This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Short-term gains for a few. Long-term harm to the rest of us.
Again and again we have seen American industries exported, the plants closed, the jobs lost, and government officials just letting it happen. The workers in the other countries are almost always paid less than workers here, sometimes dramatically less, which means they can’t afford to buy things made in America. They often suffer from dangerous working conditions and the factories they work in often spread pollution that that harms people there and even affects us here.
Our country let this happen because a wealthy few benefited in the short term from policies that harmed the rest of us over the long term. The wealthy few used some of the $$ gained to
buy off lobby and contribute to campaigns of politicians who let them get away with it. Often the very politicians and their staffs were soon bribed hired by these wealthy few, for very high amounts. (Look at the sources of money raised by the Bush presidential campaigns, and the places where administration trade officials are employed since Bush left office for examples of what I am talking about.)
The result of these trade policies has been a huge and ever-increasing balance-of-trade deficit, year after year, which means America has to borrow more and more money to buy things we used to make here, or to buy things that we could have traded for if we still made things here. Yes, a wealthy few benefited greatly, many becoming billionaires many times over. Vast amounts of wealth have concentrated at the top in recent years. Short-term gains for a few. Many of the rest of us suffered dramatic pay cuts or lost jobs, lost houses, lost our health insurance, lost our pensions, etc. Long-term harms for the rest of us.
The short-term benefits-to-a-few that were exchanged for long-term harm to the rest of us are now harming the rest of us here in the long term. We owe the rest of the world huge amounts of money. The economy has fallen apart because so many of us can’t afford anything – like paying back the debts we had to take on to get by. Now the government can’t do anything important because We, the People don’t have the funds.
So here is just the latest outrage. The Economic Policy Institute released a report yesterday, Through China’s looking glass—Subsidies to the Chinese glass industry from 2004-08,
Data and calculations in this report reveal that China’s glass industry received total subsidies approximating at least $30.3 billion from 2004 to 2008.
The accompanying press release tells us about the effect of this on American jobs,
The rapid growth of the Chinese glass industry, despite ongoing product quality issues, has already been felt keenly in the U.S. industry, which has contracted by about 30 percent (nearly 40,000 jobs) since 2001. States such as Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia have lost at least one out of four – or many more – of their glass industry jobs since 2001.
President Obama made the right decision when he enforced the trade laws in the case of Chinese tires by imposing a tariff on imports. In this case he can let China know that America is determined to keep our factories and jobs and will trade on a fair, even-handed basis from now on.
It is time to get angry about these policies that benefit a few in the short term but harm the rest of us in the long term. We need to reform our trade and manufacturing policies. We need to insist on two-way trade and a strong American manufacturing base.