America's Hollow Prosperity
By Patrick J. Buchanan
02/15/06 -- -- Now that the U.S. trade deficit for 2005 has come in at $726 billion, the fourth straight all-time record, a question arises.
What constitutes failure for a free-trade policy? Or is there no such thing? Is free trade simply right no matter the results?
Last year, the United States ran a $202 billion trade deficit with China, the largest ever between two nations. We ran all-time record trade deficits with OPEC, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Latin America. The $50 billion deficit with Mexico was the largest since NAFTA passed and also the largest in history.
When NAFTA was up for a vote in 1993, the Clintonites and their GOP fellow-travelers said it would grow our trade surplus, raise Mexico's standard of living and reduce illegal immigration.
None of this happened. Indeed, the opposite occurred. Mexico's standard of living is lower than it was in 1993, the U.S. trade surplus has vanished, and America is being invaded. Mexico is now the primary source of narcotics entering the United States.
Again, when can we say a free-trade policy has failed?
The Bushites point proudly to 4.6 million jobs created since May 2003, a 4.7 percent unemployment rate and low inflation.
Unfortunately, conservative columnist Paul Craig Roberts and analysts Charles McMillion and Ed Rubenstein have taken a close look at the figures and discovered that the foundation of the Bush prosperity rests on rotten timber.
The entire job increase since 2001 has been in the service sector – credit intermediation, health care, social assistance, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, etc. – and state and local government.
But, from January 2001 to January 2006, the United States lost 2.9 million manufacturing jobs, 17 percent of all we had. Over the past five years, we have suffered a net loss in goods-producing jobs.
"The decline in some manufacturing sectors has more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing than with a super-economy that is 'the envy of the world,'" writes Roberts.
Communications equipment lost 43 percent of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37 percent ... The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30 percent. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25 percent of its workforce.