Protectionism Versus Globalism

At a time of great concern over individual economic vitality and our nation’s economic health we hear arguments for protectionist policies. Protectionism is basically a retreat from global markets and a ramping up of rhetoric like “Buy American”. This is too simple and too emotional of a response to what amounts to far greater economic problems. In short, the “Buy American” answer lacks any serious imagination and logical thought. I was very disappointed recently to see this type of language in our trillion dollar spending/stimulus plan. If this is what we are to pin our hopes, dreams, and aspirations on, we would all do well to stop imagining now.

Certain provisions in this recent 72 hour spend-a-thon demand that various infrastructure projects be built entirely of American made resources like steel and iron. Well, I don’t know if you too have noticed, but, we don’t produce much of that anymore for a reason. So how much will we overpay to repair our infrastructure? What’s the right price to pay for components and resources that were previously deemed less viable by our own free market system? So our precious and sparing tax dollars will buy less “stimulus” because the needs of a few will trump the many. That’s no American ideal I’m familiar with.

You see, the greatest benefit of free market capitalism is the unbiased and seemingly sound decision making of its participants. When governments see fit to leave well enough alone and when governments avoid over-regulation, the price of a good or service is relative to the cost of said goods and services. The more regulation, the more tax, and the more convoluted the price points become. Eventually the price of goods and services become indiscernible or worse yet, simply not viable to manufacture, produce, or offer at home.

So how then do so many of our brightest political and economic minds and policy makers come to the conclusion that protectionist policies are what we need now? I can come up with just a few possible reasons.

  • 1. They have come so far from a notion of personal responsibility and accountability that they do not even realize its likely success as a way out of our most difficult problems, or,
  • 2. They are beholden to the interest groups and/or unions that enabled them to take their offices and policy making platforms, or,
  • 3. They don’t agree but they lack the political power and consequently the leadership required to persuade the opposition to the contrary.

All three of these possibilities seem particularly disturbing to me. In the case of the first, we have simply accepted that our predicaments must be someone else’s fault and of someone or something else’s volition. In essence, one is claiming they didn’t do it and they can’t present us with a clear plan on how to fix it so they hunker down and look outwards for a solution that will only come from within. It seems a far cry from the great thinking and ingenuity of our forefathers.

In the case of the second possible reason for our emotional ride towards protectionism, one needs only to review the enormous campaign and political party contributions to explain the positions of so many of our elected officials. These contributions don’t come without implicit strings attached. Nothing of the monetary sort comes for free in this country. The overwhelming amount of money that follows our congressmen and congresswomen continue to erode one of the pillars of the most successful government ever bestowed upon the Earth.

Finally, our third group of individuals may lay claim to the most despicable reason for our drive towards protectionism. In my humble opinion, these men and women are making a conscience choice not to succeed by their failure to stand up and take a stand. The United States has never before in history failed to meet its responsibilities at home and abroad. Well, one reason we have not failed before is due to the overwhelming amount of leaders our nation’s ideals and moral fabric have produced. That is what is most upsetting to me; our social systems are failing to create the American spirit necessary to perpetuate our greatness. And therein lies the problem, and worse yet, it creates a vicious cycle leading us right back to a nation of excuse makers.

So how bad is protectionism? As long as it is used as an excuse for our greed and as long as it masks our own acceptance of what we got ourselves into, it certainly won’t take us away from our problems. Worse yet, these ideas of protectionism were tried before at a time of tremendous suffering in the United States. During the height of the Great Depression we adopted several policies of the sort that are thought to have actually lengthened our financial hardships. In fact, after all of the New Deal measures were put in place by FDR, not one can be attributed with getting us out of our depression. It was only another brand of suffering that lifted us from the depths of our financial turmoil, WWII.

The minute our dire economic consequences were framed by our nation’s leaders and further propagated by a media full of sensationalists, all we heard was a plethora of excuses as to why we are in the mess to begin with. There will be plenty of time for these later. The excuses merely served as distractions to what we all know the problem to be anyway. Spend less and begin taking the personal responsibility for a nation addicted to credit and financial speculation. To derive these answers one need only look within what made us great in the first place. Our diversity of population with its penchant for assimilation along with our government’s ability to keep a hands off approach to our free spirits and lofty ambitions will surely right our ship.

