Barack Obama's recent concern over sending American jobs overseas is as phony as his broken promise, made during the Ohio Democratic primary in 2008, to renegotiate NAFTA, but there is little doubt that his attack on Mitt Romney's record of outsourcing American jobs during Romney's tenure at Bain Capital is politically potent. The elites who favor free trade and globalism told us not to worry about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs because they would be replaced by more desirable high tech jobs, but the reality is that both manufacturing jobs and jobs in technical fields have been sent overseas in enormous numbers and that America now creates very few jobs in any sector of the economy subject to foreign competition.
If Romney wishes to overcome this attack, he will not follow the example of Kevin Williamson of National Review, who was indignant at the suggestion that American jobs should remain in America. Any such concerns, Williamson wrote, reflect "xenophobia," "backward, ignorant chauvinism," and the presumably racist views of "economically illiterate yokels" who worry about "Poor desperate Third World brown types" taking American jobs. By contrast, enlightened people like Williamson realize that corporations that send jobs overseas are actually engaging in "collective, coordinated global cooperation to solve the world's most pressing problems."
National Review talks a lot about patriotism, but it seems to think that patriotism primarily involves cheerleading for foreign wars. In fact, patriotism is a proper concern in the economic arena, and the men who built this country recognized that. The second bill signed by George Washington was a tariff, one of whose stated objectives was "the encouragement and protection of manufactures." George Washington was interested in promoting the American economy, not the global economy, and his economic patriotism guided America until the 20th century. The challenge to economic patriotism came from the left, not the right, and the first modern president to favor the globalism espoused by Williamson was the disastrous Woodrow Wilson. But even Wilson never showed the contempt for Americans concerned about losing jobs to foreign countries that supposed conservatives like Kevin Williamson do today.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.