I consider myself a fiscal conservative. I believe that free market capitalism is proven to be far above any other economic model, if the goal is to provide the highest standard of living for the most people. However, I find myself unconvinced that FREE TRADE, as it has been pursued by Republicans and Democrats alike, is all to the benefit of the United States. When I entered the workforce in the early 1950’s, it was easily possible to earn a good enough living, working at manufacturing, and other heavy or light industry, commerce, and middle management, to buy a home, raise a family, drive a serviceable automobile, take small vacations, and, in general, live the American Dream. These jobs were plentiful, healthful, safe, and reasonably secure. That is no longer entirely true, and it is getting more so every year.
In pursuit of FREE TRADE, our government has made it advantageous for the providers of these jobs to export them to foreign countries where the standard of living, and therefore wages are far lower than at home. In addition to lower standards of living, benefits and wages, industries in these countries also have far fewer environmental, and regulatory constraints to deal with. We have stacked the deck against a large segment of the American work force.
I know the FREE TRADERS insist that, in the long run, more jobs are created here than are exported. That is possibly true, but what are the qualities and characteristics of these jobs? More importantly, how accessible are these jobs to the former manufacturing/industry/middle management workers? The FREE TRADERS counter that funds for subsistence and retraining are made available for displaced workers. That’s not good enough. It is the work ethic of these workers, in partnership with the industrial geniuses of our capitalistic system that created the standard of living, environmental enhancements, and prosperity of these United States. There is no justice in availability of subsistence or retraining of displaced workers for jobs beyond their desires, accustomed modes and abilities.
It seems tragic to me that more efforts were not made to level competition between countries. I understand that over-reaching unions were a part of the motivation for outsourcing jobs, but still, leveling (or nearly so) the playing field, industry by industry could have accomplished the purpose without exporting a majority of well paying industrial, commercial, and middle management jobs. In this era of spread sheets, and computer modeling it would have been possible to compensate for disparity of standard of living, regulatory, and environmental conditions between countries on an industry by industry basis and set tariff rates to assure a competitive and fair economic exchange.
To those who say the United States owes assistance to undeveloped countries, I say fine; but the best way to help them is to teach them the power of competitiveness in a capitalistic society.