SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 14, 2013

Our view: Losing the economic war

This is the time of year when our local cities and towns set their tax rates, the tax bills for the upcoming year finally get printed and mailed, and we open them with trepidation.

Invariably, taxes go up, and often the discussion turns to how to lessen the burden. That discussion usually turns to “attract more economic growth” in the form of new industry and businesses. And then the competition is reviewed — cities and towns look to get a competitive advantage over one another, to pull a small manufacturer over the town or city line and claim a small economic victory from a neighbor.

These situations play out year after year. The truth is that our local cities and towns are fighting over a fast-diminishing pool of manufacturers, the scraps of what was once a robust and dominant segment of our economy and our economic security.

We’re not alone. It’s happening in nations across the world, and the culprit is the same in every case: China.

For the past 13 years, we’ve been at the losing end of an economic war, one that we have largely refused to fight. Instead, we’ve rattled our rhetoric ineffectively and then casually watched as our losses have grown. It’s estimated that some 57,000 American manufacturers have closed their doors during that period. For many American workers, their final act is boxing up their manufacturing equipment to be shipped over to China.

As of 2011, America is estimated to have lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs directly to Chinese competition, plus an unknown number of related jobs in related sectors.

The economic war with China began in 2001, after the United States and others championed its entry into the World Trade Organization. This allowed China, which had a notorious reputation for unfair trade practices, to trade on par with nations that followed the WTO’s strict policies. It was thought, naively, that once China entered the WTO, it would follow the rules, its working class would embrace democracy and prosperity, and other nations would gain equal entry to China’s economy.

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