Free Trade’s Biggest Trade Offs

Wendy - Sullivans Island, South Carolina
Entered on June 15, 2008

In an article “The Free Trade Paradox” ( May 26, The New Yorker) James Surowiecki notes that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s protectionist trade policy would hurt Americans. The article is neatly illustrated by a cartoon guy, wrapped around the globe, pistol pointing at his own foot.

Surowiecki argues free trade with China has enriched the lives of lower and middle class Americans. “Chinese products are still concentrated mostly in lower price markets. By some estimates Wal-mart alone has accounted for nearly one-tenth of all imports from China.”

Well, this bread-and-circus mentality is shockingly simplistic. Wal-mart’s profits along with those of other corporate giants have soared while the recent Jobs Report revealed the US lost another 38,000 jobs in May. Forgetting for a moment that bread is now a luxury good at $4 a loaf thanks to farmers subsidized by US tax dollars now auctioning their grain overseas, the idea that OK, bread and toys can compensate people for a lack of adequate health care isn’t something I can wrap myself around.

What about the reality that Americans have already leveraged their homes’ equity to shore up sagging incomes? We’re trading home ownership to buy consumer electronics, furniture, flooring and “little happies” made mostly in China. Is the momentary circus all we should aspire to? What about working toward and believing in a brighter future than our own for our children? Vulgar American materialism is the purported target of Islamic terrorism. I don’t think it’s serving us all that well here at home, either.

Keller Williams Realty has a principle; Together we achieve more. I believe that only by coming together as a nation and working on ways to shore up our economy through education and opportunities for all Americans will we enjoy true security again. This I believe.