FACING REALITY

 

Recent comments by Administration officials, including, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism,  John Brennan, have suggested that  Al Qaida is on the ropes and the end is in sight for the war on terror.  The picture painted is one of an organization whose top leadership has been decimated, its finances disrupted and its ability to recruit seriously impaired.  The argument is that we are almost there.  The end is in sight.  A few more strikes and the world will be safe from the threat of terrorism.

It’s what we would all like.  Peace.  Security.  Stability.

It’s also a lie.

In 1998 Al Qaida attacked two US Embassies in East Africa.  American casualties were substantial. Casualties amongst the Africans crowded outside in visa lines were horrific.  Any question about Al Qaida’s lethality and seriousness were answered conclusively.

In response, the Clinton Administration ordered the firing of dozens of cruise missiles at “training camps” in Afghanistan that were really largely barren hillsides and attacked what it described as a chemical weapons factory in Sudan.  That “factory” may or may not have had anything to do with the making of chemical weapons.  It certainly had no connection of any kind to the Embassy bombings.

Having launched these totally ineffectual reprisals, the Clinton Administration then closed the books on this episode and moved on.  No matter what anyone says today we did not pursue Al Qaida with any real purpose in the aftermath of these attacks nor did we change tactics in any significant way.  It would take 9/11, three years later,  to force our government to recognize what everyone on the frontlines already knew, that we were at war.

Why?  Because the Clinton Administration had other priorities.  Because it was fixated on reaping the benefits of the “peace dividend”, on keeping defense spending low and maintaining a focus on domestic issues.  It was inconvenient to have to deal with the growing threat of Islamic terror, and so, quite simply, the White House decided to pretend that the threat did not exist.

We are in danger of tumbling back into the same state of delusion.  That Al Qaida Central as a rigidly hierarchical organization based in the Pak-Afghan region is on the ropes is self-evident and has been for some time.  Afghanistan has been denied to Al Qaida as a safe haven for a decade.  Within Pakistan the group is under relentless pressure, and its senior leadership decimated by drone strikes and arrests.

That does not equate, however, to anything like an end to the war on terror.  Al Qaida itself has already morphed and spread.  Its affiliate in Yemen, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is now the most lethal arm of the organization.  New allies, like Al Shabaab in Somalia, have allied themselves with the organization and brought dangerous new capabilities, like piracy, to the fray.

Around the world, other Islamic organizations, some allied with Al-Qaida and some not, have appeared, which threaten not only the United States but other nations as well.

–       Laskkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group formed around the cause of freeing Kashmir from Indian occupation, is the group responsible for the Mumbai massacres, which were largely directed against American and European targets.

–       Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group whose name translates roughly to “modern education is a sin”, is conducting an increasingly violent and effective war against police and military targets in that critical oil producing nation.

–       Hizbullah, Iran’s terrorist proxy, stands on the verge of controlling the nation of Lebanon.

–        In Central Asia, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other groups such as the Islamic Movement of Turkestan threaten to spread the Afghan contagion into an area that stretches from the Caspian Sea to China.

–        Bangladesh, teetering on the edge of becoming another failed state, is perilously close to becoming yet another terrorist safe haven and is home to groups such as the 15,000 member strong. Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.

In short, the war is far from over.  We may be bringing the era of large scale deployments of conventional troops to an end, but we will be fighting this enemy with special forces and intelligence officers for years if not decades to come.   We may desperately wish it were different, but that’s reality, and it’s time we faced it.

 

 

 

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HOW ABOUT A SENSE OF URGENCY?

‘For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East,’  That was now President Obama, speaking as a candidate for the office on August 29,2008.

It’s been a goal of Presidents for decades, ever since the Arab Oil Embargo and that  graphic demonstration of just how hostage we had become to the oil producing nations of the Middle East.  Somehow, though, it has always eluded us.  Despite our best efforts, despite our best intentions, we remain today dangerously dependent on sources of energy under the control of distant, often distasteful regimes.  Again and again we are compelled to spend precious blood and treasure to safeguard oil fields and oil production in the Middle East.

Except now, stunningly, we find ourselves in the position of apparently being able to end that dependence once and for all.  And the Obama Adminstration, despite the President’s words, appears poised to squander the opportunity.

