There are some interesting points of view submitted by free traders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as it relates to the Asian Tsunami, which occurred earlier this year. One need look no further than the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal for the latest free-trade-over-all position, where free trade routinely trumps any national interest including patriotism.
Allow me to make it clear that it is not my intent to bash the entire Wall Street Journal, which has proven to be an invaluable research tool for my book "How Americans Can Buy American" as well as the articles I try to churn out on a weekly basis. Even Wall Street Journal columns by professed free trader David Wessel provide readers with facts and insight that can often be used to argue against the laissez-faire doctrine. But the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is uncompromising in the sense that they always contend unrestrained, unregulated trade is always good and any protection of American industry is always bad. "Tariff," it seems, is a four letter word.
In a January 17, 2005 editorial article titled "Aid is Good; Trade is Better," it was suggested that the United States drop any planned or present tariffs on imported shrimp in order to help Tsunami-affected countries. In response to this article, William R. Hawkins of the U.S. Business and Industry Council pointed out that Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand already run large surpluses in trade that eclipse not only tariffs, but also other aid as well. Thailand already enjoys a $9.5 billion trade surplus with the U.S., Indonesia has a $7 billion advantage and Sri Lanka exports $1.7 billion more to the U.S. than it imports. Mr. Hawkins suggested we might give preference to the above-mentioned Asian countries by diverting trade away from China, claiming that Chinese competition - not America's tariff system - is the true culprit.
Given the Wall Street Journal's editorial section position that in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami, the best thing to do was reduce U.S. tariff rates, one might be puzzled that similar medicine is proposed to aid those Americans victimized by Hurricane Katrina: Lower U.S. tariffs on Asian imports. It's almost like these writers are mimicking former presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, whose answer to practically every political issue was the flat tax when he ran in 1996.
On Friday, September 9, 2005, the Wall Street Journal editors wrote an article titled "Four Easy Pieces." Claiming Louisiana shrimpers were all but wiped off the map by Katrina, these bright minds contend we should ensure their likely fate and flood the U.S. market with imported shrimp to bolster Tsunami aid to shrimp-exporting Asian countries.
In short, these writers think the best way to deal with an Asian disaster is to eliminate U.S. tariffs, and the best way to deal with an American disaster is the same: Eliminate U.S. tariffs. The goal of course is to lower prices for U.S. consumers. But the fact that the writers fail to grasp is that after Katrina, Americans don't need potentially and often illusory lower consumer prices through a higher volume of imports - they need income. They need jobs.
Americans living below the U.S. poverty rate don't need lower prices when what little they had is gone with the storm. They need jobs to be able to purchase necessities to deal with a new, post-Katrina life. The poor of New Orleans and Mississippi didn't have the financial means to evacuate and avoid the hurricane's wrath. What makes free traders think that these same victims would benefit from a negligible reduction in the price of shrimp?
The answer lies in a recent Wall Street Journal article detailing the wage winners and losers in the past year. Economists were second only to Doctors in the "wage winners" category. Why should free trade economists be concerned about the struggles of the working class, when from their perspective, wages are rising? It's the "me-decade" all over again.
It is a primary role for government to regulate trade in a way that allows all Americans to pursue gainful employment, and not intentionally victimize one group of Americans so the rest of us can buy products from wherever they may be had the cheapest.
If you want to buy American shrimp and counter the idiotic logic of the Wall Street Journal editors, simply visit www.texaslonghornshrimp.com at least until Louisiana's shrimp industry can have the opportunity to come back alive. The Louisiana shrimpers are in a desperate situation since even if they were able to go out in their shrimp boats, there would be no place to take their catch since the processing plants were wiped out by Katrina.
Looking for other ways to buy American? A Buy American Mention of the Week subscriber recently sent me information on Gilma contemporary women's tops, which are 100% American made and can be found at American-owned retailers like TJ Maxx. You can also order directly by visiting here where you can choose between 3/4 sleeve, short sleeve, long sleeve or sleeveless solid tops, tie dye tops, artistic tops and novelty knit tops.
Have you ever needed a padlock and were faced with a variety of Master Lock products that were once made in USA but are now made overseas? Your help is needed to make 100% American-made padlocks available to patriotic consumers. In recent weeks, I have been in contact with The Wilson Bohannan Company, which makes all of their padlocks right here in America. The problem is that the owners apparently see no advantage in offering their products to consumers online. And they have had trouble getting the attention of major retailers since big companies like Master Lock have been buying up all the shelf space.
A Wilson Bohannan representative has been kind enough to send me a sample of one of their locks, and it is more than sufficient. One side of the lock bears the company logo, while the other side displays an engraved American flag with the words "Proudly made in America" below it. The Wilson Bohannan Company has been making "Locks Since Lincoln" and started their business in 1860. They also proudly list the fact that their locks are made in America as one of their "Top 10 Reasons to Buy" as listed on their website at www.padlocks.com.
If you would like to be instrumental in convincing this company to offer their products online, please send an email to Danny Petterson at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will pass the hopefully large amount of email onto the appropriate people at the company. As patriotic consumers, we must not only buy American products, but we must also help make American products available and easy to buy when we can. It is no doubt an uphill battle, but America became great by swimming upstream when it was required instead of merely always floating along with the tide.