"Unemployed? Hungry? Eat your … " (Japanese car name brand)
That was a huge poster I saw on a dealership in Reno, Nevada, where, in the early 1980s, I rented a car (a Chrysler in deference to its legendary chairman Lee Iacocca) to visit some of the Mark Twain's country which was more beautiful than Hollywood sets.
Looking at the dignitaries attending President Trump's inauguration events last Friday, I thought that most of those Washingtonians were old enough to remember the trade policies that devastated our automakers – the mainstay of America's heavily damaged manufacturing sector.
Of all those in attendance, the former President Bill Clinton, who governed in the 1990s, probably understood better than most President Trump's words that "Washington flourished … politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed … left our shores … with millions of American workers left behind."
We cannot blame our trade partners for that. America's economic and international trade policies must change. The human, urban and industrial wasteland left by our systematic half-trillion dollars in annual trade deficits – and their hugely depressive impact (up to an entire percentage point) on our economic growth -- cannot continue.
No allies, only interests
Those fearing a global trade war are betraying ignorance or bad faith – or both. There is nothing bellicose in the idea that the new administration wants to revisit some of the existing trade agreements, and to make sure that future deals are not harmful to American economic and strategic interests. Washington also intends to begin that review process by correcting our own fiscal and regulatory regimes that have led to massive off-shoring, with ensuing losses of jobs, incomes and damaging transfers (i.e., thefts) of our technologies.