The Canadian company TransCanada wants to build a 1900 mile pipeline, the Keystone XL,  from the oilfields of Western Canada to the oil refineries of the American Gulf coast.  This pipeline would be able to move 15 million barrels of oil a month.  A study by EnSys Energy, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, estimates that construction of this pipeline,  in conjunction with efforts to reduce demand, could effectively end US dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 2030.

That’s right, constuction of this pipeline could effectively end US dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

It could also produce other, immediate, tangible benefits to the US economy.  Construction of the pipeline would require the hiring of 20,000 workers.  Another 100,000 jobs would be created indirectly.  An estimated $20 billion dollars would be pumped into the US economy as a result of the project.

Despite all this, the Obama Administration is dragging its feet on the project.  TransCanada applied for permission to begin construction three years ago.  The Department of State, which must approve the project because it crosses an international boundary, is still pondering the matter and, in fact, ordered another round of environmental review and comment just a few months ago.  The House of Representative meanwhile is pushing a bill to force the Adminstration to make a decision by this fall.

I don’t mean to imply that environmental concerns have no validity.  A project of this magnitude should be studied and, when and if allowed to go forward, government should strictly monitor its progress.  But, environmental concerns and bureaucratic intertia cannot be allowed to trump national security and efforts to revive our flagging economy.

Building the Keystone XL pipeline will not end our dependence on oil and it will not solve the problem of climate change.  It will pump huge quantities of cash into an economy that desperately needs a boost. It will put tens of thousands of Americans to work in a country whose unemployment rate is barely under ten percent.  And it will mean that the next time there’s a crisis in the Middle East or South Asia one of the considerations we will not have to wrestle with will be our own need for Middle Eastern oil.

I’d say that’s more than enough to justify an end to foot dragging and a sense of urgency.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING A STRATEGY

 

As far as I can tell, the last time we had a coherent strategy in regard to Afghanistan was in the fall of 2001.  Then, our aim was crystal clear.  We were there to destroy Al Qaida and to crush their Taliban allies.  We accomplished that mission within months.  Al Qaida has had no significant presence in Afghanistan since the fall of 2001.

 

Following those few months of clarity, during which a handful of intelligence officers and special forces personnel supported by local allies achieved that brilliant victory, we then began to stumble our way into an undefined and open-ended conventional military operation that continues to this day consuming both precious American lives and precious dollars in quantities we can ill afford.

 

What the Bush Administration’s goal was in placing tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan remains unclear, as does exactly how such a relatively small force was to accomplish it.   When President Obama ordered his famous “surge” of 30,000 soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 there was, similarly, no clear definition of the desired end state.  We sent in more forces.  We offered no definition whatsoever of the conditions which would allow for their withdrawal.

 

It is now ten years since 9/11.  Without ever consciously embracing it or publicly acknowledging it, we have wandered our way to the position of attempting to build a viable, secular, democratic nation state out of one of the world’s most primitive and tribal societies.  We have done so gradually, fitfully and without any comprehensive effort to determine the necessity for such an undertaking, its feasibility or the resources necessary to make it a success.

 

Now, incredibly, the President has actually found a way to make that situation worse, by ordering home a significant number of troops without making any change to our strategy or our goals.  We will, in short, apparently continue down the path of nation building but without many of the resources we are currently dedicating to the task.  The challenges on the ground will not change, only our ability to respond to them.

 

Having achieved our immediate objectives in the fall of 2001, from the standpoint of national security, we had only one mission to accomplish before we brought our forces home.  That was to put in place in Afghanistan a government, which could guarantee that Afghanistan would not again become a base for terrorists intent on striking the United States.

 

That objective could have been fulfilled by installing a new pro-American leader, by offering him such minimal support as required to keep him in power and by ensuring that he understood that when and if he failed in his obligation to keep his nation free of terrorists we would return, and that he would no longer be considered a friend or ally.  In short, as long as this leader maintained his side of the bargain he would enjoy our backing and when he failed to do so, he would suffer the same fate as the Taliban and Al Qaida.

 

Such a solution could have been crafted without any necessity for us to maintain a significant military presence in country and without our involvement in the internal affairs of the Afghan people.  Our focus would have remained on our national security, and the Afghans would have been left to run their own country.  We would have had what we wanted; security, and the Afghans would have had the power to decide their own future.

