Austan’s (city?) limits

Monday 17 March, 2008

I read this article by David Greising in the Chicago Tribune Going to school on presidential politic about Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economics professor who’s an economic advisor to Barack Obama. Apparently Goolsbee responded to an invitation from the Canadian consulate in Chicago to explain Barack’s position & ended up being roasted for it. Austan has been roundly chastised for intimating that Barack’s rhetoric against NAFTA is just that.

As a former employee of the Canadian consulate in Chicago & 1 who knows A. Goolsbee, I have to comment. 1st of all, Barack’s issues with NAFTA are labor & the environment. Loonie-rich canucks are not barraging across the border taking US jobs & Canadian factories are not belching out smoke that is polluting the atmosphere of the US. Barack’s issues must be with the neighbor to the south & not the north, so speaking with the Canadians makes little sense because they have little to fear from change. 2ndly, while Barack supposedly could reopen NAFTA talks, because it was passed 10+ years ago & is already pretty firmly-entrenched, he’d have little chance of making major changes. That’s why bluster about changing NAFTA is simply rhetoric with little chance for real change. Potentially populism politics, but poor economics & not reality-based.

Finally, I’ve met & corresponded with Austan. He’s a brilliant guy. I met him @ a this Chicago Council on Global Affairs event I introduced myself to him because he speaks regularly on Marketplace, an NPR business news radio program & at the time, I was trying to get an international business news program on NPR. When we shook hands, he said, “I know you.” We finally figured out that since we both do triathlons, he’d seen me @ Chicago Triathlon Club meetings. He offered to put me in touch the the President of Public Radio International & did that. I had the conference call a few weeks later. He didn’t have to help me out, but he did, & followed through. Few people do that today, so I respect his integrity.

The Canadians should not have leaked information that I’m sure was delivered off the record. Goolsbee provided that information in good faith, & was chastised for it. Austan is a good guy & I’m glad he hasn’t resigned. If Barack has people as intelligent as Austan Goolsbee surrounding him, I have a lot more confidence in him than our current leadership.

Here‘s a supposed copy of the memo from the Canadian Consulate in Chicago which was forwarded & presumably leaked in Canada. I question whether it’s the original because of the formatting. They’re not really so old-fashioned as to circulate old-typewriter written looking documents. I don’t know the interviewee (HOM-Head of Mission Georges Rioux) & scribe Joe DeMora because they rotated in after I left the office in 2003.

For the record, check out this editorial Two faces on NAFTA for a more realistic view of where NAFTA stands today.

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