McCain’s Trade Deficit (from The Washington Independent)

This op-ed piece by Robert Borosage in The Washington Independent is critical of McCain’s unbridled support for free trade.  There are a couple of key paragraphs that I’d like to high-light:

But surely, any “student of history,” or member of the Republican Party, should know that the U.S. economy developed and prospered behind protectionist tariff barriers throughout its history. Republican presidents were leading advocates of high tariffs to bolster American industry. It was only after World War II, when U.S. industry dominated a world exhausted by war, that Washington became an advocate for more open trade. Protectionism is as American as apple pie. Trade policy in its modern form is a corporate strategy, not a “continuing principle.”

McCain’s mantra in defense of free trade echoes what most defenders say, from mainstream economists to The Washington Post editorial page. Assertion – “free trade benefits America” – replaces analysis.  Boosterism – “we can compete with anyone” – supplants the cold calculation that used to be the hallmark of America’s business community.  Authority – and the money and power of the Wall Street lobby – displaces argument.

This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to hammer home over and over again on this blog and on others.  For the first 170 years of our nations history, it was tariffs that built us into the world’s preeminent industrial power and the wealthiest nation on earth – the envy of every other nation.  Today, only 61 years since signing the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, our experiment with “free” trade has reduced us to a skid row bum, literally begging the rest of the world for cash to keep us afloat. 

I encourage you to read the whole article, as it’s truly a masterpiece of challenging our current trade policies. 


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