Thursday, August 10, 2006

Free trade -- an important gauge for my vote 

Greg Mankiw reads the Ned Lamont position page on jobs and gets quite nervous. Lamont is for strong restrictions on trade with China until "American products have the same access to Chinese markets that Chinese products have to American markets." Mankiw comments:
So Lamont seems to think the U.S. economy is suffering and the primary reason is competition from poor workers in China.

This rhetoric scares me. Wages, benefits, and labor and environmental standards are primarily a function of the level of economic development. Complaining about poor countries low wages and benefits is essentially blaming the poor for being poor.

Talk about "strong standards" sounds nice, but it is not realistic: Labor and environmental standards cannot catch up to U.S. levels until China is much richer than it is today. Demanding "strong standards" can easily become an excuse for imposing trade restrictions, which will only improvish the world's poor even further, as well as denying Americans the benefits of globalization.
I went to check the Bachmann and Wetterling sites for a position on trade, but I see none. Let me suggest to whomever gets both of them to come to a debate -- something of a debate in itself -- that we pin those two down on international trade. I believe I've asked Bachmann the question on air once, but I'd have to dig through archives to find that answer, and those aren't with me today.

Nothing much on free trade on Kennedy's site either. Amy Klobuchar, however, has a very similar ring. Here's Lamont:
Many of our high-skill jobs are being sent overseas, drawn by low wages and no benefits.

I support strictly-enforced fair trade policies which level the playing field, requiring that American products have the same access to Chinese markets that Chinese products have to American markets. I would support only reciprocal trade agreements which include strong labor and environmental standards.
And here's Klobuchar:
I will fight to open markets and make sure that Minnesota's farmers have fair access to them. I believe we need fair trade, not just free trade. Properly negotiated trade agreements have the potential to create new opportunities for Minnesotans while increasing living standards and economic development overseas. But when those agreements ignore low labor and environmental standards in other countries, the full gains of free trade can't be realized and we harm our own national interests.
If you're wondering who would Amy choose, I think you have your answer. Now I've been hard on Kennedy in the past over votes that have spurned free trade principles in favor of farm protections (see the ethanol issue, for example), but his free trade votes in the House have been certainly better than those espoused by Lamont and Klobuchar.

And while we're at this issue, let's look at new MN Attorney General wannabe Bill Luther, who also has decided to dispense some gas:
In the first half of this year, oil companies made excessive profits during a time when there was relative stability in market distribution and oil supply.
So if demand for your product rises and as a result you earn more income, you're a gouger? Bill Luther, meet the law of demand.

I judge candidates by their economic literacy. Can't help it, it's a professional hazard. And to be blunt, on these issues it's hard to find someone I like, except maybe Joe Lieberman.