If you were (sane) like me, you didn't spend last night glued to CNN to watch the GOP Presidential Debate in New Hampshire. But a quick search of the debate transcript (yes, I know, I need to rescind my previous allegation of sanity) reveals that the only comments on trade came from Pawlenty in response to a question on how the candidates "plan on returning manufacturing jobs to the United States":
PAWLENTY: There's a number of things we need to do. Restore manufacturing in this country. And I grew up if in a meat packing town. I grew up in a manufacturing town. I was in a union for six or seven years.Sigh. I've already dismantled the "fair trade" and "everybody cheats" myths several times on this blog, so I won't do so again here. And, frankly, Pawlenty's statements here are almost identical to the tough-guy chest-thumping that he's done in the past about free trade (as I noted last week), so his statements last night, while underwhelming, aren't really that disturbing or noteworthy.
I understand what it's like to see the blue-collar communities and the struggles that they've had when manufacturing leaves. So I've seen that firsthand. But number one, we've got to have fair trade, and what's going on right now is not fair.
I'm for a fair and open trade but I'm not for being stupid and I'm not for being a chump. And we have individuals and organizations and countries around this world who are not following the rules when it comes to fair trade. We need a stronger president and somebody who's going to take on those issues.
What is disturbing and noteworthy, however, is that Pawlenty, when asked about manufacturing job losses, immediately resorted to scapegoating free trade as the primary driver of those losses. And, by the way, he was the only GOP hopeful to do so. Ron Paul (unsurprisingly) targeted US monetary policy; Michele Bachmann (quite rightly) attacked onerous US tax and regulatory policies; Rick Santorum also took a swipe at tax policy. None of them blamed trade policy for manufacturing job losses.
Except Governor Pawlenty.
Of course, this stance is utter poppycock: not only are most American manufacturing job losses the result of things like technology gains and changing consumer tastes, but they also have been happening for decades and are in no way unique to the United States. Moreover, a lot of American manufacturers depend on trade (imports and exports) in order to remain globally competitive and/or to find new customers abroad. So, if anything, our politicians should cite free trade policy as a solution to, not cause of, US industrial job-losses. Thus, it's quite troubling that, when asked about those job losses, Tim Pawlenty's first thought was to blame trade - a strategy, by the way, that's right out of the protectionist playbook. The unions do it; pandering Democratic politicians do it; and the professional anti-traders do it.
So why is a GOP presidential candidate - especially one who just recently championed free market fiscal policies that directly contradict such an anti-trade stance - doing it too?
I honestly have no idea.
Fortunately for Pawlenty, his trade statements received big praise from one pundit. Unfortunately, it was MSNBC's Ed Schultz (start at the 3:30 mark):
Err, congrats Governor.