Obama’s Protectionism Would Be Immoral If It Weren’t Fake
President Barack Obama gave a speech today attacking Mitt Romney as an "outsourcing pioneer" and promoting his own plan to use corporate tax policy to favor companies that choose to locate operations in the United States instead of abroad. He said:
Now, not only does Governor Romney disagree with this plan, today it was reported in The Washington Post that the companies his firm owned were ‘pioneers’ in the outsourcing of American jobs to places like China and India. Pioneers!
Tampa, we don’t need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office. We need a president who will fight for American jobs and American manufacturing. And that’s what my plan will do.
I am always struck by just how immoral this viewpoint is. International trade not only creates efficiencies and increases total global wealth. It is also gradually lifting the populations of China and India out of poverty.
But Obama insists that, in order to protect the interests of a subset of U.S. workers and businesses, we should take steps that increase consumer prices for everyone else in U.S., and make it harder for the Chinese and Indian masses to rise into the middle class.
I suspect Obama understands this, and his attacks on outsourcing are purely cynical. During the 2008 campaign, when he was promising to "renegotiate NAFTA," adviser Austan Goolsbee let slip to Canadian officials that Obama was just blowing smoke, causing a gaffe. As president, Obama has made no moves to touch NAFTA, and he signed trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Obama is most likely just grandstanding now, too. But it would be nice if he didn't feel the need to pretend that there was something wrong with giving a job to someone in a developing country -- and if voters didn't agree with that sentiment.
(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter.)