Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trump Makes Protectionism Great Again

In all of Trump’s trade bluster, there is a disturbing nugget of protectionism.
Donald Trump is an optimist. He believes there is nothing wrong with America that autarky can’t fix.
Trump’s trade speech was a high-octane assault on the American free-trade regime that has been a matter of bipartisan consensus for decades and a bulwark of the post-World War II international order — not to mention an article of GOP economic orthodoxy.
Trump declared himself in favor of cut-rate AFL-CIO economics, and offers the same simplistic, conspiracy-tinged belief that the American economy is “rigged” as Bernie Sanders does. Indeed, if trade policy is all that mattered, the protectionist Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown should be on Trump’s VP shortlist as well as Hillary’s.
Few protectionists will ever avow, “Yes, I fear and loathe free trade.” They couch their protectionism in opposition to existing free-trade agreements and in the promise of somehow reaching wondrously different and better agreements — after all existing ones are ripped up.
This is the Trump tack. He argues that every trade deal is deeply flawed, but not because there’s an inherent problem with free trade, but because in roughly 70 years we have never once produced a competent negotiating team. What are the odds?
The Trump/Sanders story is that the middle class has been devastated by trade, especially in the manufacturing sector.
The truth is, if the metric is employment, U.S. manufacturing was in decline before the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement or the World Trade Organization. As Scott Lincicome of the Cato Institute points out, the absolute number of manufacturing workers has been dropping since 1979.
Read the rest of Rich Lowry's op-ed HERE.

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