Just like “The Jeffersons”, we’re movin’ on up. Ranked number nine on my list of the twelve most important issues impacting my choice for President on the Republican side (and as a contrast on the Democrat side) is trade and job creation.
As I note in my chapter of the 50 year plan dealing with trade and job creation, I’m more on the side of free trading, but I sympathize with the argument protectionists have regarding our perceived decline in manufacturing jobs over the last 30 years or so. In the GOP field, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul do have a valid point in noting that some of the free trade agreements we’re eager to sign on with do have some caveats that chip away at our sovereignty.
It’s also interesting to note that a major part of the impetus for declaring our independence from the British Crown in the first place had to do with tariffs, such as the Stamp Act (1765) and the Tea Act (1773), which led to the Boston Tea Party. On the other hand, for much of our country’s history tariffs and duties were the prime source of government revenue, generally up until the adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. In short, this is an issue that has provoked discussion and outcry on many occasions during our nation’s history and Campaign 2008 is no exception.
(Also corollary to this topic on an economic basis is trading in labor, but I’m going to cover that situation as part of my look at border security and immigration later on. In my eyes that’s more relevant to the subject of national security than to trade.)
But here’s what the Presidential hopefuls have to say about this issue. For some of the GOP contenders, I’m indebted to the Club for Growth website, where they’ve done “white papers” on four of the officeseekers. These will be noted as appropriate.
Sam Brownback, as excerpted from the Club for Growth website:
On the whole, Senator Sam Brownback has been one of the most consistent supporters of free trade in the U.S. Senate. He was deemed a “free trader” by the Cato Institute for the 105th Congress through the 108th Congress, a designation given to those who “consistently vote against both trade barriers and international economic subsidies.”
His overall pro-trade record, however, is tarnished slightly by his support for a quota on foreign wheat gluten imports (Press release, 03/19/01) and his support for the preservation of a 54 cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol (Press release, 05/10/06).
No doubt, these two aberrations were motivated by the role wheat gluten and ethanol play in the Kansas economy, but they are nevertheless disappointing blemishes on an otherwise extremely impressive record on trade.
Senator Brownback’s record on regulation is generally pro-growth with just a few exceptions. He has often demonstrated his respect for the self-regulation of the marketplace and his general aversion to burdensome regulatory measures.
At the same time, Senator Brownback has cast some votes that increase burdensome government regulations. The most unfortunate of these was his vote (admittedly along with all his Senate colleagues) in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, an overreaction to corporate malfeasance that imposed heavy financial burdens on companies (Roll Call #192, 07/25/02). He has also voted in favor of an amendment that would allow the federal government to set drug prices (Roll Call #302, 11/03/05) and supported the CANSPAM Act of 2003 (Brownback press release, 10/27/03).
Rudy Giuliani, also excerpted from the Club for Growth site:
Rudy Giuliani the presidential candidate is billing himself as a supporter of free trade. As recently as late March, the Mayor embraced free trade, albeit cautiously, at the Club for Growth Winter Conference. “I generally agree with the principles of free trade and I think and increasingly have become more convinced of those principles because I almost think they are inevitable.”
While his professed support is a step in the right direction, the lack of hard evidence to support his claims and his ardent opposition to NAFTA in 1993 is troubling…
…Giuliani has explained his opposition to NAFTA as motivated by his concern for New York City jobs, (but) it is unclear if his parochial concerns bear out upon closer inspection. As the financial center of the country, if not the world, New York City stood to benefit from the removal of trade barriers in North America. Given his sparse record on trade and his curious opposition to NAFTA, Americans have a right to question whether a President Giuliani would expend the political capital to continue the kind of broad free trade deals that have contributed to American prosperity over the past generation.
Rudy Giuliani’s record on regulation demonstrates an intuitive understanding of the virtue of free markets and a fearlessness in the face of government bureaucracy. This is an admirable and necessary quality for a candidate looking to run a government behemoth in desperate need of a spring cleaning. While that same record displays some flashes of disappointment, his overall persistence is an encouraging sign.
I’ll start with Mike Huckabee from his own website, with the Club for Growth summary to follow. In his own words:
I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families and real lives and real pain. I’m running for President because I don’t want people who have worked loyally for a company for twenty or thirty years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, “I’m sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here.”
