Cleburne Times-Review Article for January 29, 2006
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
--1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
In a recent column, Molly Ivins outlined the reasons why she would not be supporting Hillary Clinton for president. The Clintons, Bill and Hillary both, are guilty of many political sins, but probably the worst of them is one Molly mentions in her first paragraph: “triangulation,” that particularly Clintonian strategy of charting a course straight down the middle of two extremes on any given issue. Bill Clinton’s version of Karl Rove, Dick Morris, may have invented triangulation, but now everyone wants in on the act, to the point that even conservatives are sick of seeing Republicans use it. Maybe the most egregious example of this tactic, and certainly the most harmful to America’s future (not to mention the Democratic Party), occurred in 1992 over NAFTA and global “free trade.” Back in those days, which seem so long ago now, the rich and notoriously obnoxious loudmouth H. Ross Perot exploded in the polls by, among other things, bashing “free trade.” NAFTA was then a predominantly Republican issue, closely associated with George H. W. Bush, and bitterly opposed by most of the Democratic base, particularly labor unions. So, after hemming and hawing for as long as possible, Clinton finally, at literally the eleventh hour, October of 1992, endorsed NAFTA “with reservations,” calling for better environmental and labor standards. Once he was safely elected, Clinton worked quickly to isolate the still-ranting Perot and managed, just barely (like Nixon going to China) to cram NAFTA through a Democratic Congress. If the intention was to lure big business (or at least big investors) away from the Republicans, it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: discouraged labor voters stayed home, business PAC money still flowed like a tidal wave to the Right, and the GOP stormed Congress in 1994. By plugging into the same sort of economic appeasement that Reagan, and the first Bush (and now the second Bush) followed, Clinton crippled his own party, but worse yet, has put America on the fast track to second-class status in the world economy.
After years of NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and other alphabet soup agreements that weakened American sovereignty in favor of unelected pro-corporate bureaucracies (far worse than the impotent UN that is the boogeyman of all Conservatives), manufacturing has declined as a share of the American economy from 39% in 1988 to an anemic 9% in 2004. Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will layoff as many as 30,000 employees and close ten plants in the United States. This follows a similar amount of layoffs by General Motors. Bethlehem Steel, one of the engines of the Industrial Revolution in this country, died with a whimper in 2003, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for 95,000 workers and retirees. After the US was forced to lift protections against cheap Chinese textiles, the market was so flooded, and the prospect of the utter collapse of the American textile industry so imminent, even the Bush Administration was forced to take action, though it remains to be seen if this “gentlemen’s agreement” does anything more than just postpone the inevitable. America’s trade deficit declined slightly in October of last year to $64.2 billion, but that’s still the third-largest in history. Foreign ownership of US debt, after remaining steady at around 20% from 1970 until 1995, is now over 50%. Of that debt, now over $8 trillion dollars, Japan held $682.8 billion and Red China $249.8 billion as of November 2005.
So, who cares? So what if we aren’t making cars, or steel, or textiles, or much of anything else? The economy seems okay outwardly. The unemployment rate is down a little, for however much you can trust the “official” jobless rate. Here’s why you should care: you cannot be an economic superpower and not make anything. You cannot be an economic superpower and owe astronomical amounts of money to foreign countries which do not necessarily have your best interests at heart. Don’t believe me? Ask Great Britain. Better yet, read “Wealth and Democracy” by every Democrat’s favorite Republican Kevin Phillips, or the older but still relevant, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” by Paul Kennedy. They both make the same point: throughout history, countries that abandon manufacturing in favor of “high finance” and other “paper economies” rapidly end up being pushed off the top of the heap. Or think about this: I remember the days when Republicans lined up to accuse Bill Clinton of selling out to Red China (when in reality he was following almost to the letter George H. W. Bush’s policy). But what if China decides to invade Taiwan? What, exactly, could we do about it, even if our military wasn’t already bogged down in Iraq and strained to the breaking point? The People’s Liberation Army (which is really more a giant real estate company these days anyway) would never have to fire a shot; they could just sell off their Treasury bonds and wreck the US economy overnight if we raised a peep.
Now here’s another question: why are there NO Democrats of national stature talking about this? Forget a third political party, I’d be happy if we had two!