Candidates Tackle Trade in Final Debate

Following the 2nd debate, my expectations for last night were pretty low.  In spite of declaring before the 2nd debate that he would tackle the subjects of trade and immigration, Tom Brokaw did neither and his moderation may have been the worst for any presidential debate in history. 

So last night was a pleasant surprise.  Bob Schieffer did an outstanding job and finally drew the candidates into a discussion of trade, the most critical sub-issue of the over-arching issue of the economy.  The difference in the candidates’ positions on trade was stark.  True to form, McCain favors free trade, regardless of the consequences.  He supports free trade with Colombia, despite Colombia’s record of targeting labor leaders for assassination.  He favors eliminating tariffs on imported ethanol.  He favors eliminating subsidies for American agricultural products.  He has never expressed any concern about the loss of five million manufacturing jobs.  He believes all nations should have unfettered free access to the American market.  Only when talking about oil imports does he express concern about the “$700 billion we give to people who don’t like us very much,” a piece of data he extracted out of context from the T. Boone Pickens ad about energy policy, which drives me nuts every time I hear him repeat it, which is often.  McCain:  please, please, please get your facts straight on this!  $700 billion is the amount of our total trade deficit.  (Watch the T. Boone Pickens ad again.  He never says this is the amount we spend on foreign oil.)  Of that $700 billion, only about $300 billion is for foreign oil, and only a fraction of that goes to Middle Eastern countries and Venezuela – the countries who “don’t like us very much.” 

Obama, on the other hand, is opposed to trade with Colombia until they improve their labor rights record.  He is opposed to NAFTA being so skewed in Mexico’s favor.  He raised the fact that Korea exports hundreds of thousands of cars to us annually while importing almost nothing from the United States.  He mentioned China unfairly manipulating the exchange rate to sustain their $300 billion per year trade surplus.  And he has spoken often of tax breaks for companies who create jobs in America as well as helping our domestic industries.

I still have questions about whether or not Obama will really follow through and take the actions necessary to reduce (or hopefully eliminate) our trade deficit, but at least he sees the deficit as a problem and makes the connection between it and the loss of jobs and damage done to our economy.  Since the trade deficit is by far and away the biggest contributor to our economic mess, Obama’s approach to the economy is the right one.  I am an independent and will vote for anyone who comes down on the right side of the issues and, on the issue of trade, Obama is the clear choice.

7 Responses to Candidates Tackle Trade in Final Debate

  1. Good essay. I like Independents with a desire to be clearheaded.

    If Obama will sit down with Dictator’s and only issue warnings through the U.N., how would he be limiting trade for Columbia fairly? If he cut off all trade with Afghanistan and Iraq for the same reasons (violence), how much more the places where DICTATORS kill innocent civilians?

    Also, isn’t a candidates honesty and integrity an important part in choosing who to vote for? It’s not that Obama made friends with a former terrorist that’s wrong, its his judgment in doing so and when he lied about it.
    You wouldn’t hire a guy who got busted for identity theft habitually, to be your accountant, after all.

  2. Robert says:

    Obama’s mention of NAFTA created some interest in his position on my part thinking that maybe he has a clue but I’ve got to admit that his position on illegal immigration makes me sick. I’m afraid I’m going to have to vote for the candidate who stands head an shoulders above the fray, Mickey Mouse is my man. I wish I could vote for one of the top two candidates but I’m afraid I’ll have to sit this one out. I try to be an optimist but our economic situation is getting pretty dire, perhaps when people start showing up outside the Whitehouse with torches and pitchforks the leaders will start to get the message, until then I would not expect any good leadership to appear.

  3. Robert says:


    What do you think about Obama’s stance on immigration both legal and illegal? How does this fit into your views as stated in your book? If I thought that he might not force through an amnesty and would investigate changing the massive influx we are seeing then I could consider voting for him. I have a bad feeling about him successfully pushing through a massive amnesty and that is why I’m having trouble supporting him. John McCain also supports amnesty but I strongly suspect Sarah Palin does not. Which is better, improving trade and jobs accompanied by a large population increase or fewer jobs(at least until the economy collapses…and then perhaps a change in direction) and no amnesty? We will not recover from a population increase but we will eventually recover from a collapsed economy.

  4. Pete Murphy says:

    Clifton, I’m not sure I understand your comment that Obama would only issue warnings to dictators through the UN. I don’t think I’ve heard him say that, nor have I even heard any of his critics say that. Doesn’t mean it’s not true, though. Can you point me toward some reliable media reports to that effect?

    Regarding his association with Bill Ayers, a former “terrorist”: I don’t know Bill Ayers, but I’m allowing for the possibility that he’s reformed himself from his radical youth. He seems to be a respected professor at a Chicago area university (forget which one) and, as Obama reported during the debate, other respected members of the community, including the Northwestern University president and other prominent business and political leaders have worked with him as well.