 

Afghanistan would certainly be a better place if women were guaranteed civil rights, children were educated and farmers moved away from the production of opium.  None of these things has any direct connection to our national security.  None of these things are, in cold, hard terms, worth to us what they are costing in blood and treasure.

 

National security is not about social engineering and nation building.  It is about doing what is required to keep our nation and our citizens safe.  We don’t need a Western liberal democracy in Afghanistan.  We need a government that will prevent that nation from being a platform for attacks on the United States.  It’s time to remember that, focus on the minimum conditions necessary to make that happen and, then, having accomplished our mission, bring our troops home.

 

 

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POURING WATER THROUGH A SIEVE

Did you ever try to fill up a sieve with water?

Probably not.  You probably understood without the necessity to experiment that such an attempt would be an exercise in futility.  You can’t fill up a sieve.  The water drains out as quickly as it is poured in.

Assuming you do, in fact, understand that basic principle, then you apparently understand more about economics than do most of our politicians and so-called experts.  They continue to focus on stimulating the growth of our economy through massive government spending, despite the fact that the money being injected into the economy is “running out” of it and into the economies of other nations almost as fast as it is “poured” in.  We may be creating jobs, but those jobs are in China and other overseas locations, not here in the United States.

Since the passage of the 2009 stimulus bill, the government has handed out $2.1 billion in grants to solar, wind and geothermal companies.  79 percent of that money has gone to foreign firms.

That’s correct.  79 percent of the money our government has doled out to renewable energy firms as part of the stimulus plan has been given to companies that are not even based in the United States.  This is the same stimulus plan, which we are told everyday was designed to put people back to work and lower unemployment here in the United States.

The largest single grant under this renewable energy program was given to an Australian firm that built a wind farm in Texas.  All of the wind turbines used in that project were manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi.  To date, of the 1800 plus wind turbines that have actually been erected in wind farms receiving federal stimulus money, roughly 1200 have been built abroad.

The Meadows Lake Wind Farm in Indiana is a classic example of how our money is creating jobs abroad, not here in the United States. All of the major components used in construction of that facility have come from abroad, in this case from Denmark and from Vietnam.  The federal government handed $113 million dollars in stimulus money to the company that owns Meadows Lake, Horizon-EDPR.  It’s based in Portugal.

In fact, not only is this “stimulus” money not creating jobs in the United States, we are actually continuing to lose jobs in the renewable energy sector at the same time these massive sums are being distributed.

Recently, the Danish company, Vestas, issued an announcement that it would be halting production at its wind turbine plant in Colorado.  It also advised that it would be slowing production at two other facilities in the United States.

Gamesha, a Spanish manufacturer of wind turbines, also recently disclosed that it would be laying off half of the remaining workers at its factory in Pennsylvania.  Both GE Solar and Evergreen Solar have closed their operations in the United States and are relocating to China.

In Frederick, Maryland BP Solar, a fixture there for many years, announced about a week ago that it would be shutting down its manufacturing facility and moving to China.  “We remain absolutely committed to solar,” said BP’s chief executive, but “we are moving to where we can manufacture cheaply.”   At least 320 people in the Frederick area will lose their jobs as a result of this move alone.

People say we do not have an industrial policy.  That is not entirely true.  Since World War Two we have followed a policy, which has promoted domestic consumption at the expense of exports and industrial growth.  Since the 1990’s we have added to this policy a focus on the growth of the service industry and “white collar” jobs at the expense of manufacturing and production. 

Meanwhile our foreign competitors, particularly the Chinese, have pushed aggressive policies aimed at increasing exports and protecting their domestic industries from competition.  We hear a lot of talk these days about Chinese currency manipulation, which keeps their products cheaper than they would otherwise be.  The truth is that the Chinese employ a whole variety of techniques to stack the economic deck to their advantage.  They subsidize key industries; they steal the intellectual property of American firms; they suppress the labor rights of their workers, and they condone environmental destruction on an almost unprecedented scale.  No matter how efficient, there is no way that an American firm, functioning in accordance with our workplace, environmental and health regulations is going to be able to compete against these advantages.

