Did anyone actually talk about China or manufacturing in last night's presidential debate?
Let’s not get into who won the presidential debate last night between President Obama and Governor Romney. Instead, let’s simply see if what the candidates discussed will actually be helpful to the American people.
- The word “China” was mentioned only three times. Romney twice cited “borrowing money from China.” In the only other instance, Romney vowed to “crack down on China if and when they cheat.”
- The word “manufacturing” was mentioned only once, by President Obama, when he promised to lower the corporate tax rate on manufacturers.
The candidates did spar over “loopholes” for companies that are “shipping jobs overseas.” But overall, and as Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul observed in a series of Twitter posts, the debate failed to incorporate any meaningful discussion of U.S.-China trade.
Both of the candidates have run frequent campaign ads of late, contrasting their approaches to China, which makes the absence of any discussion whatsoever on China’s ongoing currency manipulation extremely perplexing. In fact, Romney’s qualifier on “if and when” China cheats marks a strange departure from his more fervent, recent attacks.
For AAM’s overall take on the debate, Scott Paul’s running commentary on Twitter summarizes an evolving disenchantment as the evening progressed. Simply put, there was essentially no substantive discussion on trade and China. Sadly, the blame lies with moderator Jim Lehrer for not emphasizing this or directly raising the subject. (It looks like he disregarded AAM's pre-debate primer on the questions that really matter).
Specifically, Paul had Tweeted [in chronological order]:
- In opening statement @BarackObama takes pride in auto industry coming "roaring back," supports policies to invest in companies in US
- in #debates @BarackObama champions "economic patriotism." I imagine that tests well among all demographics!
- Wow. It took @MittRomney less than 2 minutes to talk about cracking down on China's cheating. This will be a theme.#debates
- In #debates @BarackObama supports lowering taxes for #manufacturing in America specifically, part of @KeepitMadeinUSA economic plan.
- There are at least 4 squares filled in already on @KeepitMadeinUSA #debates bingo card. Looks to be a good night for #manufacturing policy.
- I hope #debates gets to jobs soon, which is the TOP priority of voters; debt is a fixation of elites, including this moderator.
In #debates @MittRomney invokes borrowing from China. Less than 9 % of Treasuries held by China but still a concern for other reasons.
- Here's what @MittRomney is missing on clean energy tax breaks: someone is going to make turbines and panels, and it should be USA, not China
- Jim Lehrer unable to relate concerns of real voters-- this is an inside-the-beltway cocktail party, not a main street coffee shop talk re jobs
- In #debates @BarackObama plays up 3 trade deals no one has ever heard of but doesn't mention China by name, which is a much bigger deal.
- Our @KeepitMadeinUSA #manufacturing drinking/bingo games started strong but faded. For a debate focused on economy, big disappointment.
In summary, the America people may have been the biggest losers in last night's debate. The nation's massive, ongoing trade gap with China has claimed 2.7 million jobs since 2001, and a rethink of this flawed relationship is long overdue. Can the candidates find time to talk about it in the next debate?
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