With the country and global economies being held hostage by a strident few in Washington, I keep coming back to the missed opportunities. We should not overlook the fact there were two major trade negotiations that the US missed out in Asia-Pacific and Europe. These are negotiations that create deals to enhance trade and create jobs. Congress talks about jobs far more than it acts on creating jobs, so the government shutdown cut back the chance for the President to be where he needed to be in Asia-Pacific and short-circuited a deal that might have been reached in Europe.
I have written before about David Smick and his book “The World is Curved” which discusses our role in the global economy. Who is David Smick? He was an economic advisor to two different party presidents and a third candidate who had a good reputation. He first advised Congressman Jack Kemp, who was as studious an elected official as you will find. He then advised President Ronald Reagan and later was an advisor to President Bill Clinton. In his book, he makes a statement that few have made – Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were very much alike on a key role of the President – opening up markets for trade.
They saw this role as critical to America’s success and they were right. Although the President plays an important part, he gets too much credit and too much blame for the economy. With that said, if you look at per capita job creation under presidents in Wikipedia, you will see that Reagan’s terms rank the highest of any GOP president (and pretty high for all presidents) and Clinton’s terms rank the second highest of all presidents behind those of Franklin Roosevelt. In terms of sheer numbers, Clinton’s terms had the most jobs created. According to Smick, a key was opening markets.
I have come to the conclusion that opening markets not only creates jobs because of the additional trade, but it can help diplomatic efforts. When we restrict trade to penalize a dictatorial and horrid regime, we end up punishing the wrong people. My thesis is if economic trade occurs across boundaries, it breaks down barriers and enables positive interactions. Opening trade affords people the opportunity to live a reasonable life and feed, clothe and house their families. This a key reason Iran’s new President is reaching out to the US and rest of the world – his country’s economy is suffering and his people are in need. I often used the term pawns to reference the common folks who tend to get harmed in political chess games like the one going on in Washington and the posturing by Iran in the past. It is especially harmful when leaders are ignoring the real issues to debate a sound byte or a strident posture.
So, opening markets and tearing down barriers to trade, whether it is global or domestic, enhances economies and creates jobs. In direct contrast, creating barriers and making issues out of real, perceived, inaccurate or deceptive information or posturing, does the opposite. I have equated the failures of the current Congress to that of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take to “do no harm.” Well, our Congress and, in particular, a strident few, are “doing harm” and, as a result, we are missing opportunities. And, as a result, the pawns get hurt.