In short, we have created an environment in which manufacturing is discouraged in this country and in which every incentive favors the movement of production facilities abroad.  Until we change this situation and put in place an industrial policy designed to promote a renaissance in American manufacturing, we are going to continue to lose jobs and watch companies move abroad. 

We can keep pouring if we want.  In the end, the economy is still a sieve.

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FIDDLING WHILE THE ECONOMY BURNS

In AD 64 the city of Rome caught fire.  For a full week the residents of that imperial city watched helplessly as the capital burned.  Almost three-quarters of the city was ultimately destroyed and half its population left homeless.   Famously, in the aftermath of this catastrophe, the Emperor, Nero, was reported to have played his fiddle and looked on with disinterest as the city was reduced to ashes.

The legend is a persistent one, despite the fact that the fiddle was not invented as a musical instrument until one thousand years later and there is no historical evidence to support the story.   The image of a leader “fiddling while Rome burns” remains compelling to this day, symbolizing as it does the concept of a leader who stands by and refuses to take action as a disaster unfolds.

And, it is, unfortunately, appropriate today.

As of December 2009 there were 6,130,000 American workers who had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.  That is the largest number of individuals recorded in that category since 1948 when such statistics began to be kept.  929,000 Americans were classified as being so “discouraged” as to have stopped searching for work at all.  Again, this is the largest number of individuals recorded in this category since 1948 when record keeping began.

The Mayor of Detroit recently advised that his estimate of the “real unemployment rate” in that city is roughly fifty percent.  In excess of 37 million Americans are receiving food stamps.  State unemployment funds across the country are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.  Pension funds are grossly underfunded.  Federal debt is well in excess of 12 trillion dollars.

In the State of Iowa alone there are more than 89,000 households which are so behind on their utility bills as to face the discontinuation of service. Beginning next week, when the winter grace period ends, power companies will begin to shut off utilities to these homes.

A second wave of home mortgage foreclosures is looming in the future.  Beginning this year a huge number of existing mortgages which have adjustable rates will come up for resetting.  As the ARM provisions kick in and interest rates on those mortgages jump, massive numbers of additional Americans will lose their homes.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute reported that 2.4 million American jobs had been lost between 2001 and 2008 as a consequence of the trade gap with China alone.

The “outsourcing” of American jobs continues apace.  With all the talk about “green jobs” recent press reports have shown that a huge percentage of the jobs created by federal stimulus money are actually being created overseas, where the factories are.  Some experts predict in excess of twenty percent of current American jobs moving offshore over the next two decades.

This is not a “downturn”.  This is not simply a mortgage crisis.  In many parts of the country, this is already a depression.  To combat the massive problems we are facing does not require simply a little more stimulus money, it requires correction of huge economic structural issues.

Confronted with this danger, what are our leaders in Washington doing?

Having spent the better part of the past year wrestling with the question of health care, which was never at the top of the list of issues most Americans wanted confronted, our Congressmen and Senators have now decided to devote huge quantities of time to name calling and political grandstanding.

In the wake of death threats and attacks on Congressional offices around the country following the passage of health care legislation, lawmakers in both parties have seized on the opportunity to use the violence and heated political atmosphere to their advantage.  Representative Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia, has accused Democrats of “fanning the flames” and using threats as political weapons.  Rush Limbaugh, unofficial spokesperson for the Republican Party, has hinted that the Democrats  created the hatred and discontent they were now facing, called health care the “real death threat” and  intimated that the Democrat’s are faking claims of threats and verbal slurs.  The Republican National Committee sensing an opportunity to capitalize on the wave of anger health care passage has created has launched a “Fire Pelosi” campaign.  The online site for this effort boasts a picture of the Speaker of the House surrounded by flames.

The Democratic National Committee has responded, of course,  by saying that the Republicans are responsible for creating the atmosphere which has lead to violence.  Democratic Congressman Van Hollen stated that it was the GOP which was throwing “fuel on the fire”.  The Democratic National Committee has kicked up a fundraising effort based on the need to defend the “heroes” who voted for health care.  Democratic politicians have also decried the use of cross-hairs on a website affiliated with Sarah Palin to designate districts held by “vulnerable” Democrats, claiming that this imagery will provoke violence.

Palin for her part has directed her supporters to “reload” and keep fighting.

