Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turn Black Friday Red, White and Blue

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be great days to get out and shop, but they're also depressing reminders that America has lost much of its manufacturing capacity. On Black Friday we encounter substandard consumer goods from overseas, like toxic toys at Toys R Us. Cyber Monday reminds us that we make fewer computers than we did in 1975, when the first personal computer was invented here, and we make exactly zero cell phones.

The loss of our manufacturing base explains why underemployment is at 17 percent and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

Teamsters General President Hoffa, in today's Huffington Post, says we can turn our country around  -- if we abandon the religion of free trade. He writes,

The mainstream media is almost unanimous in its support for job-killing trade deals, despite massive evidence that they hurt the U.S. economy. They recite the word “protectionism” as if it’s some sort of voodoo spell that will ward off all criticism.
Hoffa doesn't spare his criticism of free trade. Citing Thom Hartmann's terrific new book, "Rebooting the American Economy," he describes how America transformed itself from a small, agrarian nation to an economic powerhouse behind a sturdy wall of protectionism. America was only following the example of Britain, which in the 15th century became a wealthy nation because it protected its textile industry. And protectionism changed South Korea from an exporter of fish and human hair for wigs to an economic power that ships cars, machinery and electronics overseas.

China has had enormous success with its protectionist policies, as any visit to Wal-Mart will demonstrate. Hoffa notes a growing awareness that complaints to the WTO won't stop China from breaking the rules of international trade. Both Hartmann and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission suggest slapping tariffs on China. Hartmann goes even further. He urges government subsidies for emerging industries, and he wants us to withdraw from the WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and, as Hoffa says,
...all the other trade deals that gave American workers the SHAFTA...
Protectionism worked for China and it can work for us. As Hoffa writes,

America has been in plenty of tough spots and each time emerged as a stronger nation. We overcame British tyranny, reconciled after the Civil War, vanquished Hitler and rebuilt our economy after the Great Depression.