"There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve: People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit."
-George W. Bush, December 15, 2004
Reminiscent of the callous 'Let them eat cake” reputedly uttered by Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine, President Bush's remarks show how out of touch he is with the economic reality most Americans face. Apparently, the president hasn't visited a shopping mall or Wal-Mart lately. If he had, like the millions of Americans who flocked to our nation's stores this holiday season to buy toys, bicycles, computers, sneakers, clothes, telephones, cowboy boots (yes, Mr. President, cowboy boots!), even artificial Christmas trees and decorations, he would surely know that an overwhelming majority of these products were made overseas, mostly in China.
Mr. President, did you buy an Xbox for your teenage relative this holiday season? If you tried purchasing one that was made in the United States, you're out of luck. According to Flextronics CEO Michael Marks, 'We moved all of the production of Microsoft's Xbox consoles from Mexico to China.”
Did Mrs. Bush buy you a pair of Ariat cowboy boots for Christmas? Well, guess what, Mr. President? Every last one: made in China.
As everyone knows from your accident last summer, you are an avid bicycler. How about a sturdy mountain bike for Christmas? Oops, 85 percent of our bicycles are made in China.
As our commander in chief, you might be thinking about picking up some more rare-earth magnets for our military's smart bombs and cruise missiles. Well, guess what? Eighty percent of those magnets are made in China.
How about an American flag? Since 9/11, more than 10 million American flags were made in China.
Levi's Jeans? Sorry, they aren't made in the United States anymore either. Did your staff purchase Christmas decorations for the White House this year? Approximately 80 percent of these decorations are now made in China. (By the way, did you read about the so-called Christian 'dissident” who was placed under house arrest in China because he wanted to have a party with his friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?)
Mr. President, you may want to do your holiday shopping next year with former General Motors CEO Jack Smith. At least, he sounds like he's been out in the real world lately. 'Walk around Wal-Mart,” Mr. Smith says, 'and it looks as if everything is made in China.” And he should know about Chinese imports. After all, General Motors is laying the groundwork for moving the U.S. auto industry abroad by purchasing $4 billion in auto parts from China by 2009, up from $200 million last year.
While the stark reality of America's industrial might moving abroad may have escaped the president and his economic advisers, a growing number of members of Congress see with their own eyes the devastating effect that the president's trade policy is having on manufacturing jobs in their own districts. It's high time that Congress brought the president down to earth, and made him understand that our current unfettered free trade policies have been a disaster for the working families of this country—and need a fundamental overhaul.
Today, the middle class in our country is shrinking, poverty is increasing, and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider. This year, the United States will have a record-breaking trade deficit of almost $600 billion, including an estimated $140 billion trade deficit with China. Over the last four year we have lost 2.7 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs—more than 16 percent of that sector. Many of those jobs have gone to China, a totalitarian society where workers are paid pennies an hour and have minimal rights. Meanwhile, most of the new jobs being created here are low wage with minimal benefits.
Amazingly, while the U.S. middle class declines, corporate America is helping make China the economic superpower of the 21st century. Not only is China rapidly becoming the manufacturing center of the world, it is quickly becoming the information technology hub as well. Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, predicted last year that the United States will lose the bulk of its information technology jobs to China and India over the next decade. These are some of the best-paying jobs available.
And John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, is typical of many corporate leaders when he said: 'China will become the IT center of the world, and we can have a healthy discussion about whether that's in 2020 or 2040. What we're trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company.”
The time for playing nice with corporate outsourcers and their enablers in government is over. Congress must repeal Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and develop trade policies that protect and create good-paying jobs in America. We must create a noise so loud that even the president hears it.
Bernie Sanders represents Vermont as an at-large member of the House of Representatives, where he has served since 1991.
© 2005 In These Times