The bipartisan sponsors of House Resolution 37 are Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). The resolution says:
“Congress and the President should prioritize the reduction and elimination, over a reasonable period of time, of the overall trade deficit of the United States.”
Last year our trade deficit totaled $502 billion or 2.7 percent of our gross domestic product. Trade deficits are a substantial drag on economic growth. If we had spent that half a trillion dollars on U.S. instead of foreign products and services, it would have created more income, production, and jobs at home instead of in foreign countries. According to CPA estimates, eliminating the trade deficit would lead to the creation of some 2.5 million new jobs.
Our 41 years of trade deficits have played a major role in the hollowing out of our manufacturing industry. Since the year 2000, the U.S. has lost 28 percent of its manufacturing employment, around 5 million jobs. The job loss is due to a number of factors, including higher productivity at home, imports taking U.S. market share, and the movement of factories, companies, and even entire industries to foreign locations. Economists have demonstrated that the impact of imports is especially severe because it often strikes towns and cities that are dependent on a single industry. Studies show that when workers lose their jobs due to import penetration, it often take them years to find another job, and the new jobs often pay far less. Further, unemployed workers in communities hit by imports often end up on federal disability or other social welfare programs, increasing the burden on taxpayers.
Increased use of addictive pain medication is also associated with the decline of manufacturing industry. According to the Ohio Department of Health, in a recent three-month period “fully 11% of all Ohioans were prescribed opiates.” The use of legal and illegal painkillers is one of the causes behind a shocking rise in the death rate among white Americans. According to a recent study by two Princeton economists, Anne Case and her husband Nobel prize-winner Angus Deaton, while death rates for black and Hispanic Americans continue to fall, white Americans’ death rates began to rise substantially around the year 2000, especially for those without college degrees. In 1999, white Americans aged between 50 and 54 with only high school education had a mortality rate 30 percent lower than comparable black Americans. By 2015, that group’s death rate had doubled from under 40 per 100,000 to over 80, a rate 30 percent higher than the comparable group of black Americans. As Professor Rice told an interviewer: “This doesn’t seem to be just about income. This is about accumulating despair for these people. The white working class may see itself now as the bottom rung of the ladder.” Or as the ever-eloquent Bill Clinton put it last year, poor white people are “dying of a broken heart.” Needless to say, the loss of manufacturing jobs doesn’t just affect white people, it affects all Americans who lose those jobs.
The U.S. has lost global market share in a long list of key industries and technologies, including steel, chemicals, autos, and computers. In each of these cases, there is substantial evidence of other nations taking advantage of so-called free trade agreements or other loopholes in trade laws to favor their exports and make it hard for our products to reach their markets. The illegal or questionable tactics include: enormous subsidies to support dumping and below-market pricing, currency manipulation, non-tariff barriers to American goods, and more. Over the last two decades of intensifying globalization, administrations led by both parties have failed to enforce existing trade laws. In many cases existing laws are insufficient to deal with the evolving practices used by nations determined to increase their share of world export markets. Focusing on the trade deficit enables the U.S. to implement policies to counteract other nations’ unfair practices.