The Regressive Movement

The Wall Street Journal has a good piece on how the Democrats are embracing the legacy of Herbert Hoover.

One of the few things I’ll give Clinton credit for are his trade policies. Clinton signed NAFTA, helped create the World Trade Organization, and helped foster increasing free trade worldwide. In some ways, Clinton’s record on trade beats that of Bush who’s protectionist pandering for steel industry votes put the US on the wrong side of the WTO’s rules against protectionism.

However, the current crop of Democratic candidates, with the exception of Joe Liberman, are all embracing a trade policy that is harmful to the 20% of American jobs that are dependent on trade, and would be devastating to the Third World.

The Democrats insist they don’t oppose free trade but only that any new trade agreements must have "labor and environmental standards" written into them. Dr. Dean has told several interviewers that he would withdraw from the World Trade Organization and Nafta if they weren’t altered to ensure that foreign workers have "the same labor laws and labor standards and environmental standards" as the U.S.

But this is a recipe for precisely the kind of U.S. unilateralism they claim to deplore in the Bush Administration. Not many other countries are pleased to import another country’s labor laws. Poor countries with low wages especially resent the forced imposition of U.S. rules that assume a far higher standard of living.

This is a good point. The Democrats decry US "imperialism" and blame US policy for creating poverty worldwide, yet they advocate an imperialistic enforcement of impossible standards on the Third World that would engender more poverty and more instability in developing countries. For all the talk of US unilateralism, the fact that the Democrats advocate breaking our commitment to NAFTA and the WTO is a clear double standard.

For all the talk about the Democrats being the "progressive" party, their trade polices are simply regressive – an atavistic throwback to the bad old days of Herbert Hoover and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Like the 1920’s it is a policy that would turn a worldwide recession into a worldwide depression.

13 thoughts on “The Regressive Movement

  1. As often as Democrats clumsily resurrect the ghost of Herbert Hoover as an analogy for impending doomsday, I never thought I’d see the day where fellow Republicans would predict that fire and brimstone would follow those who stepped in Hoover’s footprints. There’s something to be said about protectionist tariffs putting the US economy at a global disadvantage, but it’s hard to effectively argue that the application of loftier, Western-style labor protections as provisions of current trade bills without resorting to the sort of hackneyed hyperbole that you did.

    The United States has an interest in developing Third World economies, but not at the expense of our own livelihood. A more sophisticated approach of foreign aid could promote the internal economic development of Third World countries to compete in the global marketplace. The race-to-the-bottom approach of the current globalization dynamic only serves to exploit the poor of other countries by exploiting the poor of this country….a lose-lose situation unless you’re not poor, but rich.

    Also unacceptable is the argument that the financial genocide of one poor person who loses his job is collateral damage for the upward mobility of a rich person who owns the company exporting jobs and one middle-class person who owns stock in the company exporting jobs. But then again, that isn’t even relevant to today’s trade issues where good little suburban Republicans are losing their high-income technology jobs to the lowest bidders and issue is fast becoming a “real problem that affects ME” in this country, and it’s gonna be hard to effectively argue the old rules that applied to globalization (that would be the “don’t worry….it’ll only screw over the blue collar guy on the other side of the tracks” rules) to the yuppies and soccer moms with fresh pink slips in their hands who are looking for some free-market ideologue to blame. You guys had better keep glorifying globalization on a daily basis like you have been. That’ll be the best chance you have of keeping it from becoming a massive political liability for you as other people suffer the real world consequences of your worldview come to life.

  2. A very Shakespearean response.

    In the sense of “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing.”

    The reality is that trade has been the core of the American economic engine for over fifty years, and that one out of every five Americans owes their job to world trade. It is simply untenable for the United States to go from the leader of the global economy to isolationism without gutting the US economy.

    You’re making the same arguments that are made by the xenophobic and isolationist America First crowd every few years. At no point have those predictions of gloom and doom come to pass. Instead, as Sen. Lieberman so correctly pointed out, every time the US has enacted protectionist trade policies the result has been massive economic destruction.

  3. I’m always amazed at the left’s “thinkers” who believe that just because Hoover had an “R” by his name on the ballot, he embraced conservatism.

    When liberals trot out Hoover, it’s to ding the party (erroneously). When conservatives do, it’s to attack protectionism (correctly).

    Generally, of course.

  4. If you ever left the offices of the $100,000+ per year “small business owners” you worship or the mansions that they live in as you kiss their ass, you may notice the toll that “free trade” has taken on manufacturing-heavy towns across America, and in increasingly in technology-heavy suburbs in the past couple years. Go to San Antonio, Texas and talk to some Levi-Strauss workers to see if “the predicted gloom and doom has come to pass” for them. Of course, Levis is just last week’s example. The glamorous world of globalization is certain to produce a new example of American jobs lost to the world’s lowest bidder for labor on the globe this week, next week and the following week.

