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09/19/2004 Entry: "Department of duh"

"Senator Kerry has resisted considerable pressure from fellow Democrats to adopt protectionist trade policies. He has advocated providing more public money to help working Americans buy health insurance and he has proposed modest increases in public and private investments. He has also suggested that we do away with tax breaks that encourage companies to shift jobs overseas. None of these, however, add up to a sufficient response to the demands of our new economic world - especially since Congress and the American people seem so terribly divided on what should be done."
Trading Up, by Bob Kerrey, September 19, 2004, NYT Op/Ed

Duh.

September 19, 2004
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Trading Up
By BOB KERREY


n a campaign that has been devoted to Vietnam, Iraq and the economy, there is one issue that John Kerry would do well to bring up, an issue that has received little attention this political season: trade. I would love to see Senator Kerry announce that if elected he will immediately convene a summit meeting on international trade and globalism to be held in Columbus, Ohio. He should announce that the meeting will be an annual event and that he intends to invite American business, political, and education leaders to join him.

The meeting's agenda would not be so different from what the campaign's agenda should be - to help us reduce our current trade account deficit, to forge a plan to increase the size and vitality of our middle class, to design a way to ensure health and retirement benefits in an age of growing uncertainty, to see to it that we sustain the public and private investment needed for growth, to construct an agriculture policy that promotes healthy rural communities in America and around the world, and to balance our desire for growth with our need to conserve natural resources.

No issue is going to strain the political process in the United States more than trade. Here's one illustration: today nearly 25 percent of the clothing Americans buy is manufactured in China. The percentage would be higher except that quotas are imposed on some Chinese imports. Those quotas are set to expire next year. Even with strict enforcement of anti-dumping statutes, it is likely that millions of jobs in the United States will not survive the competitive reach of Chinese factories.

These losses have been putting pressure on low-skilled, low-wage workers in the United States for years. As China and India continue their phenomenal growth, the pressure will grow and expand into the ranks of skilled, middle-class workers. The effect is that millions of Americans will become poor, dependent on the government, uninsured and increasingly desperate. Correctly observing the benefits to consumers of inexpensive foreign goods does not mean we do not need a response other than to spend more tax dollars to support those who have been hurt.

Senator Kerry has resisted considerable pressure from fellow Democrats to adopt protectionist trade policies. He has advocated providing more public money to help working Americans buy health insurance and he has proposed modest increases in public and private investments. He has also suggested that we do away with tax breaks that encourage companies to shift jobs overseas. None of these, however, add up to a sufficient response to the demands of our new economic world - especially since Congress and the American people seem so terribly divided on what should be done.

The Columbus Summit meeting would be a means of giving our political, education and business leaders a venue at which they can reach consensus on trade and globalism. With the damage being done by trade deficits, inadequate savings and investment, and the growing numbers of poor, uninsured Americans, it is vitally important for this consensus to be found.

However, it simply will not and probably cannot be found during a modern presidential campaign. That is something Senator Kerry must promise to do if he is elected in November. The Columbus meeting would be the means of keeping that promise - and a way of telling the American people that he is the person to lead them through this vexing time.

Bob Kerrey, president of New School University, was a Democratic senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001 and a member of the 9/11 commission.

 

 

 

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