3.04.2008

DON'T BLAME THE FOREIGNER

I found this link to an article by conservative economist Thomas Sowell via Greg Mankiw's blog: "Rescuing the Rust Belt." It's a compelling description of how unions and government, and not NAFTA, are the reason for economic stagnancy in such states as Ohio and Michigan. Here's my favorite excerpt: "Jobs are always disappearing. The big question is why they are not being replaced by new jobs. Rust belt policies that drove out old jobs also keep out new jobs. NAFTA makes it easier for politicians to blame the problem on foreigners. In fact, foreigners make ideal scapegoats for politicians. After all, people in Japan or India can't vote in American elections."

It was less than a generation ago that a Chinese-American named Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat a week before his wedding because two unemployed white auto workers thought he was Japanese and they wanted to take out their frustrations on an easy scapegoat. So erroneous and ominous messages about how free-trade policies cause Americans to lose jobs to the Chinese or the Mexicans not only offend my intellect, they cause me to fear a little for my own personal safety.

Let's be clear: most manufacturing jobs weren't lost to other countries, they were lost to machines. And the resulting productivity gains we humans enjoyed, to the extent that we reinvested them into professional development and new skills training, led to astonishingly large gains in our quality of life. The things we take for granted in our day-to-day living - the cars we drive, the appliances in our kitchen, the medical advances that ease our pain - were very far away from the average American barely a generation ago. On both counts of economics and of race/ethnicity, shame on Clinton and Obama for twisting this story.
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