Obama’s Trade War Against Warren Wounds His Party — and His Legacy

Well, this is awkward. A few days ago President Obama literally laughed off Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s concern that his so-called “fast track” provision, which would limit Congressional power regarding trade deals for the next six years, endangers 2010’s Dodd/Frank financial reforms.

“I’d have to be pretty stupid” to sign an agreement that did that, the President said. He was reportedly laughing as he said it.

Just four days later Canada’s finance minister used a similar trade deal to challenge the “Volcker rule,” a key provision of Dodd/Frank. “I believe–with strong legal basis–that this rule violates the terms of the NAFTA agreement,” Joe Oliver told a banking conference.

As we were saying: awkward.

Informed Sources

Many well-informed observers have echoed Warren’s concerns, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. “The president is making some fairly nasty remarks about people on the other side, that they don’t understand we’re in the 21st century,” said Stiglitz. “Actually, we do. I don’t think he understands what’s happened in the last third of a century.”

Another critic was Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, who wrote that “Senator Warren is entirely correct.”

In fact, the White House appears to be playing word games when it insists that, as paraphrased by Politico’s Ben White, “the fast-track bill currently before Congress includes language that expressly forbids changing U.S. law without congressional action.” That may technically be true. But, by lowering the bar for Senate ratification of trade deals, it makes it easier to pass provisions that would change U.S. law.

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