At a CNN town hall Thursday, businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump once again put the issue of manufacturing front and center in the 2016 race.
When CNN’s Anderson Cooper pressed Trump on whether a U.S. president ought to be sending cease and desist letters and whether he would continue to do so as president, Trump said, “maybe to China” — pointing out the extraordinary job losses Americans have experienced through trade policies:
No… I would be sending them to China to stop ripping us off. I would be sending them to other countries to stop ripping us off. I’d send them to Mexico. And when I say cease and desist, maybe it’s equivalent, OK? Maybe I do it with my mouth.
Federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests Trump’s argument on ending one-sided trade deals may resonate in South Carolina. According to the federal data, South Carolina lost 1/3 of its manufacturing jobs since U.S. signed NAFTA in 1994.
South Carolina had 347,700 people working in manufacturing jobs in January of 1995, the first full year after NAFTA went into effect, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By December of 2015, South Carolina had 232,000 people working manufacturing jobs. South Carolina lost 115,700 manufacturing jobs during that time — or one third of its jobs.
Yet the loss of manufacturing jobs impacts not only the factory workers and their families, but also workers across the state’s economy. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained, the displacement of manufacturing workers has a rippling effect across a broad spectrum of economy and can have a compressing effect upon the wages of entire American communities. EPI’s Josh Bivens writes:
The wage effects of global integration reach beyond those workers exposed directly to foreign competition. As imports displace non-college-educated workers from tradeable sectors (such as manufacturing), these laid-off workers need to accept lower wages to obtain work in other sectors (such as landscaping or construction). Further, the competition provided by these workers helps to lower the wages of similar workers already employed in these sectors. In short, while it is impossible to replace a waitress (a job in the non-tradable restaurant sector) with imports, her wages are harmed by having to compete with apparel workers who have lost jobs due to increased trade flows.
While the federal data reveals that manufacturing job loss since NAFTA has been substantial, economists note that much of U.S. job loss is a result of the United State’s trading relationship with China.
“China is the 800 lb. gorilla in U.S. trade deficits and job losses,” Economic Policy Institute’s Robert Scott told Breitbart News. China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 under George W. Bush and has engaged in illicit trading practice of currency manipulation in order to dump its goods into American markets.
While GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has made opposition to offshore-inducing trade deals, a central plank of his presidential campaign, other candidates have been supportive of globalist trade deals and have voted against cracking down on illicit trading practices.
For instance, Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed President Obama’s trade agenda. Rubio cast the 60th and deciding vote to fast-track President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a deal which Sen. Rubio said would be a “pillar” of his hoped-for presidency.
Similarly, Sen. Ted Cruz voted to fast-track the TPP. Prior to casting his vote for Obama’s trade deal, Cruz penned an op-ed with Paul Ryan in the Wall Street Journal endorsing Obama’s trade agenda and helping give needed momentum for Obama’s new trade powers to be successfully enacted. Cruz dismissed Sen. Jeff Sessions’s concerns about the deal’s erosion of U.S. sovereignty — describing Sessions’s assertions as “not accurate… It is simply false to say this would create some trans-national body that could change U.S. law,” Cruz said, even though it has since been revealed that Sessions was indeed correct, and Article 27.1 of the deal will ensnare the U.S. in a global governing commission similar to a nascent European Union.
Cruz’s vocal support of giving Obama fast-track trade authority gave establishment Republicans such as South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott — both of whom have endorsed Sen. Rubio — cover to support ceding Congressional authority to Obama as well.
For instance, in an op-ed explaining why they were voting to give Obama fast-track trade authority, Gowdy and Scott invoked Cruz’s name to suggest that supporting Obama’s trade agenda is somehow conservative: “Trade Promotion Authority is not about empowering any president… That’s why strong conservatives such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, George Will, Charles Krauthammer and the two of us support it.”
However after vocally campaigning for Obamatrade, as the presidential campaign was heating up, Cruz eventually reversed his vote. He now says he will not support TPP “in its current form” — leaving the door open to supporting it in the future.
Trump has similarly distinguished himself from his GOP opponents by pleading to crack down on currency manipulation. By contrast, Cruz and Rubio have voted to continue to allow the illicit trading practice. Last year, both Cruz and Rubio voted down an amendment spearheaded by Sen. Rob Portman — and supported by Jeff Sessions — to address currency manipulation.
In the past, Cruz has said that he opposes cracking down on currency manipulation because it is a “protectionist” argument. In a 2011 interview, Cruz was pressed about expressed unwillingness to support a modest measure that would crack down on currency manipulation. Cruz said in response, “Look, protectionist arguments, particularly when you have unemployment, they resonate because people are out of a job and they are ticked off.”
Cruz said, “I understand the concerns about China and I think we need to be vigorous in dealing with China, but I think it is a mistake to try to start a trade war with them.”
Yet businessman Mitt Romney, who had a background in steel, explained that “I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender.”
Nucor Steel Executive Dan DiMicco made a similar argument — describing the position articulated by Cruz as “unilateral trade disarmament and enablement of foreign mercantilism.”
And as Donald Trump explained in his response to the Sessions Test:
TPP allows foreign countries to cheat by manipulating their currency, making it impossible for American companies to fairly compete. Yet other candidates in this race have voted in favor of the currency manipulation that is killing our middle class. What our incompetent leaders don’t understand is that the United States holds all the cards. Other countries need access to our markets. Yet we refuse to use that leverage, and we negotiate one terrible job-killing deal after another. We buy from other countries, but they refuse to buy from us. Under my Administration, we are bringing these jobs back to America. No more one-sided deals.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, South Carolina has lost nearly 50,000 jobs to China alone.
As long as foreign countries are able to manipulate their currencies or to use cheap labor to underprice U.S. manufacturing, American manufacturing will continue to move overseas — taking American jobs and wages with them. This was recently seen with the Carrier air conditioning plant in Indianapolis, which announced it was moving 1,400 jobs to Mexico — prompting the ire of Donald Trump.
In a new column supporting Trump’s opposition to trade globalism, Buchanan explained how so-called free trade has siphoned off America’s strength and wealth:
Beijing has, over decades, looted and carted off the greatest manufacturing base the world had ever seen… with the exception of Trump, none of the GOP candidates seems willing to debate, defend or denounce the policies that eviscerated America — and empowered the People’s Republic. Workers, however, know what our politicians refuse to discuss. They are being sold out for the benefit of corporate elites who pay off those politicians with the big cash contributions that keep the parties flush. Politicians who play ball with Wall Street and K Street know they will be taken care of, if they are defeated or when they retire from public office, so long as they have performed. Free trade is not a zero-sum game. The losers are the workers whose jobs, factories and futures are shipped abroad, and the dead and dying towns left behind when the manufacturing plants shut down… America, now wedded to the fatal dogma of free trade, that is decaying.