Monday, March 29, 2010

Conservative Failure

Bill Clinton Apologizes to Haiti for Effects of Free Trade

The "free trade" craze wiping out Haiti's farmers by flooding the country with cheap American rice. The same this happened in northern Mexico with cheap (heavily subsidized) American corn.

On March 10 Bill Clinton apologized to Haiti. See With cheap food imports, Haiti can't feed itself

[W]orld leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They're led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton - now U.N. special envoy to Haiti - who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti's rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."

Here is how it happened:

Three decades ago things were different. Haiti imported only 19 percent of its food and produced enough rice to export, thanks in part to protective tariffs of 50 percent set by the father-son dictators, Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier.

When their reign ended in 1986, free-market advocates in Washington and Europe pushed Haiti to tear those market barriers down. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, freshly reinstalled to power by Clinton in 1994, cut the rice tariff to 3 percent.

Impoverished farmers unable to compete with the billions of dollars in subsidies paid by the U.S. to its growers abandoned their farms. Others turned to more environmentally destructive crops, such as beans, that are harvested quickly but hasten soil erosion and deadly floods.

This is just one more example of conservative failure. Decisions based on ideology eventually hit a wall of reality. Free trade wiped out American manufacturing. Free market deregulation wiped out our economy. Low taxes wiped out our infrastructure and competitiveness. It's time for progressives to find their voice and vision, stop reacting to conservative nay-saying, and get the country moving in a positive, progressive direction.

It's about time!

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