Brown is a harbinger of a momentous, and ominous, aspect of the 2008 presidential election: For the first time in living memory, one of the major parties — Brown’s — will be essentially hostile to free trade, the foundation of today’s prosperity. The Democratic Party’s protectionism operates under the dissimulating label of “fair trade.”
“Brown” is Sherrod Brown, whom you might recall is the Democrat running for Senator from Ohio instead of Paul Hackett. Although I like Hackett and was distressed that he felt he’d been shoved out of politics — Sherrod Brown is good, too. He’s real good.
Brown, whose career voting record is, according to the American Conservative Union, more liberal than another Cleveland area congressman, Dennis Kucinich, makes scant concession to conservatism, cultural or economic. He opposes bans on same-sex marriage (DeWine also opposed the ban that Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed in 2004), human cloning and partial-birth abortion.
I think I’m in love.
But he does favor a line-item veto and a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. That amendment, which would constitutionalize fiscal policy, is a terrible idea but a convenient gesture by Brown, who knows it is going nowhere.
Pretty much the same game Republicans played with a proposed balanced budget amendment in the 1980s and early 1990s. What took the wind out of those sails was Clinton’s balancing of the budget.
But back to Wills’s fear that Dems will destroy the economy with “protectionist” policies — I argued here that unfettered globalism is hurting the U.S. more than it’s helping. Members of the investor class, like Will, can’t see it, because their stock portfolios look just fine and the GDP is growing, if not at record rates. But globalism in practice has given us corporate profits based on the exploitation of foreign labor, which in turn is eroding wages and employment standards within the U.S. Robert Kuttner argues that it may be compromising national security as well.
A serious student of trade policy, Brown notes that the trade deficit for all of 1992 was $39 billion, but was $724 billion last year and $68 billion just for January 2006. He wants U.S. trade policy to force “stronger labor and environmental standards” in less-developed nations. He says the point is to “bring up their living standards.” Oh, please. The primary point is to reduce the competitive advantages of nations with lower labor costs and lighter environmental regulations — nations that many Ohioans believe have caused their state to lose 222,800 manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years.
I see it this way — unfettered globalism amounts to importing lower wages and worse working conditions for Americans. We can either passively accept the destruction of a way of life for millions of Americans as the cost of doing business, or we can pro-actively work to export our employment standards to the rest of the globe. This will not only prevent countless Americans from falling out of the middle class, but it will improve the lives of workers everywhere. So corporate profits will be a little less robust — think of it as the cost of doing business.
Put another way — does this glorious global economy exist to serve humankind, or does humankind exist to serve the glorious global economy?
This is a question We, the People and our elected representatives need to be thinking about now, and we need to be very clear in our minds what our answer is. We’ve been stumbling along for the past few years with conservatives and neoliberals selling us a vision of global economy utopia that doesn’t add up. These people should be called upon to show us, in very concrete terms, how washing machines manufactured in Mexico and exported to India are going to enrich American workers. They need to be very specific about where jobs will come from to replace the manufacturing jobs we are losing. Platitudes about boats and rising tides, or band-aid answers about education, are not going to cut it. We need details. We need to see the plan. Now.
It may not have caused Will any inconvenience that Ohio lost 220,000 manufacturing jobs in the past ten years, but I ‘spect lots of Ohioans are keenly bothered by it. And just about every time a citizen of Ohio loses his Union job and health benefits, Sherrod Brown likely gains another supporter.