Wonk Wire: U.S. added 233K jobs last month as unemployment rate dips to 5.4%, a 7-year low.
President Obama “will mount his latest defense of a Pacific trade agreement with a visit Friday to the headquarters of a quintessential importer, Nike Inc., a move that scrambles the traditional political arguments for free trade,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“By traveling to the huge importer of shoes from Asia, the president will highlight the consumer benefits of a deal to lower tariffs. Presidents almost always tout potential domestic job gains in selling big trade deals.”
“When there’s cronies involved and getting a special deal, and when other countries are cheating, and Americans lose jobs, I’d like to think the U.S. government would stand up for the U.S. workers rather than let them take it in the backside.”
— Mike Huckabee, in an interview on MSNBC, arguing against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“You can make the unemployment rate anything you want it to be.”
— Ben Carson, quoted by the Washington Post, arguing that politicians and a biased media convince us the economy is better than it actually is.
Politico: “If you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you’ve got to be a member of Congress, and you’ve got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.”
“If you’re a member who wants to read the text, you’ve got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving. And no matter what, you can’t discuss the details of what you’ve read.”
President Obama “escalated a public feud over international trade with the liberal wing of his own party, a brawl that threatens to undermine one of the key goals for the White House this year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The schism over trade widened with several testy exchanges this week between Mr. Obama and his liberal base, including remarks Friday in which the president said critics were mischaracterizing the deal.”
Huffington Post: Obama hits Warren and Democrats on trade
Bertrand Olotara: “Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth – including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike. I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating ‘opportunity’ for workers and helping our kids achieve the ‘American dream’ – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.”
“I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.”
Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats “began feuding over President Obama’s trade initiative Tuesday as his bid for a major late-term win began tearing at the party’s unity and threatened to expose old divisions ahead of the 2016 presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.
“The tensions broke into public view after Clinton hedged during her first remarks on whether she would support an Obama-backed trade package that is gaining traction in Congress but is opposed by some on the party’s politically potent liberal wing.”
Meanwhile, The Hill reports Obama “challenged the claims of skeptical Democrats that new trade deals would hurt American workers by incentivizing companies to ship jobs overseers.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo and Washington “are near an agreement on a major Pacific free-trade pact, a deal that would help advance President Obama’s economic agenda, and tighten ties between the two allies as they seek to counter China’s growing influence,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Working Capital Review: How high-stakes financial innovation is reshaping our world for the better
“As world leaders converge here for their semiannual trek to the capital of what is still the world’s most powerful economy, concern is rising in many quarters that the United States is retreating from global economic leadership just when it is needed most,” the New York Times reports.
“The spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have filled Washington with motorcades and traffic jams and loaded the schedules of President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. But they have also highlighted what some see as a United States government so bitterly divided that it is on the verge of ceding the global economic stage it built at the end of World War II and has largely directed ever since.”
Howard Dean “delivered a stinging critique of modern day capitalism, warning that the economic system is ‘going to fail’ unless substantial efforts are made to regulate the financial industry and reduce income inequality,” the New York Observer reports.
Said Dean: “Actually, capitalism works pretty well–until it doesn’t. Capitalism in this country is going to fail if there’s not a significant, substantial number of people who believe that capitalism works for them and people are beginning to doubt around the world and in this country whether capitalism works for them.”
President Obama’s “high-stakes bid to complete one of the largest free trade pacts in U.S. history — over the objections of most Democrats — moved ahead Thursday when the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation that would give his administration vast new powers to close the deal,” the Washington Post reports.
New York Times: “The ‘trade promotion authority’ bill — likely to be unveiled Thursday afternoon — would give Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
A new Bloomberg poll finds Americans “are becoming more optimistic about the country’s economic prospects by several different measures. President Obama’s handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49% to 46% — his best number in this poll since September 2009.”
But the survey “also reveals that about three-fourths of Democrats and independents, along with a majority of Republicans, say the gap is growing between the rich and everyone else — and a majority of women want the government to intervene to shrink it.”
President Obama “ventured into Red America on Thursday and Friday to sell his economic agenda to small but polite audiences, and along the way he tried to demonstrate that both he and his ideas could travel anywhere in the country, even to the parts where he is deeply unpopular,” the New York Times reports.
“Wavering support in Congress has emerged as the biggest obstacle holding up completion of a 12-nation Pacific trade pact under negotiation for nearly a decade,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Obama administration’s push to win fast-track powers from Congress to expedite the deal’s passage has stalled amid disagreements among lawmakers over how much leverage they should have over the pact’s final form. That uncertainty is stirring fear among many of the 11 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the U.S., who say they need proof Congress is on board before agreeing to final conditions in the deal.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is meeting with House Democrats in an effort to push back against President Obama’s trade agenda, The Hill reports.
“The liberal senator met Tuesday with a group of House Democrats before administration officials were to meet with a larger of group of Democrats to discuss the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, one of the most controversial issues in two trade deals that the Obama administration is negotiating.”
Politico: Top liberals call for Warren candidacy
“I believe firmly that there are jobs to be had not just across my state but across America. If you work hard and play by the rules in America, you should be able to do anything.”
— Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), quoted by The Hill.
“Unemployment fell in every state and the nation’s capital last year—something that hadn’t happened since 1984,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Unemployment fell the most in Illinois, where the rate dropped 2 percentage points from the prior year to an average 7.1%. The rate declined by 1.8 points in Colorado, North Carolina and Ohio.”
“North Dakota, at the center of the nation’s energy boom of the past few years, had the lowest jobless rate of any state at 2.8% last year.”