A few half-truths are told about jobs, taxes and exports

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Only a handful of misleading statements were made during the debate last night among President Bush, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and independent Ross Perot. Among them:

* Mr. Perot said free-trade agreements with countries that pay low wages and do not impose environmental regulations on business lead to mass losses of U.S. jobs.


Fact: He's wrong. Mr. Bush was right when he said such agreements stimulate net gains of new U.S. jobs. Rising U.S. exports have been responsible for more than half the growth of the U.S. economy in the past five years. The emigration of low-wage U.S. jobs overseas is happening regardless of trade agreements.

But the United States is likely to gain about 130,000 more jobs on net -- better, higher-paying jobs producing goods for export -- than it would lose under the pending free-trade treaty with Mexico, according to an independent analysis by the Institute of International Economics.


* Mr. Bush initially suggested that Congress hadn't acted on his proposal to create low-tax enterprise zones in inner cities.

Fact: Congress just approved a tax bill that would create 50 enterprise zones, half in cities, half in rural areas. Mr. Bush is expected to veto the bill -- killing enterprise zones -- because Congress added other provisions that he dislikes.

* Mr. Clinton said Mr. Bush won't sign the tax bill because it raises taxes on the wealthy.

Fact: The provisions that would have raised taxes on the wealthy were dropped to make the bill more palatable to Mr. Bush.

* Mr. Perot suggested that the Chinese-made goods that Americans buy are made by prison labor, taking a swipe at Mr. Bush's trade ties with China.

Fact: It is true that some Chinese goods exported to the United States are made by prisoners, but a new U.S.-China trade pact that the Bush administration signed last weekend calls for an end to prison-labor exports.

* Mr. Clinton, in an effort to express empathy with the unemployed, suggested that he knew the names of all the people who lost jobs in his small state.

Fact: That's highly unlikely. Even though Arkansas is a small state, 83,300 people there were listed as jobless in July, the last month for which the U.S. Labor Department has data.