You ’08 – Trade Debate

Sorry for not keeping my promise to follow up the original reader platform post with some debate posts in a timely manner.

Rather than open this up to a free-for-all, I’d like to start with a specific topic for which we had a pretty wide span of opinions and policy, but is perhaps more pressing even than the typical topics of argument here: trade. To summarize:

  • Steve advocates free trade with restrictions used as a tool to punish human rights offenders. NorthernLite feels similarly, with added emphasis on environmental enforcement, while shcb seems to favor no restrictions at all, allowing business to set its own agenda.
  • JAYSON wants a return to a strong American manufacturing base by cutting the agreements and incentives that drive globalization. Knarlyknight takes a less harsh stance, but additionally favors tight enforcement of safety standards for imported goods.

Here are a couple starter question for the candidates:

Steve, NorthernLite, and shcb, are you concerned that transnational corporations may be often be pursuing business strategies that optimize their profits at the expense of nation-specific interests, as typified by America’s drift toward a service/consumer economy and widening economic gap?

JAYSON and Knarlyknight, strong economic ties between nations may the be the most effective base on which to build lasting good diplomatic relations; wouldn’t a more nationalistic US economic policy further isolate the US on the world stage, and embolden competing economic unions in the EU and Asia?

10 Responses to “You ’08 – Trade Debate”

  1. shcb Says:

    No I am no worried about a healthy market producing profits for hard working individuals and their families in any country. Wealth provide stability. Wealth provides the ability to provide for the less fortunate. Wealth provides the ability to not only worry about things like the environment but to do something about it.

    The only nation specific interest the federal government should be overly concerned about is matters that deal with national security, things like defense contracts and some high tech items. There is really very little a government can do to influence an economy without stifling it anyway.

    An economy in many ways is an entity unto itself, like a herd of livestock, at some point the individual animal is lost in the crowd and the group moves as a whole. The savvy politician like the seasoned cowboy or shepherd understands he can’t force each individual animal to walk a straight line to the destination. He must allow the herd to find it’s own path, usually the easiest path while keeping it moving in the right general direction. Leaders and followers in the herd will come and go and a few that fall behind will be the prey of wolves.

    Much of your question is based on leftist dogma anyway.

    From Daniel Griswold’s Trading Up: How Expanding Trade Has Delivered Better Jobs and Higher Living Standards for American Workers

    Average real compensation per hour paid to American workers, which includes benefits as well as wages, has increased by 22 percent in the past decade.

    Median household income in the United States is 6 percent higher in real dollars than it was a decade ago at a comparable point in the previous business cycle. Middle-class households have been moving up the income ladder, not down.

    The net loss of 3.3 million manufacturing jobs in the past decade has been overwhelmed by a net gain of 11.6 million jobs in sectors where the average wage is higher than in manufacturing. Two-thirds of the net new jobs created since 1997 are in sectors where workers earn more than in manufacturing.

    The median net worth of U.S. households jumped by almost one-third between 1995 and 2004, from $70,800 to $93,100.

    And that widening economic gap?
    From the Wall Street Journal

    The Treasury study examined a huge sample of 96,700 income tax returns from 1996 and 2005 for Americans over the age of 25. The study tracks what happened to these tax filers over this 10-year period. One of the notable, and reassuring, findings is that nearly 58% of filers who were in the poorest income group in 1996 had moved into a higher income category by 2005. Nearly 25% jumped into the middle or upper-middle income groups, and 5.3% made it all the way to the highest quintile.

    Of those in the second lowest income quintile, nearly 50% moved into the middle quintile or higher, and only 17% moved down. This is a stunning show of upward mobility, meaning that more than half of all lower-income Americans in 1996 had moved up the income scale in only 10 years.

    Also encouraging is the fact that the after-inflation median income of all tax filers increased by an impressive 24% over the same period.

    The one thing our government needs to be vigilant of is the wealth not making it to the common people of other countries, this is why we should fight communism at every juncture. Reagan understood this as well as anyone in our time and championed the cause tirelessly, I would hope to follow in his footsteps.

  2. Steve Says:

    It depends on what those national interests are. I would like to redefine national interests to be more focused on humanity. I don’t think our current policy reflects a serious enough concern for human rights.

    Our nation should restrict trade where it infringes upon our national security, or the security/rights of human beings. Other than that, I’m more than happy for corporate business strategy to conflict with other national interests such as keeping money inside our country.

    Perhaps one of the areas where I disagree with others here is that I don’t think Americans deserve to be so much better paid for the same job than non-Americans.

    I also don’t think that the income gap is caused by free trade. Though that’s another topic altogether.

  3. NorthernLite Says:

    What I am concerned about is human and environmental rights taking a back seat to corporate/shareholder profits when trade deals are being developed.

    Child labour is a serious issue to me. Pillaging our environment for a few drops of oil is a serious issue to me. We have to start making business more accountable for their actions.

    My colleague, shcb, talked about wealth. Well, I have news for you my friend. The children slaving away in a Chinese sweat shop are not wealthy. You must be referring to the executives who received multi-million dollar bonuses for maximizing the company’s profit by finding cheap foreign labour markets to exploit.

    I wonder how much of those bonuses made it to cleaning up our environment or bettering working conditions.

    Free and fair trade can be a benefit to everyone if applied with the best interests of all in mind. Sadly, this is not being done and will change under my watch. Thank you.

