Last week, the Heritage Foundation released its always-entertaining Index of Economic Freedom, and the big news was that the United States dropped one spot in the annual rankings - from 7th to 8th - thus becoming less free than our kinda-socialist neighbors to the north, Canada. (Somewhere Bob and Doug McKenzie are taunting us.) But if you dig through the data a bit, you'll see something equally (more?) interesting/depressing: the United States dropped dramatically in the ratings on "trade freedom." According to the Index's searchable database, the US was the world's 13th "freest trader" in 2009 to the 38th freest trader in 2010 - behind such notable free trade leaders as Namibia and Malta.
Now, this revelation is not rock-solid proof that President Obama is a stark-raving protectionist. In fact, the United States' raw free trade score actually increased from 86.8 to 86.9 (whoopee!). But instead, the relative decline in US ranking perfectly supports analysis here and elsewhere that the United States is standing still on trade, while the rest of the world races to liberalize. While such stagnation is certainly not as bad as outright trade hostility, it's still nothing to be proud of - especially for a country once considered to be the "world's free trade leader."
And I'd say it's about time we dropped that title, wouldn't you?
(H/T Andy Roth)