwesterners expect that if you take a job, you show up for work. The Midwest is a place where hard work is expected and rewarded."

The ACU also plans to target Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who missed 237 votes last year, 59 percent of the total. "This is a law that has been on the books for almost 150 years, and I don’t know in recent memory of any officeholder running for office who has violated it as egregiously as Representative Gephardt and Senator Kerry," said Keene. "These two characters have simply decided they won’t go to work, they’ll just collect a paycheck."

The ACU is also exploring similar suits aimed at recouping pay to other Democratic candidates. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) missed 54 percent of votes last year, and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was absent for 31 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) missed just 7 percent.

Missing 90% of the votes in the House is certainly a sorry record, but this isn't the only trouble facing Gephardt.

Gephardt Admits Mistake on Race Issues in '70s

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dick Gephardt told Fox News on Sunday that it was a mistake to have attended a picnic in 1980 sponsored by a white rights group with loose ties to the Ku Klux Klan but that he did not know their true politics.

Gephardt attended a picnic of the "Metro-South Citizens Council" -- an organization that described its agenda at the time as "white rights." The organization was initially called the "White Citizens Council" and was created in the 1960s throughout the South to oppose integration. They were known to be anti-black and anti-Semitic but non-violent. Democrats and Republicans alike have been vilified over the years for attending events by the Citizens Council -- which many say was formed by former members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Fox News asked Gephardt to explain his attendance at the group's picnic. "I make no excuses. If I had known this group, I thought it was a local group that was concerned about busing. I regret being there, that's not what's in my heart, never has been in my heart."

In 1971 when Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., was a conservative pro-life Democratic alderman from St. Louis he was a leader in the fight against busing to integrate St. Louis schools. Throughout the early '70s public records and published reports obtained by Fox News indicate that Gephardt also opposed a low-income minority housing development in downtown St. Louis and several other initiatives designed to advance minority issues.

Gephardt was asked Sunday by Fox News if opposing busing in the '70s was right: "I think probably not. I have learned as I have gone along. I think in some cases busing did improve the situation in some areas, in some cases it didn't.

"We had busing in St. Louis and it has been ended and we are using other methods of trying to better integrate the schools. I have been a long and strong supporter of civil rights in my whole career. I led the fight to get the voting rights act re-enacted. I have been a strong supporter of affirmative action. I believe in it strongly.

"A lot of people had questions about the efficacy of busing and whether there weren't better ways to get schools to improve for all students. And that was my feeling, that we should try to find better ways to integrate our schools and help every student. But if I had known then what I later found out, I never wanted to in any way be endorsing these views that this organization apparently had."

Sunday's "Black and Brown" debate was sponsored by African-American and Latino groups hoping to get the candidates' views on race and minority issues.
Minorities are a very small part of Iowa caucus turnout. According to Iowa state statistics and recent polls, less than 5 percent of Iowa caucus goers are expected to be minorities. That means in some measure the candidates Sunday night were trying to appeal to an audience far beyond Iowa, particularly South Carolina. South Carolina votes Feb. 3, and as much as 45 percent of the turnout is expected to be African-Americans.

Gephardt was asked by Fox News about the timing of this information emerging. "I don't know. I suppose that's what happens in political campaigns."

Then there is Gephardt's support for a war which has been conclusively proven to have had no valid causus belli.

Gephardt defends his support of war in Iraq

NEW YORK Representative Dick Gephardt has offered a vigorous defense of his vote in favor of the use of force in Iraq, marching squarely into a debate that has roiled this presidential campaign. In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday and in response to questions afterward, Gephardt emphasized that he had conferred with officials at the CIA and advisers to President Bill Clinton before he concluded that Iraq was a serious threat. He said he did not regret his decision, although his advisers acknowledge that it has cost him support. Gephardt avoids discussing Iraq during his campaign stops in Iowa, where his stance is unpopular among some Democratic loyalists.

"There has been a lot of focus in this campaign on my support of President Bush in the days after Sept. 11," Gephardt said. "And yes, I supported the congressional resolution that gave President Bush the authority to act in Iraq, even as I urged him to seek multilateral support through the United Nations. I don't apologize for that," he said, "and I'm not sorry that Saddam Hussein is gone."

