Adam Davidson has an interesting piece in the NYT Magazine that highlights the similarities in the economic positions of President Obama and Governor Romney. While many of the points are likely true, some are less clear.
For example, if Governor Romney follows his budget plan, then he will have to dismantle most of the federal government after two terms in office. (Odds are that he won't.) If he follows his campaign pledge he would also have to dismantle the health care plan that President Obama took from him. In this and other cases, whether the candidates are viewed as similar depends on what we think Governor Romney will actually do if he were elected.
However one area in which the piece clearly errs is in saying:
"both men strongly support expanding free trade."
While both Obama and Romney are likely to push more trade agreements along the lines of NAFTA, it would be inaccurate to call this "free trade." At this point most of the tariffs or quotas that would be viewed as obstacles to free trade have been removed. The issues that fill current trade agreements generally involve rules on investment, environmental and safety restrictions and intellectual property.
These are not traditional free trade issues. In fact, intellectual property is the opposite of free trade since it involves government granted monopolies. This is the reason that some conservative proponents of free trade have objected to the inclusion of intellectual property issues in trade agreements.
It is standard for political figures to wrap all these items into deals that they label as "free trade" agreements because educated people are scared to be opposed to anything that is called "free trade." But this is not Alice in Wonderland, politicians don't get to make words mean whatever they want them to mean.
Obama and Romney both support a pro-business trade agenda. They do not support expanding free trade.
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