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Unfair trade agreements got us into this mess; fair trade would get us out

This ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest movements are the result of the Obama administration and Congress' mismanagement of foreign trade. When the real story is told it will be seen that it is unfair trade agreements such as NAFTA and others that have contributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country.

We have allowed unfavorable trade agreements to limit the sale of American products in foreign countries, while we tolerate the flight of entire trade sectors to China, Korea and other emerging nations.

Try to find clothing made in America. Find an American-made electronic appliance, TV, cell phone or hand-held device. We have the ability to train skilled workers quickly and to mobilize them as we did in World War II. However, our wage structure has risen due to union activity and is no longer competitive.

We used to be able to offset this through automation, which drove down labor costs. But technology is no panacea for our current problems. What did unions do as the number of workers needed to produce an item fell? They negotiated for concessions to protect jobs rather than allow companies to adjust their labor mix and shrink their staff. These policies have hurt every American.

In a capitalistic society the people vote with the dollars that they spend on goods and services. It is natural to want good quality items at low cost. However, when factories paying sweat shop wages in China, Indonesia, Korea, etc. were allowed into our markets, our government should have intervened. The playing field needed to be leveled years ago and it still hasn't been leveled.

This is not a problem generated by Wall Street. It is a problem of the U.S. government and especially the Senate and House of Representatives. The fact that so many members of these bodies have been in office for decades and did nothing to protect American workers is outrageous.

The demonstrators belong on the doorstep of Congress. They vote themselves pay and benefit raises while the rest of us struggle to get by economically. But have they ever supported establishing term limits?

Let them explain how creating government-subsidized work can improve the situation. How can we raise the money to pay for more police, firemen, and teachers? A long-term solution won't occur until the playing field of International trade is leveled.

William Engle

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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