Thursday, October 04, 2007

Brain cramps

Here are the opening paragraphs of the lead front-page story in today's WSJ. This is old news, of course, because almost all politicians and many others have discovered the cop-out "fair trade" which they can get behind foursquare. (Where would they be without that "f" word?) Media interviewers never probe this. No one asks what the costs would be, here or abroad.

Zero-sum stories still sit best with most people. This in spite of the fact that exchange is spontaneous and universal and always has been -- even with "foreigners". Doing what comes naturally and thinking it through are apparently not the same. Even smart commentators like The New Yorker's James Surowiecki revert to language on American consumers being "hooked on imports."
Republicans Grow Skeptical On Free Trade
By John Harwood

WASHINGTON -- By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters
believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors
Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new

The sign of broadening resistance to globalization came in a
Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll that showed a
fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy. While 60% of respondents
said they want the next president and Congress to continue cutting taxes, 32%
said it's time for some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the
budget deficit and pay for health care.

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that
free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican
candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That
represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush's
calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in
sentiment from eight years ago.

"It's a lot harder to sell the free-trade message to
Republicans," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the
Journal/NBC poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. The poll comes ahead of
the Oct. 9 Republican presidential debate in Michigan sponsored by the Journal
and the CNBC and MSNBC television networks.

The leading Republican candidates are still trying to promote
free trade. "Our philosophy has to be not how many protectionist measures can we
put in place, but how do we invent new things to sell" abroad, former New York
City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a recent interview. "That's the view of the
future. What [protectionists] are trying to do is lock in the inadequacies of
the past."

Such a stance is sure to face a challenge in the 2008 general
election. Though President Bill Clinton famously steered the Democratic Party
toward a less-protectionist bent and promoted the North American Free Trade
Agreement, his wife and the current Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham
Clinton, has adopted more skeptical rhetoric. Mrs. Clinton has come out against
a U.S. trade deal with South Korea.

Other leading Democrats have been harshly critical of trade
expansion, pleasing their party's labor-union backers. In a March 2007 WSJ/NBC
poll, before recent scandals involving tainted imports, 54% of Democratic voters
said free-trade agreements have hurt the U.S., compared with 21% who said they
have helped.