Ground Control to Mr. Bush

Bernie Sanders

There’s a trade deficit. That’s easy to resolve: Peo­ple can buy more Unit­ed States prod­ucts if they’re wor­ried about the trade deficit.” —George W. Bush, Decem­ber 152004 

The time for playing nice with corporate outsourcers and their enablers in government is over.

Rem­i­nis­cent of the cal­lous Let them eat cake” reput­ed­ly uttered by Marie Antoinette on her way to the guil­lo­tine, Pres­i­dent Bush’s remarks show how out of touch he is with the eco­nom­ic real­i­ty most Amer­i­cans face. Appar­ent­ly, the pres­i­dent hasn’t vis­it­ed a shop­ping mall or Wal-Mart late­ly. If he had, like the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who flocked to our nation’s stores this hol­i­day sea­son to buy toys, bicy­cles, com­put­ers, sneak­ers, clothes, tele­phones, cow­boy boots (yes, Mr. Pres­i­dent, cow­boy boots!), even arti­fi­cial Christ­mas trees and dec­o­ra­tions, he would sure­ly know that an over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of these prod­ucts were made over­seas, most­ly in China.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, did you buy an Xbox for your teenage rel­a­tive this hol­i­day sea­son? If you tried pur­chas­ing one that was made in the Unit­ed States, you’re out of luck. Accord­ing to Flex­tron­ics CEO Michael Marks, We moved all of the pro­duc­tion of Microsoft’s Xbox con­soles from Mex­i­co to China.”

Did Mrs. Bush buy you a pair of Ari­at cow­boy boots for Christ­mas? Well, guess what, Mr. Pres­i­dent? Every last one: made in China.

As every­one knows from your acci­dent last sum­mer, you are an avid bicy­cler. How about a stur­dy moun­tain bike for Christ­mas? Oops, 85 per­cent of our bicy­cles are made in China.

As our com­man­der in chief, you might be think­ing about pick­ing up some more rare-earth mag­nets for our military’s smart bombs and cruise mis­siles. Well, guess what? Eighty per­cent of those mag­nets are made in China.

How about an Amer­i­can flag? Since 911, more than 10 mil­lion Amer­i­can flags were made in China.

Levi’s Jeans? Sor­ry, they aren’t made in the Unit­ed States any­more either. Did your staff pur­chase Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions for the White House this year? Approx­i­mate­ly 80 per­cent of these dec­o­ra­tions are now made in Chi­na. (By the way, did you read about the so-called Chris­t­ian dis­si­dent” who was placed under house arrest in Chi­na because he want­ed to have a par­ty with his friends to cel­e­brate the birth of Jesus Christ?)

Mr. Pres­i­dent, you may want to do your hol­i­day shop­ping next year with for­mer Gen­er­al Motors CEO Jack Smith. At least, he sounds like he’s been out in the real world late­ly. Walk around Wal-Mart,” Mr. Smith says, and it looks as if every­thing is made in Chi­na.” And he should know about Chi­nese imports. After all, Gen­er­al Motors is lay­ing the ground­work for mov­ing the U.S. auto indus­try abroad by pur­chas­ing $4 bil­lion in auto parts from Chi­na by 2009, up from $200 mil­lion last year.

While the stark real­i­ty of America’s indus­tri­al might mov­ing abroad may have escaped the pres­i­dent and his eco­nom­ic advis­ers, a grow­ing num­ber of mem­bers of Con­gress see with their own eyes the dev­as­tat­ing effect that the president’s trade pol­i­cy is hav­ing on man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs in their own dis­tricts. It’s high time that Con­gress brought the pres­i­dent down to earth, and made him under­stand that our cur­rent unfet­tered free trade poli­cies have been a dis­as­ter for the work­ing fam­i­lies of this coun­try — and need a fun­da­men­tal overhaul.

Today, the mid­dle class in our coun­try is shrink­ing, pover­ty is increas­ing, and the gap between the rich and the poor is grow­ing wider. This year, the Unit­ed States will have a record-break­ing trade deficit of almost $600 bil­lion, includ­ing an esti­mat­ed $140 bil­lion trade deficit with Chi­na. Over the last four year we have lost 2.7 mil­lion decent-pay­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs — more than 16 per­cent of that sec­tor. Many of those jobs have gone to Chi­na, a total­i­tar­i­an soci­ety where work­ers are paid pen­nies an hour and have min­i­mal rights. Mean­while, most of the new jobs being cre­at­ed here are low wage with min­i­mal benefits.

Amaz­ing­ly, while the U.S. mid­dle class declines, cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca is help­ing make Chi­na the eco­nom­ic super­pow­er of the 21st cen­tu­ry. Not only is Chi­na rapid­ly becom­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter of the world, it is quick­ly becom­ing the infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy hub as well. Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, pre­dict­ed last year that the Unit­ed States will lose the bulk of its infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy jobs to Chi­na and India over the next decade. These are some of the best-pay­ing jobs available.

And John Cham­bers, the CEO of Cis­co, is typ­i­cal of many cor­po­rate lead­ers when he said: Chi­na will become the IT cen­ter of the world, and we can have a healthy dis­cus­sion about whether that’s in 2020 or 2040. What we’re try­ing to do is out­line an entire strat­e­gy of becom­ing a Chi­nese company.”

The time for play­ing nice with cor­po­rate out­sourcers and their enablers in gov­ern­ment is over. Con­gress must repeal Per­ma­nent Nor­mal Trade Rela­tions with Chi­na and devel­op trade poli­cies that pro­tect and cre­ate good-pay­ing jobs in Amer­i­ca. We must cre­ate a noise so loud that even the pres­i­dent hears it.

Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2006 after serv­ing 16 years in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He is the longest serv­ing inde­pen­dent mem­ber of Con­gress in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Elect­ed May­or of Burling­ton, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 elec­tion as Ver­mon­t’s at-large mem­ber in Con­gress, Sanders lec­tured at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard and at Hamil­ton Col­lege in upstate New York. Read more at his web­site.
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