In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama promised to double exports over five years to "support" 2 million jobs in America. A year later he claimed the new U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement would "support" 70,000 jobs at home. And today, his Commerce Department boasts that U.S. exports "support" 11.3 million jobs.
[by Robert W. Patterson | February 24, 2015 | philly.com]
As the fictional Inigo Montoya famously said on screen, "I don't think that word means what you think it means." That's because total U.S. exports have increased only 48 percent since 2009, while a 60 percent jump in our trade deficit with South Korea has triggered, according to one estimate, the loss of nearly 60,000 American jobs.
Now, as Obama pushes for "fast-track" authority to ram through Congress the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Keystone and Garden Staters should ask: Are we better off today than we were 20 years ago?
That's when the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization ushered in the globalized economy favored by Wall Street, multinational corporations, and transnational governmental bureaucracies. And when the majority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey workers began to see their labor-force participation and employment prospects plummet, wages and benefits stagnate, and living standards decline.
Indeed, the fallout from an $11.2-trillion cumulative in-goods trade deficit since 1994 - which has stunted GDP growth while gutting mostly manufacturing jobs - has hit rank-and-file Americans the hardest.
While the government's most-recent tally counts 5,590 jobs for every $1 billion of exports, the bureaucrats haven't developed a multiplier to capture jobs lost to imports - a much larger figure. Yet that hasn't kept resourceful economists from quantifying the downside of our gaping trade imbalances.
According to conservative estimates by Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, granting China "most favored nation" status drained away 3.2 million American jobs, including 2.4 million in manufacturing, between 2001 and 2013. He pegs net job losses due to our trade deficit with Japan ($78.3 billion in 2013) at 896,600, as well as an additional 682,900 from the Mexico-U.S. trade-deficit run-up from 1994 through 2010.
The combined losses to these three nations alone are stunning: 4.8 million jobs, including 320,600 jobs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, whose cumulative trade deficits since 2008 exceed $878 billion, according to www.tradingawayjobs.us.
Meanwhile, a macro-analysis of 2013 data by Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research estimates that eliminating the entire U.S. trade deficit would create 6.3 million jobs, both directly and through multiplier effects. Baker offers no state breakdown, but applying Scott's state-to-national job-loss ratios suggest that balanced trade would mean 422,600 more jobs for the two states.
Obama is not alone in ignoring these warnings. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) contends in his book American Dreams that "fair and reciprocal" trade arrangements deliver coveted jobs at home. That may be true, but NAFTA-style pacts and the proposed TPP and TTIP are neither fair nor reciprocal. Perhaps the 2016 hopeful and other Republicans want to help achieve the deindustrialization of America that would result if Obama secures the two largest globalist treaties in history.
Yet there's more at stake than jobs and factories. Two decades of trade entanglements have rendered the country, in the words of Daniel DiMicco, former Nucor Steel CEO, "a dwindling superpower teetering on the brink of second-class economy status." Granting the president fast-track and ratifying his trade deals would complete the "transformation" of America to which Obama has devoted his presidency.
Unless more knowledgeable voices emerge in Washington to block his overreach, a strong and independent America - the only guarantee of our liberty, ideals, and standard of living - will soon be history.
Robert W. Patterson served in the administrations of President George W. Bush and Gov. Tom Corbett.