    Even if your figure is correct that 20 percent of American jobs are the direct product of free trade, and I’ve seen nothing but the hatefully partisan word of Jay Reding to indicate the truth of that statement, the jobs going out the back door because of free trade are vital to national security, moderate economic self-sufficiency, and sustaining the division of labor necessary to accommodate America’s diverse workforce. In whatever ways that America is better off because of trade, I have yet to hear a justifiable reason why the benefits outweigh the consequences, and I fear alot of people are gonna learn the hard way that no such animal exists.

  5. And I’ve yet to hear anything but ad hominem attacks and idioticies coming from you.

    If you’d ever bother to read the articles before shooting your mouth off, you’d see that the 20% comes from Joe Lieberman. Of course that would be too much work for someone who is more interested in third-grade debating tactics than actually understanding how the world works.

    I suggest you spend less time posting inane and superficial comments on this blog and more time reading.

  6. …Go to San Antonio, Texas and talk to some Levi-Strauss workers to see if “the predicted gloom and doom has come to pass” for them…

    Gee, I wonder if these were the same workers who are now building big Toyota pickups at the new SA Toyota plant? Or if these are the same workers now working at KellyUSA, the old air base turned into a transport/manufacturing hub designed for the Latin American market?

    People move on, Mark. You should try it.

  7. Jay,

    You accuse Mark of engaging in ad hominum attacks, yet you call him an idiot, albeit while quoting Shakespeare. At least try to be more consistant.

    Perhaps the Dems are only running left on the trade issue to appeal to the primary voters, and then will tack back to center on the trade issue for the general election. Should be interesting to see Bush try the same thing on trade.

  8. ttam117,

    Anyone disagreeing with the self-righteous, high-spirited, fairly-balanced Jay is a patented idiot.

    Didn’t you know that already?

  9. Brad, whatever the specific situation in San Antonio, the national numbers clearly show a net loss of manufacturing jobs in America in the past few years. Come to think of it, the numbers show a net loss of total jobs in America over that same period. The challenge to people like yourself is to accompany your empty rhetoric about “moving on” with the resources to do so.

  10. And of course Mark has psychic powers that make him know that all of those jobs were lost because of trade and not because of greater efficiency, microeconomic factors, or due to any number of other issues that effect job growth.

    Furthermore, despite the arguments that America is losing jobs, I’ve seen no such figures.

    Again, trade has increased exponentially since 1945. If trade causes a loss in jobs, this exponential growth would cause a commensurate loss in jobs. (It’s simple mathmatics.) Yet the figures show that the US has been gaining jobs steadily over the long term. Therefore, it is clear that trade cannot be primary reason for job loss – as I have mentioned several times, the Commerce Department studied the effects of trade and found that it led to an overal increase of jobs to an confidence level of .85 – which is more than enough to conclusively say that trade creates economic and job growth.

  11. If trade causes a loss in jobs, this exponential growth would cause a commensurate loss in jobs[…]

    […]becuase all possible means and methods of foreign trade are the same ones we’re criticizing…

    [T]he Commerce Department studied the effects of trade and found that it led to an overal increase of jobs to an confidence level of [0].85[.]

    Please Jay, no more statistics for you unless you start providing all the necessary figures so that saying a confidence level of 0.85 will actually mean something.

  12. Actually, the .85 figure is wrong.

    It’s actually .89.

    The source for that study (which examines the US economy from 1945-1991) is this:

    U.S. Department of Commerce, Survey of Current Business 79, no. 4 (April 1999), p. 28.

    Similar studies have also shown similar levels of correlation between job growth and imports.

    Trade barriers raise consumer prices and reduce the choice of goods, and they do not save jobs. Instead of jobs going overseas, trade barriers ensure that those jobs simply disappear. Increased imports create lower prices and more choices, thus inflating real wages and providing increased job growth.

  13. That operative word I think you’re forgetting here Jay is IDEALLY.

    Also, is a study of our economy through 1991 really germaine to this subject? A lot of the woes of our economy through the extreme excesses of foreign trade Mark and others are so worked up about are most evident through a lot of more recent events and economic downturns, although I’m sure they can find plenty to fit thier case within that time period.

    Anyway, still saying a 0.89 confidence interval is meaningless as you’ve still neglected the many other figures required to make it useful. Worse even you just provided a source which you know I’m too lazy to check. Oh well, I suppose I’ll just have to take your word for it. 🙂

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