Following a solid week of this kind of inane political posturing, Congress adjourned for its Easter break.  Among the many pieces of legislation left unaddressed was an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.  Those benefits expire on April 5th, before Congress reconvenes.  As of that date, thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs are now guaranteed to lose their only remaining source of income.  How long it will take once Congress reconvenes to get an agreement on an extension of benefits remains unclear, as the battle lines appear to only be hardening and the rhetoric escalating.

Nero may be long dead, but his spirit remains very much alive and well in Washington.

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HOW WE ARE LOSING THE COLD WAR

The Soviet Union did not collapse because of some brilliant covert operation by the CIA. It did not disintegrate in the aftermath of a Third World War and a titanic tank battle on the plains of Germany.  We spent it into the ground.

I have mixed feeling about Ronald Reagan.  He did some tremendous things.  He did some, like Iran-Contra, that were stupendously stupid and illegal.  If there is one thing he got exactly right, though, it was his assessment of the state of the Soviet economy.  He understood that if he picked up the pace, reignited the arms race and challenged the Soviets to keep up that they could not answer.  They could try, but they simply did not have the economic power to compete.

He was dead on.  The Soviets did try to keep up, and that attempt doomed them.  By the end of the 1980’s Eastern Europe was breaking free.  By the early 1990’s the Soviet Union itself was dissolving.

In the aftermath of that dissolution, we congratulated ourselves on having won the Cold War.  We thanked God we had avoided a global nuclear war.  We looked forward to a new era.  And, in the process, we forgot that there was another major Communist nation still in existence, and, perhaps most importantly, we forgot what it was that had enabled our victory over the Soviets.

The Chinese did not forget.  They did not fail to understand.  They saw exactly how the Soviets had been defeated, and they adapted.

The Chinese are not our friends. I do not mean that as an attack on the Chinese people themselves, who are, like most people everywhere, decent, hardworking and focused on family and day to day existence.  I mean it as a characterization of a regime that continues not only to oppress its own people but to actively work to frustrate our national policies around the globe:

– North Korea is, by virtue of its instability and unpredictability, perhaps the single most dangerous nation on earth.  China is the primary supporter of the North Korean regime.  China is North Korea’s main trading partner, supplying it with arms, fuel and food among other things. Without Chinese support the North Korean regime could not survive and, yet, despite the continued provocations and erratic behavior by North Korea, China has made no serious effort to rein in the behavior of what amounts to a clients state.

– Burma is one of the most oppressive regimes on earth.  It is dominated by a military regime that brutally crushes any democratic opposition and wages war on tribal groups within its territorial boundaries.  Burma also continues to survive largely by virtue of its relationship with China.  The Chinese provide arms, economic assistance and investment, all in direct opposition to the efforts of the United States and other nations to force the Burmese to enact reforms.

– In the Middle East, Iran poses a massive threat to regional stability. It is bent on a seemingly relentless quest for nuclear weapons. Iran and China are major trading partners, and a huge percentage of the weapons with which the Iranian military is armed come from China.  China actively opposes United Nations efforts to expand sanctions against Iran.  This while the United States continues to attempt to contain Iran and while direct Iranian support to the Taliban in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly well known.

I could list any number of other examples of Chinese actions abroad, but I think those above suffice to make the point.  The most critical element of all this is, however, that Chinese influence abroad is expanding not contracting or remaining constant.  As the Chinese continue to grow economically and amass ever greater levels of wealth, they are putting this money to use in expanding their influence abroad:

– In Africa the Chinese have invested billions and involved themselves in infrastructure projects in nations such as Algeria, Angola, Gabon, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe.  In Sudan, for example, the Chinese now own 40 percent of the national oil company.

– In Latin America, the story is similar.   In Venezuela, a regime hostile to the United States, the Chinese have provided 12 billion dollars in money dedicated to economic development projects. In Ecuador they have spent at least a billion dollars on a hydroelectric plant.  Brazil’s national oil company has received 10 billion dollars in Chinese loans.   That amount alone is almost as much as the total amount of financing provided in 2008 by the Inter-American Bank, a Washington-based entity, which in the past has been a keystone of American influence in Latin America.

