Friday, August 17, 2007

Time to Make Free Trade an Issue

Among the issues in which there is a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans, there are very few, in my opinion, that are bigger slam dunks than free trade. For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans have stood idly by while one Democrat after another has slammed free trade agreements while kow towing to labor unions and not hit back.
I learned the benefits of free trade in my second or third week of Economics 101. The logic is simple. Every country has resources of which they are plentiful (Brazil is stocked with sugar for instance), and other resources of which they are deficient. Free trade allows each nation to export its plentiful resource and import those resources that are in short supply. This seems so easy and basic that I was actually shocked when I first found politicians attacking free trade agreements like NAFTA.

Yet, each Democratic Presidential candidate has come out against not only NAFTA, but CAFTA and the WTO itself. They have tried to mask their obvious pandering to the labor unions by coming up with nebulus terms like, fair trade, which frankly is some utopia that they create so that no free trade agreement can ever be passed.

Here is a sample from each of them...

John Edwards

"Trade has become a bad word for working Americans for a simple reason: our
trade policy has been bad for working Americans. We need new trade policies that
put workers, wages and families first."

Hillary Clinton

"Well, outsourcing is a problem, and it's one that I've dealt with as a senator
from New York. I started an organization called New Jobs for New York to try to
stand against the tide of outsourcing, particularly from upstate New York and
from rural areas. We have to do several things: end the tax breaks that still
exist in the tax code for outsourcing jobs, have trade agreements with
enforceable labor and environmental standards, help Americans compete, which is
something we haven't taken seriously. 65% of kids do not go on to college. What
are we doing to help them get prepared for the jobs that we could keep here that
wouldn't be outsourced--and find a new source of jobs, clean energy, global
warming, would create millions of new jobs for Americans."

Barack Obama

" I moved to Chicago to work with churches that were dealing with the
devastation of steel plants that had closed all throughout the region. Tens of
thousands of people had been laid off. There was never a federal effort to come
in after those closings and to figure out how can we retrain workers for the
jobs of the future, how can we invest and make sure capital is available to
create new businesses in those communities. And so not only do we have to deal
with our trade agreements, not only do we have to eliminate tax breaks for
companies that are moving overseas, not only do we have to work on our education
system, but we also have to have an intentional strategy on the part of the
federal government to make sure that we are reinvesting in those communities
that are being burdened by globalization and not benefiting from it"

The Democrats in Congress have already been able to block several free trade agreements with Colombia and with South Korea, and of course, they are jumping over each other to propose new ways of restricting NAFTA, CAFTA and every other free trade agreement we currently have. So far, they have been relatively unscathed and have been able to pander for votes. This must stop. Free trade is simple, sound, and logical economic policy. It benefits everyone and arguing against it means arguing against logical economic principles. Thus, in any debate on free trade, we win, since we have logic on our side.
I was quite heartened to find this editorial in the San Diego Tribune, I hope I see more of this...

"If this is true, and Democrats take the White House next year while
retaining control of Congress, fear for your country. Pundits' assertions that
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards won't really
follow through on their rhetoric ignores what congressional Democrats already
have done on trade, blocking new pacts with Latin America and South Korea. It's
plain that free-trade Democrats have been routed by those spouting union talking

So what if protectionism helped keep Europe stagnant for generations; so
what if there is massive evidence that protecting jobs quickly becomes a drag on
job growth; so what if U.S. trade policy has helped make us a much richer nation
than ever. Democrats see votes to be won by lying about trade, and they're not
going to let the facts get in their way.
Their maligning of the North
American Free Trade Agreement is a perfect example. Its adoption in 1993 helped
kick off one of the great periods of sustained economic health in U.S. history.
The resulting explosion in trade with Canada and Mexico was crucial to the
creation of more than 17 million new jobs, resulting in a five-year stretch in
which the jobless rate was under 5 percent every year for only the second time
since World War II."

It isn't the job of the San Diego Tribune though to do the bidding of the Republican in a principle that I believe is the core of Conservatism, free trade. I think it is time that this becomes one of the front and center issues. I want to see Hillary Clinton arguing against her husband's own pet project in a debate with whoever our candidate is. The issue of free trade is nothing short of a huge winner for us Republicans, but it won't be if it isn't made an issue. So far, I have heard very little from any of the candidates, except maby Hunter who argues against it, on the issue of free trade. I don't understand why. Rudy has gained plenty of traction with socialized medicine and protectionism carries with it the same sort of negative connotation. I hope that as the campaign goes along Republican candidates make just as much of free trade as Democratic candidates have made of protectionism.


Anonymous said...

NAFTA is a failure, get over it.

mike volpe said...

I don't mind critics but if you are going to be credible you must back such statements with evidence and facts. Just to say that NAFTA is a failure means nothing. Anyone can say that about anything. If it is a failure as you claim then there should be evidence all around you. Since you provided none, that means that what you are really saying is that you don't believe in free trade, and that is a lot different than NAFTA being a failure.