The Jan. 3 letter in which Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.) defends her free-market trade position exemplifies how many politicians have put corporate interests over those of constituents. Such policies contributed to the net loss of more than 1 million manufacturing jobs in the '90s, resulting in lower standards of living for the middle class.
Full-time workers have increased their productivity by 20 percent since 1978 but are getting 8.6 percent less compensation. As companies threaten to send even more jobs abroad, they count on politicians like Rep. Roukema to support fast-track trade agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These agreements protect corporate interests while undermining the rights of workers and the environment.
Clean air regulations designed to reduce gasoline emissions have been weakened because of WTO claims that they could inadvertently hurt foreign gas producers. Consumers have been forced to choose between rescinding a popular food-safety law or facing economic sanctions. Even generic drugs are threatened, as intellectual property rights claims could keep patents from expiring.
Corporations that support the so-called free-trade agenda contribute heavily to politicians like Rep. Roukema. It is no wonder that these politicians are eager to defend the source of this payola. As people wake up to these realities and take to the streets as they did in Seattle, their elected representatives will ignore them at their peril.