You see, it’s precisely our unique background of diversity which has us poised for success on the international stage. We should revel at the chance to share our greatest export to the economies of the world, our unbridled and limitless enthusiasm and ingenuity. Simply put, we must be out there, because of who we are. There is no greater combination of talent and imagination worthy of bringing the world’s economies together and allowing them to work for all. Globalism if how we can best affect what happens to us and that in itself is taking personal responsibility for we the people of the United States of America.

Where is the Accountability?

It’s a sad day in America when we are no longer able to look to our leaders for leadership.

Families and individuals alike from coast to coast are struggling to make ends meet. Individuals are forced to account for their debts, as should be the case. The foreclosure wheel doesn’t stop spinning for the average Joe. Why then do our 535 Representatives and our President not seem to realize that if personal accountability and responsibility are good for us, it’s good for them too? After all, they are us, right? Perhaps no longer. Washington has become so distant from Main Street that their effectiveness and ability to lead our nation through its toughest times has eroded considerably.

Each election cycle invariably hosts one of two types of candidates. There is the Washington insider, pledging to wield his or her power to bring the pork to their constituents’ plates and then there is the self professed outsider, light on influence, yet full of ambition to change politics as usual. The winners are decided usually on a cyclical basis. When a district gets sufficiently fed up with their power brokers, in comes the new blood

As another trillion dollar spending / stimulus plan is rammed through the halls of Congress, I can’t help but feel that a solution such as that would be laughed at in my home. If in dire straits, let’s spend a whole bunch more money that we do not have. My wife would smack me for presenting a plan like that. Not to mention further insulting her by insisting she agrees with such a lofty program in the span of a day or two. No, we can’t spend our way out of this situation we have gotten ourselves in. Spending what one doesn’t have is an ill-founded idea born in Washington DC. There is nothing free in this world. One trillion dollars will cost us, our children, and their children incalculable amounts more. Let’s face it; we’re not just talking dollars are we. Look at the missed opportunities for teaching our children passing us by with every crisis we face. Rahm Emanuel, Barak Obama’s Chief of Staff was quoted as saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” I’m pretty sure he and I are talking about something completely different. It’s in a time of crisis that we are afforded our best learning opportunities. Any learning opportunity for me is consequently a teaching opportunity as well. As a proud new father in America, I will have to spend a considerable amount of time explaining to my daughter why they just didn’t get it right in Washington. That’s a shame!

To simplify the solution to our current economic crisis, just imagine what most families would naturally do in a similar situation. They would spend less, get another job, and improve their ability to earn more in life. Why then doesn’t Washington see that what works for us would work for US? Stop spending! Decrease taxes to spur growth and therefore generate new money. Get rid of any and all plans that merely re-circulate and increase debt.

In order to capture and retain the attention spans of our Representatives between election cycles, I propose the following:

With each new legislative term, our Representatives should start with a food, housing, travel, and congressional staff budget relative to our current fiscal year’s budget condition. When they keep the American public in the black, they get to eat, pay their Washington DC apartment’s rent, and travel home on weekends. More importantly, their staff will get paid and continue to make them shine in front of the cameras on Capitol Hill. When Congress drives our fiscal budget into the red, than imagine how quickly they’ll rectify matters when they are shelling out their own cash for the things they now take for granted. As crazy as it sounds, it’s simply a plan to return our Representatives to the realty that you and I live each and every day we roll out of bed and head to work. This is the connection we have lost with Washington. Our view of Washington and their view of us are clouded with a green tint emanating from the myriad of special interest money flying through the halls of Congress.

Times are certainly tough and getting tougher, there is no doubt about that. The real question is what moves will the American public make with regards to our problems. The easy way out would be to throw more money that we do not have at problem. The better answer has to come from those with the leadership to stand up now and admit that we have made major mistakes with our addiction to spending. Leadership never comes easy. That is why we seemingly have so few leaders on Capitol Hill. The American public has been taking the easy way out for many years now. It’s no wonder we perpetuate that cycle with the lack of leadership our children get from Washington. Parents can take all the individual responsibility they want for raising their children with morals and ethics, but we can’t lock our children up. We need some help from our most esteemed and the most appropriate citizens in the United States, our elected officials. How about backing up the American public with a renewed sense of right and wrong, your leadership will only help spur future generations of constituents that relate to you and thereby put you right back in office.