But Gephardt was sharply critical of Bush's handling of the occupation of Iraq and the crises in North Korea and the Middle East. He described the occupation as "a deadly quagmire" and criticized the president as having alienated U.S. allies in Europe. "My problem with the Bush foreign policy team, and the cold warriors they've brought out of semiretirement to run it, is their overwhelming arrogance and lack of appreciation for the subtleties of democracy-building or alliance-strengthening," Gephardt said. Gephardt said he would abandon what he described as Bush's foreign policy of isolation. He promised to support debt relief and an international criminal court and to expand the Peace Corps and increase financing of efforts to foster democracy and fight AIDS in Africa. "I believe America has to engage the world and invest in it," he said.

Even the weather seems to be against Gephardt!

Snow foils Gephardt campaign

Dick Gephardt wasn't able to make an town hall meeting in Burton because of relentless snow, but he still was able to talk to Michigan supporters in Grand Rapids. Gephardt -- who has been endorsed by 21 national unions -- was to speak at Iron Workers Local 25 yesterday afternoon, but was unable to land because of the bad weather.

The Missouri congressman was able to appear at an evening rally with southwestern Michigan supporters at Teamsters Local 406 in Grand Rapids. The Democratic presidential candidate says he wants to reverse President Bush's economic policies and implement his own health plan, which he says would create 750-thousand new jobs.

Organized labor is about the only segment of the voting public where Richard Gephardt has any support.

Labor Connections Working Hard for Gephardt Campaign

When Dick Gephardt stopped in South Carolina, the first event was a staple of his Democratic presidential campaign: a labor union rally. Here in Georgetown, where Dean appeared just over a week ago, Gephardt found some steelworkers ready to back him in South Carolina's crucial Feb. 3 primary. Two factories, making steel and electric wire components, shut down last year; one took its business overseas. Gone were 1,300 jobs, a heavy blow for a small town.

Standing on a flag-draped stage next to a shuttered steel mill in Georgetown, Gephardt told a crowd of about 150 that he was the only candidate they could rely on to fight international trade deals that threaten U.S. jobs. "If you're looking for the candidate who's for fair trade, not just free trade, you're looking at the only one who was there when it counted!" the Missouri congressman said, winning applause from laid-off steelworkers as he criticized commerce agreements with Mexico and China. "I'm going to be with you! You can count on it. I'll show you!"

Similar scenes have unfolded time and again of late in Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and North Dakota, as Gephardt seeks to energize the union faithful who are the lifeblood of his candidacy. He also took his labor-rallying tour to aircraft factory workers in Washington state and to auto workers in Michigan. To a degree unsurpassed among presidential candidates in recent decades, Gephardt is labor's man for the White House.

Union workers drive vans, knock on doors, make phone calls and pass out leaflets for him. Hundreds of political operatives from the 21 international unions and several state affiliates that back Gephardt are swarming across Iowa to build support for him in the state's Jan. 19 caucuses — where a win is considered essential to his candidacy.

But relying on unions and emphasizing his opposition to free trade now could cost the Democratic hopeful broader support later. Gephardt's dependence on these union activists is a two-edged sword. He desperately needs their help as he and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean vie for the top spot in the caucuses. Yet the more Gephardt relies on unions now, the more difficult it will be for him later in the campaign to persuade voters that his base is broader than organized labor.

"It's an important army of support," Gephardt said when asked about his ties to labor. "But I have support from a lot of other quarters. I have support from senior citizens, I have support from just people, ordinary people, that aren't in labor unions [and] just work hard every day and want somebody in the presidency for them."

Asked to name an example of a stance he has taken in opposition to labor, Gephardt cited his opposition to drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a priority for unions in the building trade. But he acknowledged: "Generally, I fight for the interests of labor unions and working families, because that's where I come from." Gephardt's father was a member of the Teamsters union, and his family struggled to pay bills when he was growing up — background he invariably cites on the stump.

Rodney Russ, 44, a laid-off steelworker, said he was glad that Gephardt broke from the free-trade stance of President Clinton and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore. "He's for labor — always has been," Russ said of Gephardt. "He's always been on the right side of the issue of trade that affects our jobs every day."

More than all other major Democratic candidates, Gephardt has staked his campaign on opposition to the open-market policies that Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued in the last dozen years. He regularly attacks the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and the 2000 congressional vote to normalize trade relations with China. Lately, he has criticized the trade agreement the Bush administration just concluded with four Central American countries. That's precisely what Gephardt's hard-core backers want to hear, even if such positions could prove a harder sell in a general election campaign. "When we put Gephardt in the White House, we might as well be putting one of our rank and file in the White House," said Brett Voorhies, who heads a labor coalition working for Gephardt in Iowa. "He's got our members fired up now."

