Friday, March 5, 2010

In Defiance of Famous Trade Blogger, Mississippi Congressman Boldly Submits Ridiculous Anti-NAFTA Legislation

Yesterday, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) introduced legislation (H.R. 4759) that would withdraw the United States from NAFTA.  Of course, readers of this blog know all about this silly legislation, as Congressman Taylor's policy director and I (with some great assistance from the comments section) have been "debating" - and I use that term loosely - the bill for almost a week now.  Unfortunately, Congressman Taylor, his crack squad of staffers and his 27 fellow co-sponsors didn't learn a single thing from the educational drubbing that we administered here, and instead soldiered on and submitted the doomed protectionist legislation.  Indeed, Taylor's press release utilizes almost all of the protectionist myths (i.e., US manufacturing decline, trade and industrial job losses, US trade deficit, and national security) and dirty rhetorical tricks (i.e., causation/correlation, worthless anecdotes and the moral high ground) that I summarily dismantled on Tuesday and Wednesday night, respectively.  My favorite, insanely disconnected lines of the press release (emphasis mine):
By 2007 this [US-Mexico] trade surplus turned into a massive deficit that peaked at $75 Billion. As our economy declined in 2009 our trade deficit with Mexico dropped to $47 billion. Our trade deficit with Canada in 1993 was $11 Billion prior to NAFTA.  By 2008 the trade deficit swelled to $78 billion and dropped to $20 Billion with the decline of the economy in 2009.  
In other words, a public announcement expressly demonizing imports and the trade deficit expressly acknowledged that the deficit shrunk when the economy tanked!  And yet, while such blatantly obvious statistics might clue normal people into the fact that the US trade deficit isn't a sign of economic doom, these valiant protectionists remain utterly unfazed by mere reality.  Crazy.  Then again, the unions love - love! - the anti-NAFTA bill, and all of the co-sponsors are up for re-election this year, so who cares about silly things like facts and decency, right?  Right?!?!

Indeed, the only thing missing from this spectacle was Rep. Taylor showing up at the press conference dressed as Unfrozen Caveman Congressman.  Maybe next time.

(p.s. Just in case it wasn't blatantly obvious, the title of this post is a silly, self-deprecating joke.  Duh.)


Node Runner said...

If imports are so damaging to employment in Mississippi, Taylor can do so much more good for his "people" by not only limiting imports from Mexico or Canada, but from any place that isn't Mississippi. Think of all the jobs that will be created once they ban importing movies from Hollywood!

Anonymous said...

Is anybody providing total estimates of opportnity forgone by all this trade foolishness out of Washington? My guess is several hundred thousand jobs and about 0.5% of growth over the last three years, but that's just a wild guess. Three years of 0.5% for a $14.5 trillion economy is over $200 billion.

Node Runner said...

Yay! I'm not the only person posting comments on blogs about trade legislation at 11PM on a Friday night! Woohoo!

Scott Lincicome said...

Anon: that's a great question, and not that I know of. It would certainly be a difficult calculation, given all the moving parts. The ITC does some decent estimates of the benefits to the US economy if we removed all import barriers (see, e.g., here:, and I've tried to document some of the current retaliation against US exports because of non-compliance (especially the $2.4B Mexican trucking problem). But I don't know of anyone doing dynamic calcs based on lost opportunities. That would be a fantastic contribution to the cause.

Node: don't worry. As the last few days have made abundantly clear, there are probably several congressional staffers busily (and anonymously) commenting on these trade issues as we type!