Letter From Langdon: In Omaha, a Call for Fair Trade That Would Save Both Agriculture and Industry
Omaha, Nebraska, isn’t quite at the geographical center of the U.S.A., but on Friday it was at the center of some serious debate about free trade.
The Revere Copper Co. recently closed a plant in Massachusetts because of unequal trade practices, according to the company's president. This a statue of Paul Revere in Boston. Photo: Edyment81
The Organization for Competitive Markets held its annual meeting in Omaha and, as always, the leaders of OCM continue to beat the drum on behalf of American livestock producers. But since OCM’s inception, due to our government’s lack of proactive enforcement of trade law, talk of livestock trade has broadened to include what remains of the country’s domestic manufacturing industries.
For me, this gathering was reminiscent of a meeting I attended in Ames, Iowa, earlier in the summer. Then it was the Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Duncan Hunter, who stepped forward to point out that America had triumphed in its World War II struggle against Nazism, Fascism, and Imperialism through the amazing capacity of the country’s industrial base.
In Omaha, speakers explained how this industrial base has been dangerously eroded by the anticompetitive practices of our worldwide trading partners. We are in a war, said Brian O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Revere Copper. There is, he said, a concerted effort by other countries to destroy the manufacturing base of the United States through the selective use of taxes and currency manipulation.
Even though the United States could even the score by levying taxes of its own, equalizing the tax burden between imported goods and those manufactured domestically, our leaders have failed to do so. Tax-phobic Americans are as much to blame as Congress. For too long we have allowed our leaders to cut taxes on businesses that use their political clout not to do something for America, but instead to do things for themselves at a cost to American jobs and American self-reliance. Our gullibility in accepting the rhetoric that all taxes are bad enables some big businesses to walk away from their responsibilities scot free.
Our industries constantly compete with governments like China that give special consideration to their own manufacturers with tax credits, artificially cheapening their goods. If these countries didn’t levy taxes on our products, many of our exports would be more competitive, but as it stands today we have allowed heavy industry to become an endangered species in America. The Chinese Yuan should be valued at 5 to the dollar, but today because of government manipulation, it trades at 8. That valuation makes Chinese goods cheaper than a real world scenario should allow — a situation that also makes it possible for American businesses to import lead paint contaminated toys for our toddlers at a price so cheap that their profits are astronomical.
As much to blame as Congress are administration officials who take no action even though it is within their ability to act. As Rob Dumont of the Tooling Manufacturing Technologies Association told the conference, wealthy men have taken places in our government, and for wealthy men the single most important priority is to build their wealth to ever greater levels. It was just such wealth that patriots fought to overcome beginning in 1776. It was an effort to destroy America’s power that patriots defeated beginning in 1941. So it seems today that American patriots must now triumph over both wealth and political ambition.
Patriotism in America has always had rural beginnings. Rural America does its share, and more. We should all be upset by the way many of our corporations have betrayed the national interest for profit. It isn’t hard to identify them. They pull down the signs that say, “Buy American." They battle small agricultural producers who want to have their goods carry a label that tells their country of origin. They bank huge profits in overseas accounts as they pay top executives salaries that are hundreds of times the salaries paid to average company employees.
They refuse to pledge allegiance to our flag, even though it is the flag that has shielded them from harm. (Dumont pointed out that 99 of 100 US corporations declined to ask their employees to begin each workday with the Pledge of Allegiance.) They worship no God but the Euro, the Yuan, and the Yen.
Worst of all, according to Pat Choate, international trade expert and former vice presidential candidate, they depreciate America, betraying us quietly with false impressions and back room dealings on foreign shores.
It is pride in America that will turn the tide, and it is rural Americans who must wake the nation. Perhaps that first deep rumble came from Omaha, last Friday.