Saturday, November 22, 2008

Trade should support our values

Pat Buchanan talks about how our worker and safety laws keep us at a disadvantage, and contributed to the problems we have with the automakers and manufacturing in general:

Who killed Detroit?

Thus when America was thrust into the Global Economy, GM and Ford had to compete with cars made overseas in factories in postwar Japan and Germany, then Korea, where health and safety standards were much lower, wages were a fraction of those paid U.S. workers, and taxes were and are often forgiven on exports to the United States.

The Beetle and early Japanese imports were made in factories where wages were far beneath U.S. wages and working conditions would have gotten U.S. auto executives sent to prison.
The competition was manifestly unfair, like forcing Secretariat to carry 100 pounds in his saddlebags in the Derby.

Japan, China and South Korea do not believe in free trade as we understand it. To us, they are our "trading partners." To them, the relationship is not like that of Evans & Novak or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is not even like the Redskins and Cowboys. For the Cowboys only want to defeat the Redskins. They do not want to put their franchise out of business and end the competition -- as the Japanese did to our TV industry by dumping Sonys here until they killed it.

I agree with Buchanan's analysis of the problems but have a better and more optimistic solution. First of all, we should have high standards as far as worker safety, wages, environment, etc. They should be market-based as much as possible and formed for our national interest. However, once we establish standards we should demand others meet similar standards in relation to their society and economy. While there isn't a need for there to be complete agreement, there shouldn't drastic differences that both provide others with an unfair trade advantage, and an opportunity to do things we would find unacceptable in our country. If they are illegal here, then we should refuse to accept those practices from anyone we deal with.

As Democrats we shouldn't lie to the country with the cost of this policy position. We will be disallowing cheaper goods and services because of our desire to have minimum standards. There will be those who make powerful economic arguments on the other side. Yet, as Democrats we should attain and maintain the moral high ground.

We have to be careful though because some on our side use this issue as a crutch and a way to advance their own personal goals that aren't in the national interest. For instance, we should support Unions as shields from harmful practices but not weapons to destroy capitalism. There's a balancing point that we need to adhere to all times.

That is how we should export our values. By being selective with whom we allow access to our markets.
We can change the world this way, and it doesn't require one shot to be fired.

Craig Farmer
making the word "liberal" safe again!

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