‘Buy American’

Obama has sided with Republicans and biz types in opposing congressional Democrats' "Buy American" provisions in the stimulus bill, much to the chagrin of the Big Labor lobby.

I thought I had made up my mind on this when I read a story in the WSJ that put Obama on one side, and Harry Reid on the other (my instinct in such a choice is to go with Obama, every time). Besides, I'm a free-trader, and one of my beefs with Obama during the election is that he wasn't.

But when I mentioned that this morning, one of my colleagues strongly disagreed. She said (helping you guess who it was) that if taxpayers were putting up the dough, of course it should stay in this country.

Me, I don't want to take the global economy back to a bunch of little protectionist islands. If the economy starts to recover anywhere, I want the growth to flow freely. But I saw my colleague's argument.

Then, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins (below) came to see us this afternoon, and he talked about how our good friends in the Great White North — our biggest trading partners, the people we get the largest amount of oil from, etc. — are absolutely freaking out about the "Buy American" thing. And with good reason, from their perspective. And they are our good friends and allies. So I value their opinion.

Looking around, I see that Paul "Nobel Prize in Economics" Krugman is no help — on his blog, he argues it both ways (although I admit, I understand his anti-protectionist argument better than his wonkish one to the contrary).

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “‘Buy American’

  1. Lee Muller

    It is not free trade when American businesses are having to compete against foreign NATIONS. Much of the industry in Red China, for example, is owned by Norinco, the state-owned military industrial entity which originally just built weapons, from AK-47s to jet fighters. You may recall their illegal donations of $20,000,000 to the Clintons and Al Gore.
    The Airbus 300, recently of fame for surviving a water landing in the Hudson River, is built by a consortium with ownership by the French government, and each plane’s price is low because it is subsidized by the French taxpayers.
    Many textile plants in South Carolina have to compete in Europe while paying very high tariffs. Many mills here were the world’s low-cost producers, but could not compete when the IMF and World Bank loaned money to, or our Congress gave foreign aid to build factories overseas. Usually these factories are owned by the families and friends of the crooked thugs who run countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

  2. enkidu

    Everyone is helped by free trade. Buying the least expensive product allows purchasers to buy more with their disposable income. Emphasis in this country should be on training and retraining people to do skilled jobs which command a higher rate of pay and not try to continue artificially high rates of pay for largely unskilled tasks which can be performed but people in other countries for a fraction of the cost. In today’s world protectionism helps no one in the long run.

  3. bud

    Lee, why do you think BMW is located in SC? It’s because of HUGE subsidies by the SC taxpayer. This works both ways. American business has been heavily subsidized by the taxpayer for at least a bazillion years. Cherry picking a few examples doesn’t make your argument.
    I’m with the free trade folks on this one. We can’t build a wall against foreign trade and then expect them not to retaliate.

  4. Lee Muller

    I am the one backing free trade, bud.
    You don’t know anything about business, and are just backing the globalists who play to your ignorance ( I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. It is just the truth.)
    Being a consultant in automobile manufacturing, I happen to know that BMW had many more reasons to locate in SC, without the tax breaks, which I oppose for all industries.
    BMW was attracted primarily by the thousands of precision textile machinery companies in the Upstate, 400 of them from Germany and Switzerland. They knew there were thousands of skilled workers and trainable workers. They knew the free trade zones and international banking was already in place. They avoided the high wages of Germany and the shipping costs to their American markets.
    Most of all, SC is not Michigan or Germany, and the only union presence had killed itself by choking Mack Trucks to death.
    That is the lesson to be learned from BMW: that without union wage concessions and renegotiating the bloated pensions, GM, Ford and Chrysler cannot survive. They will go bankrupt, break up, and any new companies arising out of them will have the wage and benefit plans necessary to be profitable.

  5. Bart

    For those who are not familiar with the upstate, Lee hit the target dead center once again. Most don’t realize the extent of foreign investment and influence in the corridor between Charlotte, Spartanburg, and Greenville. Aside from the textile machinery companies, there are hundreds of other companies with foreign investment or ownership located along the corridor.
    A good friend attended a Christmas party several years ago and to his amazement, the only two attendees who spoke English without an accent were he and his wife. Another interesting point to make along with Lee’s. A tremendous amount of farm land acreage in South Carolina is foreign owned. The Dutch being one of the largest owners of land in our state.
    Lee brings up another good point concerning Mack Truck. The plant started off with great promise but soon, the union gained a foothold and poof!, no more Mack Truck plant providing employment for hundreds of South Carolinians. We are facing the same push in Charleston by union sponsored companies buying jobs and once on site, start union organizing activities. According to a source from the area, some industries have already had to deal with the situation brought into their place of business by these union fronts.

  6. Brad Warthen

    As long as I’m filing contact reports (such as the one with Wilkins above), I should mention that yesterday I had lunch with ex-Gov. Jim Hodges and Otis Rawl (head of the state chamber). Actually, I didn’t know that’s who I was going to have lunch with until I did (long story).
    But the two of them spoke at some length about this bill for changing the governance of the state Ports Authority, which made me wish I’d paid more attention that morning when Cindi had been talking about it.
    Anyway, one point that Otis made is that — as even I had noticed — increasingly lawmakers in the Upstate and other parts of the state have woken up in recent years to the fact of how important the state’s port facilities are to THEM and their constituents, and not some sort of private province of the Charleston delegation (that last part is MY characterization, not Otis’). Which sort of speaks to what Bart was just saying.
    Several years ago, Nina Brook and I went down and spent the day touring the port facilities. Two brand names stick out in my mind from that tour: BMW, and Michelin. We saw row upon row of Beamers waiting to be driven onto the RO-RO, and bales of white rubber stacked up on their way to becoming tires. (If I had started the blog back then, I’d have pictures and/or video, but I hadn’t so I don’t.)

  7. Lee Muller

    If the newspaper would air out the legislation on the Ports Authority, you might get some business people who know a lot more about the issues than the politicians do, to actually have the sort of public discussion that the legislative process is supposed to have, but almost never has.

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