For months, President Obama has been accused of hiding from the public and members of Congress crucial details of the Pacific Rim trade deal he's seeking. But now evidence has emerged that the administration is suppressing information that's at least as important – on how previous trade agreements and policies have performed for the economies of America's individual states.

Much of politics is local, as the late Congressional Democratic leader Tip O'Neill used to say. That's why lawmakers evaluating Obama's trade agenda, plus his request for fast track negotiating authority, have prized information on trade's impact on the states they represent. As a result, state-level data has dominated the trade-related economic materials distributed by the administration and its business allies.


Most prominently, earlier this year the Commerce Department issued with great fanfare a report showing that 26 states achieved record exports in 2014, and that eight more generated increased overseas sales last year. According to Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerDNC hauls in .5 million in June Michelle Obama officiated Chicago wedding: report Election Countdown: Trump plans ambitious travel schedule for midterms | Republicans blast strategy for keeping House | Poll shows Menendez race tightening | Cook Report shifts Duncan Hunter's seat after indictment MORE, “Exports are critical to economic growth and job creation in communities across the country.,” As a result, she emphasized, “Now is the time for Congress to pass bipartisan trade promotion legislation, so we can enact new trade agreements with high standards that uphold our values and protect our national security.”

Commerce understands that trade flows consist of imports as well as exports. Thus since 2010, the agency has been tracking both for every individual state, in addition to keeping economy-wide two-way trade data. Yet in stark contrast to the export information, the import data is buried deep inside the department's website. And the reason seems obvious: With the United States as a whole running massive trade deficits, most of the states have long imported more they export, too. In 2014, 37 states fell into this category. The U.S. Business and Industry Council has presented the results for the current economic recovery at this new website.

Even worse, a more detailed analysis reveals that, as with the national economy, the trade balances of most states (34 specifically) have deteriorated since the recession ended in 2009. And whenever trade deficits increase or trade surpluses decrease, economic growth and job creation slow down – damage the feebly recovering American economy can ill afford.

As a result, the data kept under wraps by Commerce makes the trade positions taken by many of the president's most prominent Congressional supporters difficult at best to explain to constituents.

For example, one of Congress' leading champions of the Pacific Rim-wide Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and new fast track negotiating authority for the president is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal MORE (R-Ky.) – who has staunchly opposed Obama on most other issues. But McConnell has picked a strange front for cooperation. Since the current U.S. recovery began, his state of Kentucky saw its trade deficit rise from $7.70 billion to $11.63 billion, meaning that its trade flows have held its economy back.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE, Republican of Utah, has worked hard on behalf of the Obama trade agenda, too. This matters because the Finance Committee he chairs takes the trade policy lead for the Senate. His state ran a $1.16 billion trade surplus in 2014. But that's down from $3.77 billion in 2009, meaning that trade has undermined Utah's economy, too, during the recovery.

Hatch's Democratic counterpart on the Finance Committee, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny MORE of Oregon, has a better case for backing new trade agreements and authority. His state is one of the few has enjoyed a trade surplus that's increased during the recovery – from $2.96 billion to $7.11 billion – and so production and hiring have gained. Ditto for Democrats like Wyden's Finance colleague Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Senate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill MORE of Washington State, and Democratic Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder MORE and Chris Coon from Delaware, whose trade deficit has shrunk since 2009.

But Democratic voters from California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Virginia arguably have not been so well represented. Their senators  -- Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping GOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end MORE (D-Calif.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the November forum Fox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (D-Colo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Fla.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts MORE (D-Mo.), Jean Shaneen (D-N.H.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KainePentagon No. 2 denies trying to block official's impeachment testimony Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban MORE (D-Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (D-Va.) -- all just voted to endorse policies that so far have worsened their states' trade balances, and therefore hamstrung their recoveries. Still, of the 31 Democratic senators who opposed the bill to launch a debate on fast track, 26 voted consistently with the trade interests of their states, which have seen worsening balances during the recovery.

Yet of the 52 Republicans who favored the fast track debate bill, only 19 can accurately say that they voted to strengthen their states' economies. Those who voted for it so far even though their states' trade balances have worsened and slowed growth include presidential hopefuls Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters MORE of Florida, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE of South Carolina, and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate scraps plan to force second stopgap vote ahead of shutdown On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters MORE of Kentucky. Almost adding insult to injury, voters in ten states have awarded Republicans both their Senate seats – Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. In return, they've received 20 trade votes that have undermined their recoveries.

The trade figures not publicized by Commerce could create such problems in the House, too. Republican Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio) has challenged President Obama on many fronts. Yet he's chosen cooperation to push a trade strategy that has helped more than double Ohio's deficit since the recession ended, from $8.81 billion to $17.98 billion. Also puzzling is the fast track enthusiasm of Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIs Joe Biden finished? Krystal Ball previews fifth Democratic debate Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled MORE (Wis.), Republican chair of the Ways and Means Committee that holds chief trade policy responsibility in the House. Trade flows have actually worsened Wisconsin's recovery growth slightly.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and Republican conference chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThe Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill MORE (Wash.) represent states with improving trade balances. So their support for fast track makes economic sense. Not so Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R), with California's recovery-era trade deficit jumping by more than 52 percent, or Republican Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer (R), given the more than quintupling of Indiana's trade shortfall.

The president recently has urged trade policy critics to “look at the facts” before condemning his trade initiatives. Whether they serve in Congress or not, they'd have a much easier time if his administration would publicize more of them.

Tonelson is the author of “The Race to the Bottom” and founder of the public policy blog RealityChek.