Agonizing over U.S. job losses often overlooks a primary cause of the problem: America's severe trade deficit. Since the 1970s, U.S. imports have exceeded exports every year.
"This deficit, now the world's largest, kills jobs. It urgently needs to be fixed," write Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in their new book, The Betrayal of the American Dream. "It's time our trade policy was asked to serve the interests of all Americans -- not just the markets and the people who control those markets."
Barlett and Steele, who have won two Pulitzer Prizes for their analytical reporting, believe Congress must limit imports whose manufacture is subsidized by governments, like China, and require those foreign nations to lower barriers that impede U.S. products.
Unfortunately, corporate lobbyists and corporate campaign donations are so powerful that Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress routinely vote to protect interests of major corporations, not the interests of average American workers.
Current warnings about the "fiscal cliff," for example, often ignore policies that moved millions of American jobs overseas, hurting U.S. workers, small businesses and local communities.
The "outsourced" American jobs are not just unskilled ones, but an increasing number of high-tech and engineering jobs -- another fact overlooked in most debates, Barlett and Steele point out.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing -- a coalition of major manufacturers, steel companies and the United Steelworkers -- makes the same point. "Cheap imports made in unsafe, low-wage factories overseas are not improving the fortunes of American's least fortunate, much less its middle class," the AAM said in a 2009 book of essays.
"Manufacturing is the engine of economic growth, not financial wizardry," Richard McCormick wrote in the book.
In 2010, America shipped 7 percent of its exports to China, while China shipped 23 percent of its total exports to the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, America's trade deficit with China more than tripled, according to a congressional report.
Solutions to America's debt crisis won't be simple. But it is time to stop talking about cures such as cutting Social Security benefits. Social Security has not used one penny of money from any source other than people who paid into it throughout their working lives.It is time to start focusing on issues like "free trade" agreements -- backed by Republican and Democratic leaders -- that undercut the economy and the lives of millions of American workers.