This morning the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an important opinion piece by Alan Tonelson of the redoubtable United States Business and Industry Council on manufacturing and the presidential election. (The piece appeared earlier in other Ohio papers). In his piece, Tonelson highlights the importance of Ohio in the election and the importance of manufacturing to Ohio. Tonelson also explains why neither President Obama's policies nor Romney's are likely to reverse the long decline of American manufacturing, a decline that began well before either Obama or Romney were on the scene. Two years ago, the USBIC published Ian Fletcher's Free Trade Doesn't Work, an excellent refutation of all the arguments made for free trade. In his book, Fletcher explains that the decisive event in the decline of American manufacturing was the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, when we began moving away from the tariff. Fletcher also proposes a solution, a national strategic tariff of 30% phased in over five years. Fletcher chose 30% as the tariff rate "because it is in the historic range of U. S. tariffs and close to the net disadvantage American goods currently face due to America's lack of a VAT." As Fletcher notes, "Protectionism is, in fact, the real American way," a history ably summarized by Pat Buchanan in his masterful, beautifully written The Great Betrayal. Sadly, neither Obama nor Romney have read Fletcher or Buchanan. But the candidate who finally heeds what they say will both win the industrial Midwest and begin the process of reclaiming the manufacturing jobs our elites so foolishly tossed aside.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.