I believe that globalization, done right, done fairly, can be a blessing for our society. As the Industrial Revolution raised living standards by allowing ordinary people to buy mass-produced goods that previously only the rich could afford, so globalization gives all of us the equivalent of a big pay raise by letting us buy all kinds of things from clothing to computers to TVs much more inexpensively.
For its part, the Club for Growth points out (excerpted here):
Governor Huckabee’s record on trade is limited, but positive. In 2003, he pushed for free trade with Mexico, calling for a “strong market of the Americas” and supporting NAFTA (AP 10/03/03). In 2006, he signed an agreement between Arkansas and a South Korea trade group, calling for increased commerce between the southern state and South Korea (AP 06/23/06)…
Governor Huckabee has consistently supported and initiated measures that increase government’s interference in markets, thereby impeding economic growth. He told the Washington Times he supports “empowering people to make their own decisions,” but many of his key proposals have done just the opposite (Washington Times 03/01/05).
America’s one-way-street trade relationship with China and other nations has reduced manufacturing jobs severely in the U.S. I would change the one-way-street into a two-way-street by putting the same charges on foreign goods that they put on ours.
Like Huckabee, John McCain has his view and the Club for Growth perspective:
A global rising tide of economic isolationism is threatening our entrepreneurs. Opening new markets is a key to U.S. economic success. Today, despite all the defeatist rhetoric, America is the world’s biggest exporter, importer, producer, saver, investor, manufacturer and innovator. Americans do not shy from the challenge of competition: they welcome it. Because of that, we attract foreign investment from all over the world. Our government should welcome competition as our people do, and not pretend that we can wall off our economy.
Neither should we fail to recognize that competition can lead to painful dislocations for some individuals. We must remain committed to education, retraining, and help for displaced workers all the while reminding ourselves that our ability to change is a great strength of our nation. Indeed, Washington must keep pace with this change and develop new approaches to ensure that our ideas are protected, our intellectual property rights are respected, and our economic outreach serves the American workers today and in the future.
But, cautions the Club for Growth:
John McCain has been a strong proponent of free trade in the U.S. Senate. He has voted for many bills that broke down trade barriers and increased competition and choice for consumers…The Cato Institute aptly sums up his record on trade by designating him a “free trader” for the 105th Congress through the 108th Congress, a top accolade given out to those who “consistently vote against both trade barriers and international economic subsidies.”
At first glance, John McCain’s record on regulation appears generally positive (but)…
A deeper look at Senator McCain’s record…reveals a number of votes and bills that reflect much less favorably on his commitment to free market principles and his claim to being an economic conservative…His anti-growth votes are exacerbated by his characteristic vociferousness in cases like the Patients’ Bill of Rights and the Climate Stewardship Act. His occasional eagerness to support and encourage increased government regulation suggests a troublesome mistrust of the free market.
Ron Paul notes on his website that:
NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system….We must withdraw from any…trade deals that infringe upon the freedom and independence of the United States of America.
Mitt Romney chimes in with this statement:
“We have to keep our markets open or we go the way of Russia and the Soviet Union, which is a collapse. And I recognize there are some people who will argue for protectionism because the short-term benefits sound pretty good, but long term you kill your economy, you kill the future. What you have to do in order to compete on a global basis long term is invest in education, invest in technology, reform our immigration laws to bring in more of the brains from around the world, eliminate the waste in our government. We have to use a lot less oil. These are the kinds of features you have to invest in, you have to change in order to make ourselves competitive long term.”
Romney also touches somewhat on this topic in a speech he gave at the Detroit Economic Club back in February.
Tom Tancredo discusses trade here, and in this statement:
The President’s fast track authority should not be renewed. The constitution gives Congress not the Executive the power to negotiate treaties. Those who would delegate that authority to the President argue that the complexities of negotiation in a global economy require it. But that argument has lost its force because the Presidents have abused the power. Instead of sticking to trade agreements, they make commitments on matters of domestic policy, like immigration and carbon dioxide emissions, in the guise of international accords.
Now I’ll turn to the Democrats, as I found nothing from either Thompson directly relating to the subject at hand.
