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An exchange on trade policy with the Mayor of New York

by Bill McGaughey

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York came to Minneapolis to address a breakfast fundraiser for Minnesota’s Independence Party on Friday, July 25, 2008.  The event was held at the Pavilion Inn on Nicollet Island across from downtown.

I sat at a table with Steve Williams, the party’s endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, and “Red” Nelson, a realtor who has run for state legislature and served on the Metropolitan Council.  The mayor was led to a table near the podium where Dean Barkley and other party dignitaries sat.  I shook his hand as he passed by our table but there was no chance then for conversation.

I spotted Mayor Bloomberg in conversation with persons gathered by the table in front.  An opening presented itself.  So I walked over to that table and introduced myself to the mayor as one who might be representing the Independence Party for Congress in Minneapolis.  

I then asked Mayor Bloomberg if he thought trade might usefully be an issue in a campaign such as mine. I expressed the opinion that America’s high priced labor could not compete in global markets.

Bloomberg responded by saying that he believed in free trade.  With respect to our high-priced labor, he said that the United States had the best educational system in the world.  He also thought that our country was poised for an export boom, and it would be a shame to close the door on that opportunity.  With the Hawley-Smoot tariff of the 1930s, we had tried protectionism before and it hadn’t worked.

I responded with the opinion that today’s trade was not like that in the 1930s.  There was not trade between industrialized nations and their respective industries but between multinational corporations and their suppliers in which free trade served the purpose of cutting out high-priced U.S. labor and obtaining it more cheaply abroad.

At this point, the party’s state chair, Craig Swaggert, nudged me as if to suggest it was inappropriate to engage Mayor Bloomberg in a lengthy political argument.  The mayor himself graciously acknowledged that democracy was about having discussions on various subjects.

So I took leave of this group and returned to my table.  The mayor later addressed the gathering - perhaps 150 persons - with a talk lasting perhaps half an hour.  It was interesting and informative.  A point that especially interested me was that the mayor pointed out that American students ranked 26th among those of 30 nations in math.

I was disappointed, however, not to be mentioned among the party’s candidates in this year’s elections when all the others were named and asked to stand.  It may have been that, despite filing for the 5th District Congressional election, I have not yet been endorsed by the party; and perhaps may never be.

On the way out of the building after the meeting, I ran into Paul Gaston, a candidate for state legislature from Vadnais Heights who had introduced Mayor Bloomberg at the gathering.  He said he thought I had asked a good question.  So that made everything worthwhile. 

I then drove to my next appointment at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to meet Brian Moore, the Socialist Party candidate for president who had been a close friend of my brother when he was alive. Moore, who lives in Tampa Florida, was on his way to Milwaukee to kick off a petition drive in Wisconsin and had time to talk during the two-hour layover.


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