In the first quarter of 2015, in the sixth year of the historic Obama recovery, the U.S. economy grew by two-tenths of 1 percent.And that probably sugarcoats it.
For trade deficits subtract from the growth of GDP, and the U.S. trade deficit that just came in was a monster. As the AP’s Martin Crutsinger writes, “The U.S. trade deficit in March swelled to the highest level in more than six years, propelled by a flood of imports that may have sapped the U.S. economy of any growth in the first quarter.”
The March deficit was $51.2 billion, largest of any month since 2008. In goods alone, the trade deficit hit $64 billion. As Crutsinger writes, a surge in imports to $239 billion in March, “reflected greater shipments of foreign-made industrial machinery, autos, mobile phones, clothing and furniture.”
What does this flood of imports of things we once made here mean for a city like, say, Baltimore? Writes columnist Allan Brownfeld:
Baltimore was once a city where tens of thousands of blue collar employees earned a good living in industries building cars, airplanes and making steel. … In 1970, about a third of the labor force in Baltimore was employed in manufacturing. By 2000, only 7 percent of city residents had manufacturing jobs.
Put down blue-collar Baltimore alongside Motor City, Detroit, as another fatality of free-trade fanaticism. For as imports substitute for U.S. production and kill U.S. jobs, trade deficits reduce a nation’s GDP. And since Bill Clinton took office, the U.S. trade deficits have totaled $11.2 trillion. An astronomical figure.
It translates not only into millions of manufacturing jobs lost and tens of thousands of factories closed, but also millions of manufacturing jobs that were never created, and tens of thousands of factories that did not open here, but did open in Mexico, China, and other Asian countries.
In importing all those trillions in foreign-made goods, we exported the future of America’s young. Our political and corporate elites sold out working- and middle-class America—to enrich the monied class. And they sure succeeded.
Yet, remarkably, Republicans who wail over Obama’s budget deficits ignore the more ruinous trade deficits that leech away the industrial base upon which America’s self-reliance and military might have always depended.
Last month, the U.S. trade deficit with the People’s Republic of China reached $31.2 billion, the largest in history between two nations. Over 25 years, China has amassed $4 trillion in trade surpluses at our expense. And where are the Republicans? Talking tough about building new fleets of planes and ships and carriers to defend Asia from the rising threat of China, which those same Republicans did more than anyone else to create.
Now this GOP Congress is preparing to vote for “fast track” and surrender its right to amend any Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Obama brings home. But consider that TPP. While the propaganda is all about a deal to cover 40 percent of world trade, what are we really talking about?
First, TPP will cover 37 percent of world trade. But 80 percent of that is trade between the U.S. and nations with which we already have trade deals. As for the last 20 percent, our new partners will be New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Japan. Query: Who benefits more if we get access to Vietnam’s market, which is 1 percent of ours, while Hanoi gets access to a U.S. market that is 100 times the size of theirs?
The core of the TPP is the deal with Japan.
But do decades of Japanese trade surpluses at our expense, achieved through the manipulation of Japan’s currency and hidden restrictions on U.S. imports, justify a Congressional surrender to Barack Obama of all rights to amend any Japan deal he produces? Columnist Robert Samuelson writes that a TPP failure “could produce a historic watershed. … rejection could mean the end of an era. … So, when opponents criticize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they need to answer a simple question: Compared to what?”
Valid points, and a fair question.
And yes, an era is ending, a post-Cold War era where the United States threw open her markets to nations all over the world, as they sheltered their own. The end of an era where America volunteered to defend nations and fight wars having nothing to do with her own vital interests or national security.
The bankruptcy of a U.S. trade and foreign policy, which has led to the transparent decline of the United States and the astonishing rise of China, is apparent now virtually everywhere.
And America is not immune to the rising tide of nationalism.
Though, like the alcoholic who does not realize his condition until he is lying face down in the gutter, it may be a while before we get out of the empire business and start looking out again, as our fathers did, for the American republic first. But that day is coming.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. Copyright 2015 Creators.com.