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The Slow Awakening Of George W.

September 17  2003

Last July, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Zoellick delivered a halftime pep talk to dispirited globalists, thrown on the defensive by the hemorrhaging of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

"What ... a surprise," Zoellick railed at his troops, "to see that the proponents of [free trade] ... have so often abandoned the debate to the economic isolationists and purveyors of fright and retreat."

But by September, Zoellick's own boss seemed to be drifting toward the camp of the "economic isolationists and purveyors of fright."

At a rally in Ohio, which has lost 160,000 manufacturing jobs since mid-2000, President Bush railed: "We've lost thousands of manufacturing jobs because production moved overseas. ... America must send a message overseas say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade."

Yes, friends, at long last, we have their attention.

What's behind this radically revised presidential rhetoric? It is this: U.S. manufacturing jobs are vanishing, and unless he turns it around, Bush's presidency may vanish along with them.

The numbers are breathtaking. Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing for 37 straight months. Not since the Depression have we lost production jobs three years in a row. Since 2000, one in every six manufacturing jobs, 2.7 million, has disappeared. These jobs paid an average wage of $54,000.

Unfortunately for President Bush, while he has a good heart, he was horribly miseducated at Harvard. He simply cannot comprehend that it is free-trade globalism that is destroying U.S. manufacturing jobs, and may yet destroy his presidency.

The serial killer of manufacturing jobs is imports, which are now equal to almost 15 percent of GDP, four times the level they held between 1860 and 1960. What has caused this flood of imports? The trade deals that people like Robert Zoellick negotiate and George W. Bush celebrates.

Consider the numbers.

In July alone, the United States exported $86.1 billion in goods and services. But we imported $126.5 billion, for a trade deficit of $40.4 billion. The total trade deficit for 2003 is estimated at between $480 billion and $500 billion. But the deficit in goods will run closer to $550 billion.

The president's father and Bill Clinton contended that every $1 billion in exports created 20,000 jobs. Thus, a $550 billion trade deficit kills 11 million production and manufacturing jobs.

Say goodbye to blue-collar America.

What is the Bush prescription for curing this metastasizing cancer? In Ohio, he declared, "See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair."

How, Mr. President?

Consider the nation that runs the largest trade surplus with us. In July, we bought $13.4 billion in goods from China and sold China $2.1 billion. U.S. imports from China this year should come in around $160 billion, and U.S. exports to China at $25 billion.

We will thus buy 10 percent of the entire GDP of China, while she buys 0.25 percent of the GDP of the United States. Is this "fair trade"? But how does Bush propose to close this exploding deficit? How can he?

Where a U.S. manufacturing worker may cost $53,000 a year, a factory in China with $53,000 and using the same machinery and technology as a U.S. factory can employ 25 reliable, intelligent, hardworking Chinese at $1 an hour.

If you force U.S. businessmen to pay kids who sweep the floor a $5-an-hour minimum wage, while their rivals pay highly skilled Chinese workers $1 an hour, how do you square that with the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws?

Does the president, when he goes on about keeping "the rules fair," mean he will insist that China start paying its skilled workers $25 an hour and subject their factories to the same payroll taxes, wage-and-hour laws, OSHA inspections and environmental rules as ours?

Beijing will tell him to go fly a kite, Made in China.

It is absurd to think we can force foreign nations to accept U.S. rules and regulations on production and American standards on wages and benefits. And why should foreign nations comply, when with their present policies and laws they are looting our industrial base and walking away with our inheritance?

The men who have custody today of what was once the most awesome manufacturing base the world had ever seen are ideologues, impervious to argument or evidence. Like the socialists of Eastern Europe, zealots like Zoellick are beyond retraining. They are uneducable. They have to go. The sooner they do, the sooner we can get about rebuilding the self-sufficient and sovereign America they gave away.

2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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