Whenever it is polically expedient, Barack Obama criticizes free trade. He did it in 2008, when he told Ohio primary voters that he would renegotiate NAFTA. He did it in 2012, when his campaign saturated the industrial Midwest with ads criticizing Mitt Romney for outsourcing jobs to China at Bain Capital. But these noises are forgotten as soon as the political danger has passed, and today Barack Obama appointed another globalist, Jason Furman, to be the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. In 2008, Furman sang the praises of free trade in the Harvard Law & Policy Review and warned against a "growing protectionist backlash against global economic integration" that he saw as "a serious threat to our economic well-being."
Last week, the Atlantic ran a piece on the loss of industrial jobs in Milwaukee that showed why Obama's ads on outsourcing worked so well. Between 1961 and 2001, Milwaukee lost 69% of its manufacturing jobs. The article notes that this massive job loss was the result of several causes, including increasing automation. But free trade and the commitment to what Furman termed "global economic integration" also played an enormous role in this economic devastation. As Sophie Quinton noted in her Atlantic piece, new plants built by Milwaukee's Rockwell Automation "could just as easily be in Shanghai or Singapore as in Oconomowoc." That was not true, of course, when America had the tariff. As Ian Fletcher notes in his magisterial Free Trade Doesn't Work, "the pain experienced by the Midwestern manufacturing areas of the U. S. . . .since the mid-sixties" is the direct result of America's abandonment of the tariff as a result of John F. Kennedy's Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.