GOP Candidates Need to Step Up and Confront China
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
By Kerri Houston
Since the 2008 presidential campaign began, each of the GOP frontrunners has likened himself to the unrivaled hero of the party faithful, Ronald Reagan. But the continuous stream of personal comparisons to President Reagan is causing many GOP primary voters to ask, “that’s nice, but who are you?”
As the Jan. 19th South Carolina Republican primary takes place in a state that has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs for years, it presents an opportunity to vote for candidates who address such issues.
Republican candidates rightly tout the nation’s historically low 4.7 percent unemployment rate and continued economic growth as a positive for the current Republican administration. However, these numbers do not tell the whole story, nor do they represent the personal stories of the 3.2 million manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs in the past seven years.
Just last month, state officials reported that South Carolina’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.8 percent as a result of continued losses in the manufacturing sector.
Although manufacturing still accounts for $24.9 billion of the state’s Gross State Product and is the largest individual contributor to its economy, South Carolina’s manufacturers have suffered massive losses over the last decade.
As a direct result of the enormous U.S. trade deficit with China, it is estimated that South Carolina lost nearly 30,000 jobs from 2001 to 2006.
This happens because China cheats. In virtually every sector of its economy.
Because of the explosion of safety problems with Chinese products, its booming manufacturing sector has now attracted attention from U.S. consumers. Some analysts take the incomplete view that the low cost of these goods outweighs the loss of manufacturing jobs. It is unlikely that the 91,000 South Carolina souls who lost their jobs since 2000 would agree.
China ignores many of its international obligations, such as a promise to end currency manipulation when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Its continued refusal to “float” its currency makes its goods artificially cheaper and ours more expensive.
China’s government gives its manufacturers site and transportation infrastructure and “loans” with no expectation of payback. As Chinese manufacturing benefits financially from ignoring environmental standards, its waterways and wells run with dyes and toxins that factories dump willy-nilly into the ground and rivers. And many Chinese factories disregard international norms for workers by embracing low pay and deplorable conditions for workers.
China’s rise also poses serious national security implications, and Republican candidates have the opportunity to tackle these challenges and reinvent the party’s traditional status as being strong on national defense.
Over the past several years, military experts have expressed concern about the integrity of our defense supply chain. Indeed, our military may be forced to turn to China for defense-related components no longer available in the United States.
Large military equipment, including tanks and planes, sit idle in repair centers as the few American companies left that provide both spare parts and the tools used to attach them have dwindled to a trickle. Humvees receive armor plating at a painful pace as only one U.S. manufacturer of armored steel remains.
Yet thanks to its lopsided balance of trade with the United States and a current account surplus of $163 billion, China has been able to increase its military funding by 18.2 percent over the last year, much of it focused on emerging military space applications.
In South Carolina, home to seven major military installations, about 38,200 active duty military members and nearly 27,000 reservists, attention to all aspects of military supply and national defense demands serious attention.
Despite the ability to address China’s cheating through existing trade laws, our government has done little to solve the economic and military challenges posed by China’s rise and the cheating that accompanies it.
In his June 6, 1984, speech at Omaha Beach commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Reagan noted, “We will always be prepared, so we will always be free.”
Perhaps if we were a little more prepared to address the erosion of our military-industrial base, we’d be feeling a more secure.
Only the GOP candidate willing to define himself by making a similar commitment to American prosperity and security at this very different time will earn the right to compare himself to Ronald Reagan.
Kerri Houston is a senior analyst with the Alliance for American Manufacturing (www.americanmanufacturing.org) and is serving a congressional appointment as a Republican commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. She will appear tonight at a town hall meeting in Rock Hill sponsored by the AAM that will focus on saving U.S. manufacturing.