Free trade deals have cost U.S. jobs

During the recent Republican National Convention, the talking heads were all a twitter about Clint Eastwood's rambling speech and whether or not Rep. Paul Ryan lied about President Barack Obama's promise to save a GM plant in Wisconsin. We have now witnessed another choreographed extravaganza performed at the Democratic National Convention with more meaningless analyses by the beltway pundits. Rhetoric will not solve our problems, and neither party is willing to address the cruel reality that over the last 40 years we have allowed the nation's industrial base to be hollowed out to provide high corporate profits from foreign manufacturing by U.S. companies and low cost imported goods, which gave a temporary shot of economic adrenaline to the consumer economy.

A recent article ("Uncertain times for young mill workers," Sept. 2) states that there has been a 44 percent drop in manufacturing jobs in Maryland since 1990. This is part of the problem which produced the rust belt and massive loss of steel and auto related jobs from the East Coast through the Midwest and gutted the textile, clothing and furniture businesses in the Carolinas.

Our misguided free trade policies allow easy access to our markets by the Asians while they restrict imports of finished products from the U.S. Redundant Sparrow's Point workers in their 20s and 30s are looking at $10-per-hour jobs, which are half of their prior pay. This leaves them with the grim future of a much lower standard of living.

This realization is hitting across the nation. In southern California, average manufacturing wages have fallen from $28 per hour in 2008 to $22 per hour today. Over the last 20 years U.S. companies transferred technology to China with labor now averaging $2 per hour. With free trade, we probably will equilibrate at $10 per hour with a miserable existence.

Neither party is willing to accept that our free trade policy is the root cause of our economic distress. There are sporadic attempts at tariffs which will bring retribution in a replay of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff — a major factor in the 1930s Depression. There are cries of currency manipulation which only infuriate the Chinese Politburo. It is not in our interest or the Chinese to engage in a full-scale trade war which we will lose. It is not in the Chinese interest to see the U.S. collapse. It is in our mutual interest to reach an accommodation which allows both nations to prosper. It is time for our politicians to stop pandering for votes with partisan attacks and approach our moribund economy with something other than obsequious cliches.

Charles Campbell, Woodstock

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