CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight-Transcript
DOBBS: The president's fast track trade authority enables him to negotiate trade deals without oversight from Congress or voters. It expires at the end of June. Those deals have cost middle-class Americans millions of jobs as reported here just tonight.
And since 2002, the president's signed a dozen free trade agreements, bilateral agreements with nations from Chile to Oman and a major deal with South Korea is now being negotiated.
Congressman Barney Frank is the chairman of the House Financial Service Committee and he agrees that fair trade deals would be better, and that these free trade deals, so-called have, cost millions of jobs. Congressman Frank, joins us. Mr. Chairman, good to have you with us.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MA: Thank you, Lou. Glad to have the chance.
DOBBS: First talk about, this first the trade promotion authority, the fast track authority. The campaign's already under way. The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Democratic Leadership Council. The third way on the Democratic side. And of course President Bush himself. The National Association of Manufacturers. They're all pushing for it. Is it going to happen?
FRANK: No. I think Third Way better understand this is really the third rail we're talking about. Nobody's going to touch it. Some of us having trying to tell them, the business community, the financial community for some time that an economic model in which there is growth and increasing inequality just doesn't work.
And they haven't listened because they've had everything their own way. And apparently even after what we saw in Seattle, with the world trade deal and everything else, they're not paying attention.
So it did seem to me, time to get this across to them. I guess it's going to take a real meaningful denial them. They want -- I do not believe that Congress will or should pass trade promotion authority expansion. Because, again, you know, look, the minimum wage shouldn't be a big deal but in a Congress in which we can't even get the minimum wage raised, in which the ability of the middle class to survive is being eroded, the notion that they can just ignore us and go ahead and continue to do business as usual, they're not paying attention.
DOBBS: The power, and this isn't discussed much, except certainly it is discussed on this program, the overwhelming political power of corporate America today is all but -- it's just not -- there's no countervailing influence it seems. Labor unions have been minimized. My gosh, in Colorado recently, they're trying to take -- to make it somewhat easier to organize. That governor just rolled over.
FRANK: Here's the deal, and I think it is true. Money is very powerful, but votes can beat money if the votes get energized. I think we're at a point, and I think we saw in the last election, that average citizen understands what's going wrong.
Look, when George Bush has to say publicly that he's worried about income equality, then we know, not that he's serious about it in my judgment but that he's been told this is a major political issue.
And whatever corporate America thinks, they are in for a big surprise. If the want to get a deal in this Doha round, it won't pass the House. And if they then come and get trade promotion and ask for it to be extended, it won't pass.
I do think the power of money, the power of corporate America, and by the way, they've been weakened in some. I tell you what we will pass soon, I believe is a bill that allows shareholders to vote annually on CEO compensation. I think we've reached a point where that degree of indignation is going to carry.
DOBBS: Well that CEO pay in the last 30 years, just about 35 years, has gone from about 20 times the average worker's pay to just over 400 times the average worker's pay in any company. I mean it's insane.
FRANK: It's taken away - here's the best example. When Nardelli got $230 million, they were bragging about ...
DOBBS: Of Home Depot.
FRANK: Home Depot was saying fix up our stores and put $350 million in fixing up our stores. Well, those are comparable numbers. If they haven't overpaid him so wildly, they could have done a much better job of fixing up the stores. There is a real cost to this excess.
DOBBS: You mentioned the economy. I want to show everyone watching and listening to you what you've had to say recently.
At last week's hearing you said this, "I tell my Republicans friend, keep telling the American people about how good the economy is because the disparity between what you tell them is happening and what they feel themselves makes them even angrier."
Why is the simple - and I refer to it as an independent nonpartisan reality, the facts, why is that so difficult for bright enable men and women in Congress to comprehend?
FRANK: It's a combination of partisanship and ideology. These are people who want to believe, so they wish - look, we had this problem last year. Ed was there. Perfectly nice man. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He was frustrated because he said how come we are not get credit for this good economy?
Basically he was telling people who were well off and we didn't believe him. And I said there was one scene in the Marx Brothers where Groucho catches Chico red-handed and Chico says, who are you going to believe me or your own eyes?
And what the Bush administration is saying, who are you going to believe, me or your own wallet? I don't care that you don't have any money and that you're in serious trouble. But I think as I say a combination of partisanship and ideology but I think reality's breaking through.
DOBBS: Well, Barney Frank, we appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, outstanding to have you here. And everyone who cares about working men and women in this country, hope that your forecast of the future is right.
FRANK: I appreciate it. Thank you.