A sea change has taken place in the mindset of our elites. The economic patriotism of Hamilton and Henry Clay, of Lincoln and T.R. and, yes, of the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, who forged America into the mightiest industrial machine the world had ever seen, is dead.
To the economic patriots of the Old Republic, trade policy was to be designed to benefit, first, the American worker. They wanted American families to have the highest standard of living on earth and U.S. industry to be superior to that of any and all nations. If this meant favoring American manufacturers with privileged access to U.S. markets and keeping foreign goods out with high tariffs, so be it.
But that Hamiltonian America-First vision that guided us for 150 years no longer informs our politics. Economic patriotism is dead.
For the Davos generation of leaders puts the Global Economy first. They are all good internationalists. If it's good for the Global Economy, it must be good for America. Theirs is a quasi-religious faith in that same free-trade ideology for which Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln and T.R. had only spitting contempt.
...our free-traders believe that everything that is happening to America has to be happening for the best.
That U.S. manufacturing that once employed a third of our labor force now employs perhaps 10 percent does not matter. That the most self-sufficient nation in history, which produced 96 percent of all that it consumed, now depends on foreigners for a fourth of its steel, half its autos and machine tools, two-thirds of its textiles and apparel, and most of its cameras, bicycles, motorcycles, shoes, televisions, videotape machines, radios, etc. does not matter.
...that we borrow $2 billion a day to finance consumption of foreign goods – none of this matters. The nation does not matter. The country does not matter. For we are all now in a Global Economy.
And so, as the jobs and skills of U.S. manufacturing workers disappear, and the taxes they pay into Social Security, Medicare, and federal and state governments fall, and the cost of their pensions is passed on to taxpayers, and the government goes deeper into debt to cover rising social costs corporations used to carry, other countries quietly observe.
Fifty years ago, a trade deficit of 6 percent of GDP, a hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs and a growing dependence on foreign nations for the vital necessities of our national life would have been taken as signs of the decline and fall of a great nation...
But hey! We can Save Money with Cheaper Imports from China!!