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.