“I, like you, recognize the inescapable conclusion that all of history has taught: The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides for human progress and peace among nations. I certainly don’t have to explain the benefits of free and open markets to you. They produce more jobs, a more productive use of our nation’s resources, more rapid innovation, and a higher standard of living.” – President Reagan, remarks, 9/23/1985.
The only problem is that thirty years after Reagan made those remarks we do have to explain the benefits of free trade to many of our friends on the left. Fortunately, the nation’s top editorial pages have made the job easier:
- “It’s an Economics 101 lesson that bears repeating: Trade is good. The United States is the world’s largest trading nation, supporting more than 11 million jobs.” – Baltimore Sun
- “Considering that the United States typically imposes higher standards on its manufacturers and charges lower tariffs on imported goods, however, it has more to gain from free-trade deals than its trading partners,” – LA Times
- “With the world’s economies hitting stiff headwinds, more free trade is the one big lever available to produce a lift for consumers, job-seekers and entrepreneurs,” – Wall Street Journal
- “If trade agreements can accentuate the positives while mitigating the negative, that’s a good thing. If they can open up foreign markets while insisting on a more level playing field, that’s sound policy,” – Cleveland Plain Dealer
And if Democrats think they are making the decision to set aside good policy in favor of good politics, well they’re wrong there too.
‘Though the lesson continues to elude too many anti-trade interest groups, and the lawmakers who heed them, the American people understand that they have more to gain than to fear from a more open global economy,” writes the Washington Post based on findings from a new Gallup poll showing one of the lowest anti-trade sentiments in the last twenty years.
Despite free trade being both good policy and good politics it is still creating a deep rift within the Democratic Party, one that could ultimately define the 2016 elections. Elizabeth Warren, who has fast become an icon of far-left progressivism, and a potential primary opponent for Hillary Clinton, got the battle of words started.
“Are you ready to fight?” Warren asked a crowd on April 15. “No more secret deals, no more special deals for multi-national corporations. Are you ready to fight?”
President Obama, who has been in drawn out negotiations with Asian countries on a free trade agreement, didn’t take Warren’s comments lying down.
“I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole hose of issues. But she’s wrong on this,” Obama told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
“Everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal,” he continued. “Now I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts they are wrong.”
But that was just the start. The next day POLITICO reported that “Democrats have taken the gloves off in their own trade war.” And indeed they have. Warren fired back with a blog post and an interview, in which she accused the trade negotiation process of being “rigged,” adding that “I just think it’s time to say no.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is also considering a presidential bid, said the free trade agreement would be a “job-killing” deal.” And Sen. Harry Reid told reporters, “I’m not only a no. I’m a hell no.”
Hillary Clinton, for her part, is largely staying silent, a position that is also earning criticism. Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley took a jab at Clinton saying that workers “are owed more than lip service. They deserve to know where leaders stand.”
One thing that Americans everywhere can be sure of: Republican leaders are united and committed to growing the economy, wages, and the number of jobs by wholeheartedly supporting free trade. Now, pardon us as we reach for the popcorn and watch Democrats’ shoot themselves in the foot because they didn’t pay attention in Economics 101.