Posted by spaul on 06/01/2007
The presidential candidates--Democratic and Republican--will have plenty of opportunities to discuss jobs and the economy at the scores of debates scheduled over the summer. But two questions will determine whether or not voters will actually hear the real discussion that's needed.
First, will the debate panelists or moderators ask any pertinent questions on jobs and the economy? So far, the signs are not encouraging. These issues have received scant attention to date. Our nation faces many critical issues. The war in Iraq and immigration policy both deserve lengthy debate. But jobs and a strong manufacturing economy are also critical to the American people and to the early primary and caucus states in particular.
New Hampshire has lost a larger share of its jobs due to our unsustainable trade relationship with China than any other state in the nation. South Carolina has shed 91,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. And believe it or not, unfair trade practices have undercut honey producers in Iowa, costing the industry over $127 million nationwide. In all three states, manufacturing is still the leading economic sector--but unfair trade practices, illegal currency manipulation by China, as well as health care, retirement and energy costs, are threatening producers' ability to generate more of these well-paying jobs.
Second, will the candidates be able to move beyond bland statements of support for "free trade," "fair trade" or some combination thereof? The elites and mainstream media want to pin these labels, or even worse, the dreaded "protectionist" label, on the candidates. But these descriptions are neither helpful nor accurate. They divert our attention from the real truth: open markets can benefit everyone--investors, consumers, companies, and workers--but only if the rules are fair and only if those rules are aggressively enforced and appropriately enhanced.
An effective and meaningful manufacturing and trade strategy will make a difference to the American people in the following ways:
-- Whether tomorrow brings the layoff notice or the productivity bonus;
-- Whether their community has a top-notch public school, or one that is struggling to keep it doors open because the town's factory--its largest source of tax revenue--shut down and shifted production to China;
-- Whether the jobs of the future for their children will be flipping burgers or careers in nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing; and
-- Whether their nation will have an industrial base that can supply the critical materials that allow us to defend our nation, or if we will be forced to depend on the goodwill of other nations to do that for us.
Let's hope that in their allotted 30, 60 or 90 second increments, the candidates will ignore the labels and focus on the solutions.
This blog is cross-posted on The Huffington Post.