Gephardt insists he is not opposed to the globalization of trade. But he denounces policies that he says encourage companies to flee the U.S. in search of cheaper labor and looser environmental regulations. His solution is an international minimum wage and a renegotiation of the NAFTA and China accords to force U.S. trading partners to uphold labor rights.

When you aren't at work 90% of the time, this is nearly impossible. But that isn't seen as a factor in the effort to win Iowa for Gephardt.

Gephardt troops turn up blue collars, hit Iowa streets

It was in the single digits outside, but Rep. Richard Gephardt was getting a roomful of union volunteers fired up about hitting the streets. "I'm the only candidate in this race -- and you need to tell this to your members as you get out around the state -- I'm the only candidate who has been there," Gephardt told members of the Alliance for Economic Justice, a coalition of 17 unions which support the son of a St. Louis Teamster making his second bid for the presidency. "I'm from the Show Me State. I don't talk it, I do it, and I'll be there for you."

The audience of 200 leather-jacketed supporters rose to cheer their candidate. These were Teamsters, Steelworkers, Boilermakers -- members of manufacturing, Old Economy unions, as opposed to the service and government, New Economy unions which have swung behind Gephardt's biggest Iowa rival, Howard Dean. And they were being pumped up by Gephardt to connect by knocking on doors, not by the Internet.

On closer inspection, however, the Gephardt campaign is operating with its own version of high tech. The lists of more than 80,000 labor households provided by local unions have given the campaign a database to rival the one generated by Dean's Web sites. And it has given some 400 out-of-state union volunteers a reliable guide to a voter pool not accessible by Internet. "They definitely feel more comfortable with a union brother coming to the door. You go to a Teamster's house, you've got a Teamster's pin, it's like you're his best friend for 10 years," said Anthony Esemplare Jr., 22, from a New York local of the Laborers International Union, after four days of canvassing in Des Moines. Many of these houses "don't even have a doorbell," much less a computer, he said. Volunteers are coached to get a union member's cell phone number if he's not at home, as the best way to reach him later. "We all have incorporated the latest technology, from e-mail to cell phones, but at the end of the day the caucuses are about Iowans communicating with Iowans," said Iowa state director John Lapp, who also managed Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack's 2002 campaign.

The union operation is being run from a hotel in this Des Moines suburb, separate from the central Gephardt campaign.

Just as labor played the biggest role in Gephardt's 1988 caucus victory, it is the key element in Gephardt's turnout strategy. If labor can turn out "a third, a fourth, a half" of their membership, the 61-year-old former House majority leader implored the volunteers last week, he can win. "There has not been a labor drive like this in a number of years in Iowa," said Brett Voorhies, an official of the United Steelworkers. The question is how much the aging of his 1988 supporters and the loss of industrial jobs have eaten into Gephardt's base in this state, where, as the Missouri congressman often says, he has never stopped campaigning over the past 16 years. A lot of retirees come to the door dragging their oxygen tank, said Tony Sanudio, a volunteer from a United Steelworkers local in Albert Lee, Minn. But Esemplare and Sanudio agreed it was retirees, concerned about health care, who seem the most motivated to participate in the caucuses, which means getting out to a local school, church or home on a Monday night to sit through a sometimes confusing program. Of those in their working years, Sanudio said: "If they've been laid off a long time and don't have an income, they're struggling, they really could care less."

The two volunteers said they'd seen more Bush/Cheney yard signs in the working-class neighborhoods they visited than Dean signs. Gephardt argues in speeches that he has the ability to change the dynamics of the general election by winning back "Reagan Democrats," disillusioned by the loss of manufacturing jobs during the Bush administration. To get past Iowa, he has to hope a lot of those Reagan Democrats are still around.

More hot air from the workingman's Phantom Congressman.

Gephardt seeks a road to the White House via Seattle

Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt jump-started his nearly non-existent Washington state campaign yesterday with a three-hour Seattle visit, rallying members of unions that anchor his effort nationally. Gephardt met with about 45 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, then gave a stem winder to several hundred raucously cheering unionists at a rally at the Aerospace Machinists Hall -- a late-starting campaign launch for Washington's Democratic precinct caucuses on Feb. 7.

At both South Seattle events, he promised to push for an international minimum wage and to create a universal health care system that would add 750,000 new jobs. He told them his health care plan would give employers a 60 percent tax credit for the cost of providing health insurance for all workers, full time and part time, and would cover 100 percent of health-insurance costs for those earning less than twice the poverty level. Most of the other Democratic candidates have health-care plans, he said, but "mine is the biggest," covering 43 million uninsured. Gephardt said he would pay for his plan by repealing the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. He said his plan would help create jobs because hospitals would hire more health care workers, knowing they would get paid for treating patients.

