Montana’s Max: Nutcakes!

Senator Max Baucus, who never met a trade deal he didn’t like, has a great deal of respect for people, both left and right, who have concerns about free trade agreements:

He said people do want the right thing, even if they’re not sure what that is on complex issues. He told business leaders at the Emergency Committee for American Trade meeting that straight talk on trade issues would lead most Americans to see its benefits.

“I’d say 70 percent of people are in that big middle. There are 15 percent right-wing that are nutcakes, and there’s 15 percent left-wing and they’re nutcakes … (and) the big center. And just listen, and people do want the right thing.”

That’s certainly comforting rhetoric. 30% of Americans, according to the Senator, are insane because they disagree with his corporatist trade policy.

Concern about lax environmental standards, concern about trade imbalances, concern about stagnant or even declining wages for American workers who struggle to find manufacturing jobs, concern about granting excessive authority to the executive through fast track trade agreements, concern about U.S. endorsement of inhumane working conditions? All nuts!

Enhancing the bottom line of multinational corporations who operate above the law and whose profits rarely make it to the hands of workers who produce them? Sane fiscal policy.

At least Baucus has a sound basis for his claims, right? Well, he did cite his support for NAFTA as a justification for more free trade agreements:

Fielding questions after his speech, Baucus said he was the only statewide Montana figure who voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement and that he took some grief for it.

“But you’ve just got to stand up and say what you think is right,” he said.

The Economic Policy Institute might disagree with that conclusion, those nutcakes. Their study of NAFTA has demonstrated that it has widened U.S. trade deficits and pushed American workers into lower-paying jobs. Their insanity doesn’t even come close to that of Thea Lee, head of research on International Trade for the AFL-CIO, who argues that free the Bush free trade agenda has led to lost jobs, poor working conditions, and trade imbalances.

Good thing the Montana AFL-CIO is holding Senator Baucus accountable, right? Oops.

In the end, though, I may be being unfair to the Senator. It’s certainly possible that he believes that the majority of Americans share his viewpoint. After all, 70% or more of Senator Baucus’s campaign contributions come from people who are probably big supporters of his trade agenda. After all, between 2003-08, 89% of his PAC money is from business, with only 4.9% from labor.

After awhile, that kind of contribution might just start to influence one’s perception of “doing the right thing.”

Update: Jay has a different take.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • You obviously didn’t understand what Max was saying. He’s saying that extremists, whether they be from the right or left are nutcakes. If you can’t see that, then you’re probably in that 30% percent somewhere

  • No, I understand exactly what Baucus was saying. He’s trying to demonize the opponents of an ideologically bankrupt trade policy by calling them “nutcakes.”

    It’s certainly easier to do that than to engage the argument.

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