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Posted by on Jul 21, 2009 in Economy | 11 comments

More “Protectionism” Fever Swamp Dreams

BuyAmerican.jpgI had the sad experience today of moderating an online chat during an interview with Nick Gillespie of Reason TV and yet another screed on how awful it is if people should actually ask their government to “Buy American.” (Featured earlier today on Hot Air.) Nick’s primary modus operandi was the usual distraction of saying that some products (gasp!) have a lot of foreign made parts in them, followed up with a generous dose of bashing the Obama administration for having the nerve to include a (double gasp!) Buy American clause in the stimulus package.

On the domestic front, President Obama and our Congress have done very little to give me reason for cheer thus far, but on the rare occasions when they get something right, we should certainly not pillory them.

Republicans, on many occasions, have wrongly been accused of convincing their base to promote policies which work against their own interests. But in this one case, it’s not only a fair criticism but a blinding truth. In case you’d like to know exactly how this sad state of affairs came to be, I can lay it out for you in a few simple steps.

1. Promoting “Buy American” policies and other initiatives which support American manufacturing and production creates more work here.

2. Helping American manufacturing interests, by default, creates a better environment for American labor unions.

3. Labor unions, in large part, support Democrats and their agenda in government.

4. Supporting labor unions helps Democrats, so it hurts Republicans.

5. Buying American hurts the GOP and should therefore be rejected.

That’s pretty much the beginning and the end of it. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst cases I can think of where a political party has so blatantly worked to harm American interests for the purpose of success in the political arena and gotten so many Americans to buy into it.

This didn’t originate with one party or the other. It came from a combination of Bill Clinton in the White House and the Gingrich revolution in Congress. “Free trade” has been anything but, as we watch ourselves get sucked into unfair agreements with governments around the world who consistently and openly enact protectionist policies. But don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to the politicians. Take a look at:

Our trade deficit over the last two decades.

Our trade deficit over the last two decades.

Our trade deficit over the last two decades.

Our trade deficit over the last two decades.

Perhaps… just perhaps… if I give you four shots at clicking on the link you will take a look at numbers instead of rhetoric. You might examine the trend in our trade deficit with all of these countries over the period we are discussing. Just MAYBE you will set aside the GOP talking points and ask yourself, “just how well is this so called free trade working out for us?

You know, I actually had someone in the chat today say, (and I quote) “So America is a country that imports more than it exports. So what else is new?” So do most third world countries. If you have a pool that you are draining by one-third every day, …. Helloooooooooo? Does anyone honestly think that’s a recipe for economic success?

So many people have blindly bought into the idea that “we live in a global economy and working in it will produce more jobs.” It has not. Actually… I take that back. It’s produced lots of jobs. Countless software engineers, help desk technicians and graphic designers have been “downsized” and traded their one paltry job in those industries for two new jobs at Starbucks or strip malls. So I guess these policies DO work! Lot’s of these people have twice as many jobs as they used to! Yay!

If you have any interest in some actual data and observations which rise a few notches above Nick Gillespie’s fever swamp ramblings, I invite you to read “How Americans Can Buy American” by Roger Simmermaker.

Every item you buy will generally not be 100% American in origin, but you still help out by purchasing items which are more American in origin, and it’s not that hard to figure out how to do it. Having a government which actually wants to promote American business, employment and productivity is a good thing, even if it does happen to hurt one party or the other right now.

Are there serious problems with American unions? Absolutely. And they cause many of their own problems, drive up costs with legacy obligations and some may have even outlived their original mission. But when you hurt American business just to hurt unions, you are doing damage at home and that is, frankly, one of the most Anti-American things I can think of. Fix the unions. Change the system. But please don’t screw the rest of us in the process when we need every job we can get and every source of revenue we can scrape up.