    Some perspective may be in order here. Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground. Back in the late ’60s and early 70s, the Weather Underground was a more violent wing of the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society – kind of like the IRA, an Irish political organization that also had a violent faction. Back then, the word “terrorist” hadn’t even been coined yet. They were nothing like what we think of as a “terrorists” today – people who attack innocent civilians to spread a campaign of terror. Rather, they attacked government facilities. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning what they did. But it was a very, very different time back then. At that point in time, the Vietnam War was ten years long. American soldiers, few of whom had joined the army voluntarily, were dying at a rate of about a dozen per day, day in, day out, year after year. We watched it on the news every night, soldiers’ bodies being loaded onto helicopters for evacuation. There was no mission and the government lied repeatedly about what was happening there. Soldiers returned from ‘Nam disgusted and reporting what was really going on. Every kid of fighting of age faced the very real prospect of being forcibly sent off to die in the jungle for absolutely no good reason. I remember vividly, one day walking home from grade school in the early ’60s, thinking to myself, “I’m glad that Vietnam thing will be over by the time I’m that age.” (I’m not sure why I remember thinking this as I walked home from school. Perhaps some kid from the parish had just died in the war, prompting a discussion at school.) But, not only was that war still going by the time I graduated from grade school, it was still going when I graduated from high school, when I graduated from college and was commissioned into the Navy, and even when I was discharged from the Navy in 1974. By the time it ended in 1975, 58,000 Americans had died over the course of 16 years for absolutely nothing. It was all a complete waste. While I was in college and in NROTC, I hated the SDS and the Weathermen. By the time the war ended, and perhaps because, by then, I too had witnessed the ineptitude of our military from the inside, I had a different perspective. I was grateful to Nixon for bringing an end to that debacle and had a better appreciation for those whose constant, unrelenting protests (some of which devolved into violence, which I don’t condone) finally helped to turn the tide of public opinion against that idiotic war.

  5. Pete Murphy says:

    Robert, I understand your frustration with the candidates. I hope I’m not being naive in believing that Obama will actually do something about our trade situation. Election after election, I’ve been disappointed as presidents have failed to follow through with campaign promises. But I feel that this time may be different. Our trade policy has so badly wrecked our economy that something HAS to be done if the president, whoever it is, doesn’t want to go down in history as a failure, as George Bush surely will.

    Regarding immigration: yeah, I really have to hold my nose on this one as I endorse Obama. As you know, my two most critical issues are trade and immigration. Unfortunately, I see no difference between Obama and McCain on the issue of immigration. However, on the subject of trade, which I see as being the more immediate concern, Obama is on the right side of that issue. To understand why trade is of more immediate concern, please refer to Figure 7-5 on page 130 of my book. Through free trade with overpopulated nations, we have raised our EFFECTIVE population denity from 83 people per square mile to 348. The effect has been rising unemployment and falling incomes, the real root cause of our economic mess.

    While continued population growth, especially through immigration, is also having the same effect, the extent of the damage to the economy (if the trade effect were removed from the picture) wouldn’t reach the same level until our actual (not “effective”) population density reached 348. At the current rate of population growth, it’d take about 150 years to reach that point.

    This is why I believe that trade is the more critical, immediate concern. But, back to the subject of immigration: I’m hoping that Obama finds his hands tied on addressing immigration. I’m hoping he’s wise enough (and I believe he is a very intelligent person) to see that it would be foolish to flood the labor force with more immigrant labor at a time when unemployment is soaring. I hope he’s wise enough to see that more population growth will only make the task of reducing our carbon emissions and breaking our dependence on oil that much more difficult. And I think he’s smart enough to realize that the majority of Americans are against further liberalization of our immigration policies. I think that’s why he’s avoided the subject.

  6. Robert says:


    I’m hoping you’re right about O’bama, it is clear to me that John McCain still does’nt get it on trade or on immigration. When I heard John say proudly “I’m a free trader” I turned off the t.v. I’m reconsidering my position. Thanks!

  7. Pete Murphy says:

    Robert, you sound a bit like where I was back in ’92, during the Bush (H.W.)-Clinton campaign. I had always been a Republican but was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the economy. We were in a recession then and “downsizing” was all the rage in the corporate world. Everyone was doing it. All this in spite of the fact that Republicans had ruled the roost for twelve years. I still voted for Bush nevertheless. But it was probably that recession and what I was seeing happening in the corporate world that made my mind fertile ground for new ideas that were stimulated when I saw the graph of world population on the wall of the St. Louis Science Center a year later. Now I ignore party ideology and vote based on the candidates’ stands on the issues.

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