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Paul Streitz

Will John McCain Hang Himself on the Cross of Free Trade?
By Paul Streitz
Jun 24, 2008 - 11:36:35 AM

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John McCain has the opportunity to be a clear winner against Barak Hussein Obama. However, he is likely to hang himself on the cross of Free Trade and hang the Republican Party as well.

A wide swath of the industrial United States from Lowell and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, along the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan has been devastated by Free Trade. Detroit looks like a city bombed out after World War II.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a three-floor G.E. factory that once employed 12,000 people sits empty. It is a depressing monument to Free Trade. Syracuse, New York is so devastated by the deindustrialization of the United States that perfectly good housing is abandoned as people leave the city.

Says McCain, "I stand for free trade and with all the difficulties and economic troubles we're in today, there's a real bright spot, and that's our exports. Protectionism does not work and it will not work, and I look forward to that debate between myself and Senator Obama."

McCain has also said that he knows nothing about economics. He is right. He has it exactly backwards. America has thirty years of experience with free trade it does not work. America has a century of experience with protectionism and it did work, but was abandoned.

Protecting American industry and American workers was the American foreign trade policy from Abraham Lincoln until Bill Clinton and NAFTA. If Free Trade is so wonderful, why has the American worker suffered wage and job losses? What factories have opened to manufacture goods for China and Mexico? Is McCain delusional?

William R. Hawkins of the U.S. Business and Industry Council points out, "The United States became the world's largest, most productive economy behind 'protectionist' tariffs that focused on national economic development. Americans have long been the world's highest paid workforce. Elevating the working class into the middle class is one of the great achievements of America."

He further points out what Free Trade really is, "It is a cover behind which special interests lobby for their profit at the expense of society. That is what in reality free trade means – trade 'free' from government intervention to protect the common good." The common good is the wages of working Americans.

Despite the fact that NAFTA is a four-letter work to working class Americans, McCain goes on touting the supposed benefits. "What truly would be devastating is to jeopardise the trade expansion of NAFTA through a misguided, isolationist impulse that would inevitably and understandably alienate a key partner like Canada."

McCain is oblivious of both the facts and the sentiment among working class voters. Perhaps, he has been wined and dinned too often by Wall Street.

Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business and Industry Council says,

"The real problem, which began in earnest at least 20 years ago, is the transformation of U.S. trade policy into an outsourcing policy. In other words, the export of factories and jobs to low-income countries capable of becoming powerhouse exporters but too poor to become big net importers – so often decried by Democratic politicians – has not simply been the byproduct of poor implementation or unintended consequences.It became the whole point or our trade policy."

In other words, it the U.S. trade policy has been to impoverish working class Americans, while making owners of globalized businesses very rich. Of course, the long-term irony of this is that the wealthy classes end up impoverishing themselves. They are rich in paper U.S. dollars but the dollars decline in value and their real wealth diminishes. They are in a race to the bottom along with the factory workers.

The biggest evidence of the decline in the value of the dollar is the spiraling rise in the price of gas. This rise is not due to production problems, or to speculators, it is due to the decline in the value of the dollar. Gas is the same price it was eight years ago, measure in gold. Oil producing nations are simply not accepting less than a price in dollars equivalent to the price of gold. The world is awash in cheap dollars and they simply do not buy as much of a commodity as before.

Although it might come as a surprise to the world, the Republicans have traditionally been the party of Protected Trade. This economic policy started with Alexander Hamilton and was revived by Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln. And under the banner of protectionism, the United States became the world's greatest industrial power.

"We reaffirm our belief in a protective tariff. The Republican tariff policy has been of the greatest benefit to the country, developing our resources, diversifying our industries, and protecting our workmen against competition with cheaper labor abroad, thus establishing for our wage-earners the American standard of living." Republican Platform, 1912

Today, where is the United States after thirty years of Free Trade? The U.S. dollar is a free fall with the consequent rise in gas prices. Our manufacturing has been so destroyed that its auto industry is on the verge of collapse. Millions of high paying industry jobs have been replace by, well, nothing.

Is McCain autistic or just blinded by the advice of the wealthy Republicans that surround him? Or is he locked into an ideology that he picked up somewhere along the line, and is too stubborn to change/

The only bright ray for McCain in all this is that Hillary Clinton and Barak Hussein Obama don't know what they are doing. They have not seized the moment with a coherent protectionist policy that will win the industrial heartland. Hillary is suspect on the issue of free trade. While she seems to grasp the issue more firmly than the other three candidates, she is hardly what she claims, "a critic of NAFTA from the start." Her husband sold out the American workers by ramming NAFTA through Congress and she was his supporter.

Barak Obama is his usual vacuous self, full of platitudes and banalities, but intellectually unable to grasp the seriousness of the issues, its implications for the United States, or the political opportunity. It does not look like there is going to be much “change” from Obama when it comes to sending jobs to China.

Americans overwhelmingly think Free Trade is a bad deal. This is a political opportunity.

Generally speaking, do you think U.S. trade policy should have restrictions on imported goods to protect American jobs, or have no restrictions to enable American consumers to have the most choices and the lowest prices? -- ABC News.com Poll April 19-23, 2003

Restrictions

61%

No restrictions

30%

Not Sure

9%

These poll numbers would be even greater against Free Trade in the industrial states. Despite this, John McCain goes to Michigan and gives out-of-work Americans a pep talk on the virtue of Free Trade. Free Trade is one of the two issues where McCain seems determined to swim upstream against the wishes of the majority of Americans. The other is immigration. But Free Trade will have more impact on the 2008 election. The opposition to immigration is almost uniform across the United States and attitudes very little by state. In contrast, the Free Trade and NAFTA have much more concentrated impact in the key swing states. Thus, McCain's position on Free Trade will win or lose him the 2008 election.

Barak Obama's position against Free Trade is half-hearted at best, but given McCain's firm support for NAFTA and Free Trade, he offers the blue-collar worker no hope. A vote for Obama is better than a vote to continue swallowing the Free Trade poison that McCain is peddling. At least there is some hope for the needed, "change." Kill NAFTA.

John McCain could easily win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan if he dropped his Free Trade position, declared he would kill NAFTA, stop outsourcing and protect American jobs. Will he? Probably not, and McCain will go down in defeat dragging the rest of the Republican Party along with him.

Paul Streitz

Director, CT Citizens for Immigration Control

amfirst@optonline.net

Mr. Streitz is a co-director of CT Citizens for Immigration Control. He was an infantry platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne, Vietnam and a Minuteman on the Arizona border. He ran for the CT Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2006. He is the author of America First: Why Americans Must End Free Trade, Stop Outsourcing and Close Our Open Borders, The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off and Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I


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