Joe Biden sort of peripherally skirts the subject:
To protect jobs, compete in a global economy and strengthen families Joe Biden believes the next President must first address two things: energy security and health care. This is not our father’s economy – America now competes in a global economy.
The price of energy is set by the global marketplace. Developing our own sources of energy aren’t enough to protect us from high prices that cost businesses and families — we must invest in using energy more efficiently and become the leader in energy innovation.
By 2008, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as it will make in profit. In other countries their competitors will not have to bear these costs.
Joe Biden believes America will continue to dominate the global economy by putting energy security and health care reform at the top of the agenda.
Hillary Clinton places her views on what her campaign has billed as the “innovation” page and adds:
In New York, Hillary championed tax incentives like wage credits for businesses and job creation in upstate New York and elsewhere. She also helped launch economic development initiatives to provide critical resources to small and micro businesses and helped launch a private sector venture called New Jobs for New York that makes venture capital available to New York’s innovators.
In fact, aside from Biden and Mike Gravel, each of the Democrat contenders devotes a whole web page to their ideas. So for further study, one need only check out the websites. The interesting thing to me is how they bill each page.
For Chris Dodd, it’s headlined under the “Labor” category.
Meanwhile John Edwards lumps the topic with “working families.”
Dennis Kucinich is very straightforward, for him it’s about jobs.
Barack Obama bills the subject as “fighting poverty.”
And finally Bill Richardson refers to his ideas as “jump-starting the economy.” I guess Richardson recalls the “worst economy of the last 50 years” bit that his former boss Bill Clinton used to con 43% of the public into voting for him in 1992.
Obviously, having gone through the sources, the question becomes how I rate each participant. These are rated on an 11 point scale as the priority increases.
On the broad scale the Club for Growth gives Sam Brownback pretty good marks, and it seems like he’s at least not interested in adding more regulations. I’d like to see him (and the rest of Congress for that matter) try and roll back more red tape, but the tide needs to be stemmed as a beginning. I’ve decided he merits 7 points of 11.
As a chief executive in the nation’s largest city, Rudy Giuliani comes relatively close to the same powers he’d have as President. Given his track record from the Club for Growth’s perspective, particularly on NAFTA, he’s probably not the closest candidate to my ideal on these subjects although Giuliani did accomplish a bit of streamlining as mayor. I’ll give him 4.5 points.
I have a question regarding Mike Huckabee, particularly when it comes to the agreement signed with the South Korean trade group – does that seem to anyone else uncomfortably close to the Constitutional prohibition regarding a State “enter(ing) into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation” (Article 1, Section 10)? His record seems to be one of slowly increasing the role of government in the market, rather than the other way around – for that and the blatant emotional appeal he only gets 2.5 points.
Well, Duncan Hunter lost his lead. We know China’s not going to play ball fairly, so slapping tariffs on their goods will just compel them to find some other way around the restrictions. When you add in the fact there’s also no statement on job creation, my decision is to deduct 1 point from his total.
I’m not impressed with John McCain’s own description of his approach to the subject at hand. While he correctly acknowleges we cannot “wall off” our economy, the part about helping out displaced workers is troubling if he’s figuring that as a federal-level issue. With that and being as moderate on regulation, I can only give him two points solely for being a good free-trader.
Ron Paul is very principled on the idea of not having what George Washington termed as “entangling alliances.” On the other hand, we do need some rules of the game so I think as President he should work to limit the scope of the agreements as feasibly as possible. I don’t think he would go to the extreme Hunter does, in fact he states that he welcomes free trade. In this case, I think he deserves 6 points.
I’m not certain I like Mitt Romney’s idea about “investing” in education and technology because I can see that as more government intervention. While it’s not totally germane to the subject, the example of his health insurance program in Massachusetts also sends a message that he’s not totally enamoured with private-sector solutions. It’s only because he’s not a protectionist that I award two points.
Tancredo is cut from the same cloth as Ron Paul insofar as the trade agreement idea is concerned. I’m not quite as certain regarding cutting government regulation and red tape though so I’ll grant him 5.5 points on this subject.