  4. shcb Says:

    I’m the Republican candidate, not the Libertarian or the Anarchist candidate. There is a proper place for government intrusion into the marketplace but one must be careful when and how much force to use. In the case of “sweat shops” the market is a better tool to persuade companies to avoid unethical practices. A country, even one as powerful as the United States can only apply so much pressure. If a president were to use an executive order to force a select few corporations to heed his will (constitutionally problematic at best) those products could simply be sold in other areas of the world. Possibly imported back into the US from those countries. The market on the other hand can apply pressure on select companies easily from all over the world in short order. It can also reward companies that don’t practice these unethical methods.

    One should be cautious of the use of terms like “sweat shops”. While these working conditions may not be up to our standards they may be the best alternative for them. Sure they may only be working for 5 dollars a day, but what is their alternative? While I was walking around in downtown Guangzhou drinking a Pepsi I kind of noticed a person with a trash bag milling around behind me. After taking that last gulp I started to look for a trash can, there was none, then a polite tap in my shoulder and there was this woman asking me to put the can in her bag. I then realized she had been stalking us since we left 7-11. This is how she makes a living. On the way back the gal sitting next to me said her sister works in a hotel and makes 600 RMB a month, about $80.00. So to punish an American company you are going to take that little bit away from them and have them all following the American tourist waiting for him to finish his pop? The way to help these people is to buy their stuff so they can make more money, not punish them because of the politics of envy, beggar thy neighbor.

  5. NorthernLite Says:

    Actually, the way to help these people is to tell their governments that if they want to do business with the United States, then they need to ensure that their worker’s are protected. We need to use our status as the number one consumer country to pressure governments to clean up their act. Corporations obviously are not doing it.

    I don’t think you understand the issue when you say things like “the way to help people is to buy their stuff so they make more money”. That’s the problem, they aren’t making more money. A few guys in suits are, but the workers still work in poor conditions for pennies a day so you can go to Wal-Mart and get that new shirt for 5 bucks.

    I’m not sure what someone collecting pop cans has to do with this discussion.

  6. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    In answer to the question about my economic policy and foreign relations. The current situation regarding trade balances doesn’t seem to give us much leverage as we stand currently. The current trade policy seems to revolve around the idea of opening our doors wide and not paying attention to whats coming in our out.

    In terms of our foreign relations based on trade we currently are losing our basis for competing as an equal on the world scale. In order to really compete with East Asian nationalism and trade blocks like the EU we have to adopt similar tactics and recreate a more nationalistic based economy. Our current policies are not based at all on increasing the wealth, standing or competitiveness of the United States, but rather based on increasing the wealth of the majority shareholders. Our current situation already has us pitted against state run industries, government subsidized manufacturing, nations willing to artificially manipulate currency and trade entities composed of many nations acting as one. If we do not change our tactics and adopt a competitive trade strategy. Our diplomatic status is weakened as our current business and political leaders continue to sell the country out from under our feet.

    I would like to offer some additional commentary. While not originally stated it is implicit that my trade policy ultimately results in increase in domestic manufacturing which offers the benefits of goods produced in safer, more regulated and more environmentally friendly environment, the USA.

    One of the greatest fallacies currently being promoted is that the economy is an external entity, divorced from the current condition of the workforce. Pundits who claim economic growth as a positive stride as the individual economic viability of the individual citizen decreases are ignoring one of the fundamental features of a stable, strong nation.

    America is no long the land of opportunity. Not every citizen has the chance to get a job that will allow them the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Lassiez-faire economics and near Social Darwinism of current economic policy are doing nothing but diminishing America’s power as a nation.

  7. shcb Says:

    So you guys want the government to tell private enterprise who to sell their products to, who to buy their products from, what to pay not only the lowest paid employee but the highest as well, one would assume the middle is next. Once you have done all that you are in essence telling them how much they can charge for their products, sounds like fascism to me. You also want to tell other countries to force companies in their territories to do the same, nation building?

    So human rights is your hot button. Not the chop your hands off variety, but the why should they work harder than us for less money style of human rights. So, I have friends that think gun laws are too restrictive in other countries, others are either for or against abortion, they think that is the worst form of human rights violation, either against the kid or the mother depending on which side of the issue they find themselves. Are you going to champion their cause by sanctioning companies and countries when the other side is in power? Which companies are you going to single out? If a company make some of it’s product here and some in other countries, only one of which is a lower paying country, are you only going to sanction only a portion of that companies’ products? What about a company that has no physical product, say insurance? Are you going to ban a pharmaceutical company from exporting AIDs drugs to African countries where the percentage of the population infected with the disease is in the double digits because they pay less than $7.35 an hour?

    Pretty quickly corporations will simply leave the US leaving you with nothing for your trouble. Didn’t you guys learn anything from Nancy P’s American Samoa debacle earlier this year? You have to be very careful about screwing with economies, as I said earlier, they are almost an organic life form. Most of your ideas to try and force them to your will will only lead to failure of your intended mission as well as injury to those you wish to help.

  8. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    I win.

  9. shcb Says:

    Congratulations are in order, when does the victory party start? :-)

  10. enkidu Says:

    I’m surprised rwnj hasn’t devolved the highfaluting discussion to a comparison of the relative merits of Ginger vs Maryanne. wtfc

    can we discuss what is really on American minds?

    – War
    – economy
    – healthcare
    – restoring the US Constitution
    – putting Rethuggle™®© criminals in fucking jail

    trade policy as an instrument of foreign policy?
    not even on the list

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