Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Trade Maven: Trump pick for US Trade Representative calls Obamacare a ‘disaster’

Donald Trump didn’t make much news Friday, but his pick for U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, gave the most important speech of his job history thus far. Lighthizer criticized Washington politicians for giving in to bad trade deals. He didn’t mention the trade agreements the country is negotiating, including the one signed by President Obama that he claims provided the basis for Friday’s announcement.

Instead, he bashed the Obamacare — a law that he has said on multiple occasions he considers a disaster. Lighthizer argued that efforts to strengthen the law are being blocked by Democrats in the Senate and he said that if “we do not repair this disastrous law, we will be permanently tied to a failing health care system that will expose American children to catastrophic cost and coverage changes, and significantly

raise premiums for all Americans.” The TPP was in President Obama’s last term and his party lost the Senate. Lighthizer’s speech, which was also delivered on Friday, strongly suggests that, whatever the final decision on this trade agreement is, the TPP, including its corporate-friendly job protections, will be set aside. The chances of the TPP entering into force are next to nil. Not because of Donald Trump, but

because of Robert Lighthizer, a former chief White House trade negotiator during the Reagan administration, who is a relentless opponent of the agreement. On the eve of Lighthizer’s speech, a Department of Health and Human Services official announced the administration was dropping their requirement that drug companies provide prices for the generic versions of drugs in their manufacture. The rule was part of the

Affordable Care Act and means that consumers could receive the same drug at a lower price if the manufacturer can’t meet that demand. To Lighthizer, this appears to be the height of bureaucratic regulation. “There are many things I’d rather do than pick winners and losers in the marketplace with regulations. But this particular question has had enormous ramifications for patients,” he said at the Economic Club of

Washington on Thursday. Many in the political world are giving Lighthizer high marks for his bluntness. After all, this administration was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be the “adult in the room” that the country had long been seeking. But perhaps the “adult” isn’t an oxymoron. That may have been a hard sell to former vice president Joe Biden, who is currently weighing a 2020 run for president. When

Biden was running for president in 1988, he opposed government mandates for how parents register their children in school. Biden felt then that government officials shouldn’t be putting their thumb on the scale. He thought their hand was being involved in other things that shouldn’t be. It’s hard to believe that Biden wouldn’t have some thoughts on Robert Lighthizer and his views on issues like the Affordable Care

Act and corporate-friendly trade deals. Still, the prevailing opinion was that Biden would decline to run for president, based on his long Senate tenure and his experience in Washington. Biden may be contemplating a 2020 run, after all. If he does run, though, it seems reasonable to expect that his views on trade would be very different from Lighthizer’s. That would be a nice contrast to the coziness between the two

men, both from the Rust Belt, in their previous roles in politics. Still, one of the other big personalities in Washington will be speaking Friday evening at the venue Lighthizer was speaking at. It’s a fitting place for one of the most controversial politicians in the country. Nancy Pelosi will be speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in D.C. The Chamber, founded by George Washington, has deep ties to corporate

America. While it certainly promotes business, and jobs, for the country, it’s known as a pro-American business organization. It has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to members of Congress over the years. In 2017, the Chamber was one of the largest contributors to Republicans in the country, both in Washington and across the country. It would appear that Nancy Pelosi is becoming part of the

establishment she once warned was becoming corrupt.

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