All of this money buys China access to key raw materials, principally oil.  It also, of course, buys it a tremendous amount of influence.  Nations desperate for financial assistance find themselves now beholden to Beijing and subject to all of the political influence that implies.  In areas of the world where once we worried about what Moscow might have in mind, we now find ourselves having to worry about Beijing’s intentions.

China is rapidly expanding its military capabilities. Chinese defense spending will increase by only 7.5 percent this year, but that is after a staggering 14.9 percent increase last year.  Chinese defense spending has, in fact,  grown by at least 10 percent a year for the last decade and is now second only to that of the United States. There are over 7 million people in the Chinese armed forces.  There are a total of 2.3 million men and women in the armed forces of the United States, both active duty and reserve.

In 2007 in a demonstration of a new and ominous capability China shot down a communications satellite with a missile.  In 2008 satellite imagery revealed that the Chinese were constructing a massive submarine base on the offshore island of Hainan.  The Chinese Navy, previously confined primarily to home waters, is now deploying vessels operationally as far from its shores as Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

Where’s the money coming from for all of this effort, for the support to North Korea, for the arms that are going to Iran, for the massive defense buildup? It’s coming right out of the pockets of ordinary Americans, now reduced to working two jobs to buy Chinese goods at Wal-Mart and, in the process support a hostile and oppressive Communist government.

I hope we recognize what is happening before it is too late.  I hope we act to change our trade and industrial policy and eliminate the imbalance in our economic relationship with China.  I hope we have the good sense and the foresight to understand that the Cold War is not over and that we can still lose it.

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AN AMERICAN CAR

AN AMERICAN CAR

The Ford Fusion is the face of Detroit’s future and one of the great hopes of American auto manufacturing.  The Motor Trend 2010 car of the year, it has been dubbed the “Comeback Kid” and the “Do-It-All Sedan”.  Amidst the smoking ruin that is the American automobile industry, this is desperately hoped for good news, proof that Detroit is capable of resurgence, that we can beat the Japanese at their own game and that the state of Michigan may not dry up and blow away after all.

There’s only one problem.

The Ford Fusion is not made in the United States.  It is made in Mexico.

It may have a Ford logo on the front.  It may be made by a corporation that has its headquarters, at least for now, inside the confines of the continental United States, but Ford Fusions roll off an assembly line at the Hermosillo Plant in the state of Sonora in Mexico.  There are thousands of people working in that plant, but, outside of a relative handful of managers, none of them are American citizens.

In Michigan, former home of the American automobile industry, people are hailing a decline in the unemployment rate statewide from 15.3% in September 2009 to “only” 14.6 % in December 2009.  What they are not pointing out is that even that modest decline in a catastrophic level of unemployment is not a product of increased numbers of people working but of ever greater numbers of individuals giving up hope of finding a job and simply dropping out of the work force. In 2009 alone, Michigan lost 351,000 jobs.

In 1994, the year that the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreement was signed, Michigan had an unemployment rate of 8.3%. 

In January 2010 the Washington Post, in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted a poll in the Detroit area.  57 % of the individuals interviewed in that poll said they considered the economy to be the number one issue in the area.  When asked to describe the state of the economy 29% of the interviewees characterized it as “not so good”.  64% said it was “poor”.  One quarter of the individuals spoken to said they were giving serious consideration to leaving the area.  22% said their main source of income was unemployment assistance.  A full 44% of the individuals interviewed said they believed America’s best days were behind her.

When NAFTA was being debated in the early 1990’s, its proponents justified it in very straightforward terms.  More trade would equal more wealth.  Dropping trade barriers and opening up the United States without restriction to goods manufactured in Mexico would mean more economic activity and a higher standard of living for everyone. Yes, some industries, like textiles, would largely move out of the United States, due to the competitive advantage the Mexicans would enjoy in cheap labor.  This would be more than offset, however, by the growth inside the United States of good, high paying jobs. 

The arguments against NAFTA were just as straightforward.  Ross Perot famously announced that the agreement would produce “a giant sucking sound,” and that American manufacturing jobs would vanish as companies relocated their operations to Mexico.  Unemployment would rise, and our standard of living would decline.  NAFTA would not benefit Americans. It would victimize them. 

I wish that we could have added a couple of questions to the January 2010 poll.  I‘d like to know who the people of Michigan think was right.   And, I’d like to know if they think the Fusion is really an “American car”.

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