Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
The trade talks starting this weekend are a side show to the main trade event. That's a bill that the White House has been pushing to give the president what's now dubbed "trade promotion authority." It would allow Congress to vote yes or no on any new trade treaty, but not change the terms. That's the only way other countries will be willing to sign trade deals with us.
Yet despite a lot of flag-waving and upbeat talk from the White House about getting trade promotional authority from Congress, the bill is going nowhere. The White House just doesn't have the votes to pass it, even in a Republican-controlled House and even with the backing of the most popular president in recent history.
Just about the only thing George W. Bush and Al Gore agreed on during that interminable campaign last year was a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. Well, the first 100 days of the Bush administration came and went and still no prescription drug benefit, which isn't surprising. Prescription drugs are like the thread sticking out on a tattered sweater. Pull on it and all of Medicare starts to unravel.
Before yesterday, national security was mainly a matter of protecting our borders and containing foreign aggressors. We assumed that with enough border guards, a large enough missile defense shield and a sufficiently equipped military, we could keep bad things out. Inside `Fortress America,' we could lead our private lives pretty much as we wished. But we have entered a new era.
Before terrorism entered our lives -- when we were still innocent, when we believed America was protected from the rest of the world by vast oceans, when it seemed that mass terrorism could never strike at the heart of our nation -- back then, we didn't have to sacrifice our personal privacy in order to maintain our security.
This morning the cleanup and grieving continue, and America is getting back to work. Talk also continues about retribution and war. Some Americans are feeling impatient to strike back at those who participated in any way in these horrific events. There is mounting public pressure to retaliate against our enemies, to demonstrate our power and resolve. General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the American military stands ready.
Who's to blame for the technology stock bubble that burst over the last year, for the billions of dollars that have been lost? Class-action lawsuits are in full gear. Investment houses and brokerages are on the defensive. The financial media are also under fire for acting as mindless cheerleaders. And what about all those authors who solemnly predicted the Dow would hit 15,000 or 21,000 or whatever absurd figure sold their books?