Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Free trade and funny math
Patrick J. Buchanan
Posted: February 27, 2007

To the devout libertarian, free trade is not a policy option to be debated, but a dogma to be defended. Nowhere is this truer than at that lamasery of libertarianism, the Cato Institute.

But with America running the worst trade deficits in history, the monks are having a hellish time of it. Hence, like the neocons who cherry-picked the intel to bamboozle us into believing national survival hung on invading Iraq, they feed us irrelevant truths and deny us the whole truth.

Case in point – the Feb. 22 column in the Washington Times by one Daniel Ikenson, "associate director at the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies." Bewailing the "barrage of hyperbole and misinformation about trade and its relationship to jobs and economic growth," Ikenson assured us, with impressive statistics, that globalism is working out wonderfully well for America.

"[T]he Census Bureau data show that U.S. export growth was phenomenal in 2006, increasing by 14.5 percent. ... Exports to Europe increased by 15.2 percent and to China by nearly 32 percent. The growth in exports to Japan was a slower 7.5 percent, but it grew. Since 2001, U.S. exports have increased by more than 42 percent."

Wow. Phenomenal indeed. And it does sound like we are cleaning those foreigners' clocks. But Ikenson ignored the other side of the ledger.

That the U.S. trade deficit in 2006 rose to an all-time record of $764 billion. That the deficit in goods hit $836 billion. That the deficit with China rose 15 percent, from $203 billion in 2005 to $233 billion in 2006, the largest trade deficit ever recorded between two nations. That the deficit with Japan rose to $88 billion, the largest ever between us.

Under Bush, the U.S. trade deficit has set five straight world records, as has the U.S. trade deficit in autos, parts and trucks. So reports Charles MacMillion of MBG Services, who has for years tracked the decline and fall of American manufacturing.

For manufactured goods, our trade deficit rose to $536 billion, from $504 billion. In Bush's six years, America has run a total trade deficit of $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods, as 3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared and wages in that sector have fallen 3 percent in three years.

Query to Ikenson: If these numbers represent a successful trade policy, what would a failed trade policy look like?

Recall NAFTA. In 1993, we had a trade surplus with Mexico. Some of us warned it would be gone with the wind if NAFTA passed. And NAFTA did pass, through the collaboration of Clinton Democrats with Gingrich Republicans, over the opposition of the American people.

Since 1994, we have run a trade deficit with Mexico every year. In 2006, it hit a record $60 billion. Grand total: almost $500 billion in trade deficits with Mexico since NAFTA. Mexico now exports more than 900,000 vehicles to the United States every year, while the United States exports fewer than 600,000 cars and trucks to the entire world.

This is success?

Where did Mexico get an auto industry? Is it good that our auto industry is being exported? Has the price of a new car plunged because Mexicans get paid a fraction of what U.S. autoworkers earn?


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