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Egos, Lies and Videotape: McCain goes Latino

Tovin Lapan

Unless American soap operas aren’t cheesy enough for you, you’re addicted to El Gordo y La Flaca, or Spanish happens to be your first language, chances are you don’t take in too much Spanish-language programming. Obama and McCain haven’t forgotten about Spanish speakers in the U.S., though, at least the ones who vote. A fast growing sector of the population, we first started to really pay attention to the Hispanic-vote with George W. Bush’s first election. Dubya did well among the Hispanic population then, but has since fallen out of favor.

Latinos make up about 15 percent of the United States population and 9 percent of eligible voters, which in a close race could mean the difference between moving into the White House and being relegated to fringe status as “that monotone guy who tells inconvenient truths.” Currently, Latino registered voters prefer Obama over McCain by 66 percent to 23 percent, according to the study. Both candidates are hitting Hispanic airwaves with Spanish-language advertising in hopes of capturing the growing minority’s vote. Yet, their voting and political history show the two candidates to be relatively similar on immigration issues, something Hispanic voters are more sensitive to. The Hispanic vote could play a key role in four expected battleground states: Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. So, as our series analyzing the 2008 Presidential Campaign Ads continues, we turn our attention to how the candidates are approaching their Hispanic constituents.

“Colombia Free Trade” -– by John McCain 2008

McCain's free trade pitch - from YouTube.com

“To fuel our economy we must create more jobs for Americans, and for our neighbors to the south. With better jobs – more of them will be able to stay in their country. We can’t go back on our word of free trade promises with Mexico, Canada, Central America, or anyone else. We must encourage more trade agreements to create more jobs on both sides of the border. That’s why I’m behind the Colombian free trade agreement.

“I’m John McCain and I approve this message.”

NAFTA’s success in the U.S. is debatable, but most people agree NAFTA was an overwhelming disaster for Mexico. The agreement only broadened the income gap and pushed more people toward the informal sector. The Mexican markets were flooded with cheap agricultural goods that only further marginalized already struggling local farmers.

If anything, NAFTA has only added to the flood of illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande. The measly manufacturing gains, an estimated 100,000 jobs per year, are a drop in the water compared to the one million new entrants into the workforce. As a result 500,000 people enter the US each year, and the rest migrate to Mexican cities and tourist areas to work in the informal economy where there are no benefits or job security. Now, in a country like Colombia, where the U.S. has spent $5 billion since 2000 on fighting the drug trade and insurgents (only to find out in a recent United Nations report that cocaine production continues to rise), do we really want to push people toward the informal sector?

The agreement will actually make Colombia worse off by up to $75 million, or one-tenth of 1 percent of its GDP, according to a recent study by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America. The losses to Colombia's textiles, apparel, food and heavy manufacturing industries that will face new competition from US imports will outweigh the gains in Colombian petroleum, mining and other export sectors, the study said. What's more, reducing tariffs will strip the government of funds needed for combating guerrillas, fighting crime and developing their economy. The tariff revenue losses for Colombia will amount to $520 million per year, according to a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank. Obama, for his part, has said he opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, wants to renegotiate parts of NAFTA, and would like to use trade agreements to promote higher labor and environmental standards around the world.

These trade agreements have few to zero protections for labor rights (Colombia leads the world in the assassination of union organizers), or environmental standards. The trade agreements may help U.S. companies and producers by lowering tariffs, and opening up the cheaper labor markets. However, with NAFTA those jobs proved insignificant in Mexico, helping a small portion of the population, while hurting the U.S. workforce. McCain’s assertion that the Colombian Free Trade agreement will create jobs, in either country, is absurd. What it will do, like NAFTA, is help the richest 1 percent in both nations. Considering McCain is one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires, and he and his wife own at least eighth homes, no wonder he is thumping for free trade.

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