Both speeches focused entirely on economic and labor issues. The war in Iraq -- a central issue of the Democratic contest elsewhere -- was hardly mentioned. "The war is important. I talk about it every day. But people are most interested in jobs" and economic issues, Gephardt said, replying to a question from a reporter. "We've lost more jobs during this (Bush) presidency than the last 11 presidents put together. He's a jobs killer," Gephardt told the applauding union members at the Machinists Hall. It was organized by the Alliance for Economic Justice, the 21 international unions -- including the Machinists and the food and commercial workers -- that have endorsed his candidacy.

The Missouri congressman is focused on Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses next Monday. But he detoured briefly to Seattle -- arriving from New York City and departing for the Midwest -- to try to build what until now has been a moribund campaign presence here. While polls show Gephardt running nearly neck and neck with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in Iowa, many Democratic leaders view Washington as a Dean stronghold. Gephardt's visit was his first public campaign appearance in Washington. But he promised to return before Feb. 7, and local and national union leaders vowed at the rally to organize their ranks for Gephardt.

At Washington's and Michigan's caucuses Feb. 7, "this could be the day we finally get on the road and win the nomination," Gephardt told the packed Machinists Hall crowd, imploring them to "get your people out" to the caucuses.

Linda Lanham, the influential political director of Machinists District 751, noted that Dean, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman already have come to Washington and met with Machinists. "But we'll help organize for (Gephardt)," she said.

State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt, a Dean supporter, said Gephardt came here apparently because "he knows they're not well organized here, and I think this was largely an opportunity to kind of give his troops a little pep talk. I think this trip was about building an organization, assuming he's still going to be in the race come Feb. 7."

The visit here undoubtedly helped galvanize latent union support for the candidate. Tim Carpentier, a Tukwila city parks worker and Teamsters union member, said as he left the rally. He arrived undecided about which presidential contender to support. But now, he said, "Gephardt is right at the top of my list."

Both union gatherings gave Gephardt a warm response. He said his energy plan -- relying heavily on alternative energy sources -- would end America's reliance on Middle East oil in 10 years and create 2 million new jobs.

Can't get by without a little help from your friends.

Gephardt's effort in S.C.

Gephardt is relying on in-state talent, like U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and former Gov. Robert McNair, both of whom have endorsed the Missouri congressman. "We have endorsements and surrogates all over the state, from local elected officials to members of the African-American mayors conference to African-American ministers," Gephardt’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander said. "We have people getting the word out about Gephardt, stumping for Gephardt. Gephardt himself has been here 14 times.

"People of South Carolina know their city council person, know their congressman, know their mayor. To hear those people say, ‘Dick Gephardt is my guy,’ that’s a resounding message."

Just to show that Richard Gephardt is not a one-dimentional character like his record seems to suggest, he does support a project whose goals are things I support pursuing.

Gephardt Backs Apollo Project

No, not what you're thinking. The Apollo Alliance, an organization of labor, environmental, civil rights, business, and political leaders, today unveiled a detailed plan to grow renewable energy industry in the United States, move towards energy independence, and greatly stimulate job growth.

In an interesting twist for a seemingly environmental project, the massive spending involved is seen as a positive, since most of the money goes to jobs for Americans. The economic analysis for the project comes from Dr. Ray Perryman.

Tax credits and investments would create 3.3 million new, high-wage jobs for manufacturing, construction, transportation, high-tech, and public sector workers, while reducing dependence on imported oil and cleaning the air. Perryman's analysis shows that a New Apollo Project would also position the U.S. to take the lead in fast-growing markets, dramatically reduce the trade deficit and more than pay for itself in energy savings and returns to the U.S. Treasury. Perryman's study was based on an input-output analysis of impacts on key industry sectors, using a highly regarded economic model and extensive survey data.

Presidential candidate Dick Gephardt has backed this project for some time. Governor Dean also released a statement today, praising the proposal. No word yet on whether President Bush sees any merit in the plan.

