All Politics Is Global

The (newly refurbished!) National Journal's Bruce Stokes wants voters to press their candidates on international economics. Particularly, he wants more talk on China's currency manipulation and U.S. manufacturing:

Festering global problems promise to constrain options for the new Congress and the White House. International economic imbalances, which trip-wired the world financial crisis in 2007, are re-emerging. The U.S. trade deficit mushrooms, while China and Germany run parallel surpluses. The dollar, which had been weakening against the euro and the renminbi, boosting American exports and job-creating foreign investment in the United States, is strengthening again. The U.S. manufacturing deficit, which undermines job and income growth, is rising.

In a perfect world, I support more talking about international trade. But in the world we have, voter-pushed rhetoric about international trade will manifest itself in two memes: Protect American Jobs at All Costs, and Damn Any Other Country That Reaps the Benefits of Globalization. You already see this kind of talk in Democratic ads blasting Republican candidates for voting against an absurd anti-outsourcing bill last month.

The Republicans' less pernicious, and only slightly less unhelpful, solution is to cut taxes and stand back. This ignores the reality that the most successful export-oriented cities like Wichita (yes, Wichita) succeed because of manufacturing clusters supporting by a lattice of local, state and federal incentives and partnerships. In the current crisis, government is a potential solution, but only once we get beyond blaming the RMB for outsourcing.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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