Down at the Chinese outlet store in Albany known as Wal-Mart, Chinese tires have so successfully undercut U.S.-made tires that the Cooper Tire factory in that south Georgia town had to shut down.
Twenty-one hundred Georgians lost their jobs.
The tale of Cooper Tire and what it portends is told in last week’s Washington Post by Peter Whoriskey.
How could tires made on the other side of the world, then shipped to Albany, be sold for less than tires made in Albany?
At Cooper Tire, the wages were $18 to $21 per hour. In China, they are a fraction of that. The Albany factory is subject to U.S. health-and-safety, wage-and-hour and civil rights laws from which Chinese plants are exempt. Environmental standards had to be met at Cooper Tire or the plant would have been closed. Chinese factories are notorious polluters.
China won the competition because the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws” does not apply to the People’s Republic. While free trade laws grant China free and equal access to the U.S. market, China can pay workers wages and force them to work hours that would violate U.S. law, and China can operate plants whose health, safety and environmental standards would have their U.S. competitors shut down as public nuisances.
Beijing also manipulates its currency to keep export prices low and grants a rebate on its value-added tax on exports to the U.S.A., while imposing a value-added tax on goods coming from the U.S.A.
Thus did China, from 2004 to 2008, triple her share of the U.S. tire market from 5 percent to 17 percent and take down Cooper Tire of Albany.
But not to worry. Cooper Tire has seen the light and is now opening and acquiring plants in China, and sending Albany workers over to train the Chinese who took their jobs.
Welcome to 21st century America, where globalism has replaced patriotism as the civil religion of our corporate elites. As Thomas Jefferson reminded us, “Merchants have no country.”
What has this meant to the republic that was once the most self-sufficient and independent in all of history?
Since 2001, when George Bush took the oath, the United States has run $3.8 trillion in trade deficits in manufactured goods, more than twice the $1.68 trillion in trade deficits we ran for imported oil and gas.
Our trade deficit with China in manufactured goods alone, $1.58 trillion over those eight years, roughly equals the entire U.S. trade deficit for oil and gas.
U.S. politicians never cease to wail of the need for “energy independence.” But why is our dependence on the oil of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela a greater concern than our dependence on a non-democratic rival great power for computers and vital components of our weapons systems and high-tech industries?
As Executive Director Auggie Tantillo of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Committee compellingly argues:
“Running a trade deficit for natural resources that the United States lacks is something that cannot be helped, but running a massive deficit in manmade products that America easily could produce itself is a choice—a poor choice that is bankrupting the country and responsible for the loss of millions of jobs.”
How many millions of jobs?
In the George W. Bush years, we lost 5.3 million manufacturing jobs, one-fourth to one-third of all we had in 2001.
And our dependence on China is growing.
Where Beijing was responsible for 60 percent of the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods in 2008, in the first six months of 2009, China accounted for 79 percent of our trade deficit in manufactured goods.
How can we end this dependency and begin building factories and creating jobs here, rather than deepening our dependency on a China that seeks to take our place in the sun? The same way Alexander Hamilton did, when we Americans produced almost nothing and were even more dependent on Great Britain than we are on China today.
Let us do unto our trading partners as they have done unto us.
As they rebate value-added taxes on exports to us, and impose a value-added tax on our exports to them, let us reciprocate. Impose a border tax equal to a VAT on all their goods entering the United States, and use the hundreds of billions to cut corporate taxes on all manufacturing done here in the United States.
Where they have tilted the playing field against us, let us tilt it back again. Transnational companies are as amoral as sharks. What is needed is simply to cut their profits from moving factories and jobs abroad and increase their profits for bringing them back to the U.S.A.
It’s not rocket science. Hamilton, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln all did it. Obama’s tariffs on Chinese tires are a good start.