Want to do something to keep the economy rolling and this bull market alive? Call your senators and congressperson, as mentioned yesterday, and urge them to renew the president’s fast-track negotiating authority.

Trade wars brought on the Depression; freer trade has helped our economy boom. We are little more than 4% of the world’s population with some of the world’s very best products. The more freely we can trade with the other 96% of the world, the better we (and they) will do — and the greater the variety and the lower the cost of the items we get to consume ourselves.

So fast-track — which lets the administration negotiate credibly, subject to an all-or-none, up-or-down vote in Congress — is something every president since Nixon, Republican and Democrat, has favored and had, and something that has served us well. Yet it’s something “the special interests” [cue the melodramatic villain music] are doing a very good job of derailing. Certain specific industries fear trade agreements could hurt — and you can’t blame them for lobbying against fast-track. But for the country as a whole, the effect of trade agreements is very positive.

Yes (to take one example I heard recently), NAFTA cost 50,000 auto industry jobs in Michigan. But in the same time period, Michigan gained 782,000 other jobs! (I haven’t double-checked the figures, but the gist, if not the footnotes, ring true to my ear.)

The next few days are critical. Congress is itching to adjourn, and if they don’t pass fast-track next week, it could be three years before they do, for a variety of political reasons. Not the end of the world, and maybe not the end of the bull market. But why shoot ourselves in the foot? If the president’s people negotiate agreements that don’t make sense, Congress will still have a chance to veto them . . . but all-or-none, as a package, which makes it harder for narrow interests to prevail.

Opposition comes from both Democrats and Republicans. It is winnable, but not if people fail to get energized and send faxes and FedEx packages and call. Just say: “Yes on fast-track!” Trust me: they’ll know. (Needless to say, you are more than welcome to reprint this comment and send it along with your own.)


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