More from the report itself:

Economic Benefits:

The economic benefits included in this report are the results of a classic input/output modeling exercise and analysis conducted by the non-partisan Perryman Group in Waco, Texas. The findings from this study suggest that Apollo's $300 billion investment in America's economic and energy future will:

+ Add more than 3.3 million jobs to the economy
+ Stimulate $1.4 trillion in new Gross Domestic Product
+ Stimulate the economy through adding $953 billion in Personal Income and $323.9 billion in Retail Sales
+ Offer a 22.3% annual rate of return when the effects of the project development and the ongoing stimulus of the project are calculated.
+ Produce $284 billion in net energy cost savings.
+ Repay the $300 billion Federal cost of the project, through $306.8 billion in increased Federal tax revenue from increased earnings, during the 10 year period of its implementation with additional, sizable ongoing fiscal benefits thereafter.

Without such a project, the United States will resemble Cambodia, as presented by Nicholas Kristof in the NEW YORK TIMES

Sweatshops? Millions want to work in them

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) - I'd like to invite Mr Richard Gephardt and the other United States Democratic Party candidates to come here to Cambodia and discuss trade policy with scavengers like Ms Nhep Chanda, who spends her days rooting through filth in the city dump.

Ms Nhep Chanda is a 17-year-old girl who is one of hundreds of Cambodians who toil all day, every day, picking through the dump for plastic bags, metal cans and bits of food. The stench clogs the nostrils, and parts of the dump are burning, producing acrid smoke that blinds the eyes. The scavengers are chased by swarms of flies and biting insects, their hands are caked with filth, and those who are barefoot cut their feet on glass. Some are small children. Ms Nhep Chanda averages 75 US cents (S$1.27) a day for her efforts. For her, the idea of being exploited in a garment factory - working only six days a week, inside instead of in the broiling sun, for up to US$2 a day - is a dream.

'I'd like to work in a factory, but I don't have any ID card, and you need one to show you're old enough,' she said wistfully.

'I want to work in a factory, but I'm in poor health and always feel dizzy,' said Ms Lay Eng, 23. And no wonder: she has been picking through the filth, seven days a week, for six years. She has never been to a doctor.

All the complaints about Third World sweatshops are true and then some: factories sometimes dump effluent into rivers or otherwise ravage the environment. But they have raised the standard of living in Singapore, South Korea and southern China, and they offer a leg up for people in countries like Cambodia.

The Democratic Party has been pro-trade since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and president Bill Clinton in particular tugged the party to embrace the realities of trade. Now the party may be retreating towards protectionism under the guise of labour standards. That would hurt American consumers. But it would be particularly devastating for labourers in the poorest parts of the world. For the fundamental problem in poor countries of Africa and Asia is not that sweatshops exploit too many workers; it's that they don't exploit enough.

And this justifies sending jobs of Americans out of the country? That not to do so would hurt American consumers?

Mr. Kristof, your elitism is showing. If Americans have no jobs, then they have no money to spend. If they have no money to spend, then all of these Cambodians, for whom you show more care than you do your fellow citizens, will lose their jobs, for without customers, there is no commerce.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Socialists aren't too impressed with Dick.

Election 2004 and the Democrats: Should this bunch get your vote?

Dick Gephardt
"On the day after the attacks, I went to the Oval Office for a meeting with the president...Since that day, there’s been no daylight between us in this war on terrorism. We’ve met almost every single week and built a bipartisan consensus that is helping America win this war."
--Response to the State of the Union address, January 29, 2002

MISSOURI REP. Dick Gephardt is widely viewed as organized labor’s candidate for the Democratic nomination. The loser for the 1988 nomination is the only contender who can boast that his father was in a trade union--even though his father was a Republican, and he was forced to join the Teamsters as a precondition for getting his job.

Gephardt has a reputation, however inconsistent, for voting with unions on trade issues, including the North American Free Trade Agreement pushed through by the Clinton administration. Gephardt’s current proposal is for an "international minimum wage," which he says would prevent U.S. corporations from going overseas to take advantage of lower-paid work forces and raise the living standards of workers outside the U.S.

But Gephardt also says that this "international" wage would be "variable," depending on the level of development of the country. Minimum and variable?
A good part of Gephardt’s reputation on trade issues revolves around his championing of anti-Asian, protectionist sentiment dating back to the 1980s--which blames Japan and South Korea (and more recently China) for "dumping" goods in the U.S.

Gephardt isn’t pro-worker. He’s the co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the conservative pro-business wing of the Democratic Party that was formed to prove that the Democrats weren’t just the "party of labor." And Gephardt in the White House would likely do little to improve the lives of U.S. workers being sent to occupy Iraq. Early on, Gephardt supported Bush’s call to invade Iraq. While he criticizes how the war has gone, he’s never reversed his support of it.

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pessimist :: 5:15 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!