Switching sides, Joe Biden talks nicely, but what he says is code for additional regulations on energy that will discourage market forces from controlling its price and the easing of corporate health care costs by placing the government in charge of it rather than private industry. I have two future posts that will deal with those specific subjects, but as far as attitude goes and because Joe’s so vague on the subject he loses three points.
Practically all of Hillary Clinton’s ideas involve – you guessed it – more federal spending and involvement. I will give her a little credit for having the idea of rewarding innovation through competition, but I think the private sector or states should play the role of funding these awards, not the federal government. Even with that thought she loses 9.5 points.
Chris Dodd finally did it – the perfectly wrong plan for trade and job creation. You have to read it to believe it. He loses all 11 points, and I’ve half a mind to take off more. But I won’t.
As part of his crap about “Two Americas”, John Edwards manages to show that he can be a Big Labor toadie, too. Tell me, John, is your legal firm’s staff unionized? It’s amazing how Democrats think Big Labor creates good jobs when the reality is that it’s the capital and effort of those who start these companies that truly create the work that the union folks do. The UAW didn’t start Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford did through hard work and effort. Yep, he loses 11 points too.
Dennis Kucinich is not just protectionist, he wants to recreate the FDR-era Works Progress Administration. It would be make-work, big-dollar unionized jobs for everyone. Screw the market. While I’ll admit that our nation’s infrastructure isn’t in the best shape, there’s a reason for the term “close enough for government work.” He also needs to update his page, unemployment isn’t at 6.2% now. Try about 4.5%, or just about the definition of “full employment.” I’m taking off 10.5 points.
There’s a couple ideas that Barack Obama has that might not be bad on a state level, and he at least pays lip service to the private sector in his spiel. One area he speaks about is helping out low-skilled workers through a partnership with unions. Where I don’t care for Big Labor in a political sense, they do tend (particularly in the construction industry) to train workers who exhibit craftsmanship that’s usually worth the premium paid. But his program would overstep the boundary between government and the market. He loses 9 points.
Finally, Bill Richardson starts out pretty well with some of the programs New Mexico has implemented that seem to work in turning the state’s economy around (or so he claims.) As far as that goes, these programs are fine because it’s New Mexico’s right to do so. But Bill may be making the common liberal mistake of thinking that what works in New Mexico will work in New York, too. And he falters in spots into the typical left-wing job-killing ideas like increasing the minimum wage and repealing some of the Bush tax cuts. He’s penalized 8 points.
While no one on the Republican side was a perfect 11 point gainer, we do have a new GOP leader:
- Ron Paul, 13.5 points
- Sam Brownback, 11.5 points
- Mike Huckabee, 9 points
- Tom Tancredo, 8.5 points
- Rudy Giuliani, 8 points
- Duncan Hunter, 7 points
- Mitt Romney, 2 points
- Fred Thompson, 2 points
- Tommy Thompson, 1 point
- John McCain, -1 point
It’s pretty sad that a “perfect” score would now be 32 points and no one comes close. Of course, Joe Biden and Mike Gravel made it to the Democrat lead by pretty much saying nothing on this subject:
- Joe Biden, -7.5 points
- Mike Gravel, -8 points
- Bill Richardson, -10 points
- Chris Dodd, -11 points
- John Edwards, -11 points
- Dennis Kucinich, -16.5 points
- Hillary Clinton, -18 points
- Barack Obama, -18 points
Next time around, we tackle the subject of education.
Late edit: In doing my research for a future installment, I found this on Mike Gravel’s website:
The senator’s position is that America must address the root cause of illegal immigration. Any discussion of Mexican immigration must include NAFTA and the concept of “free trade.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the US and Mexico. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that over 1,000,000 US jobs were lost as a result of NAFTA, a third of them manufacturing jobs. In Mexico, 1.3 million farm workers lost their jobs in the same period. This has led to a wave of immigrant workers looking for work in the US job market.
Major structural changes must be made to NAFTA in order to restore lost jobs. Reforming unfair trade policies will stimulate job growth on both sides of the border and allow Mexican workers to remain in their motherland. We must make fair trade a priority if we are to rebuild the American middle class.
It was buried under “immigration” which is scheduled for August 17. But I think Gravel has a decent point here so I’ll add 4 points to his total with the next chapter I complete.