If Democrats Don’t Start Talking Like Trump On Trade, They WILL Lose
It's been 212 years since he was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, and people are waiting for months to see the play about the life of the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
The play is so popular that the producers of "Hamilton" just increased the cost of the best tickets in the house to 849 dollars to try to discourage ticket scalpers who have been hocking tickets for more than 2,000 dollars apiece on the black market!.
But if Democrats want to win big in November, they better skip the show and spend some time instead brushing up on Hamilton's greatest legacy and biggest gift to the United States of America: his 11-point plan for "American Manufacturers".
Back in 1789 when George Washington was elected to be the first president of the United States, he faced a simple problem of finding a suit of clothes that was actually made in America to wear for his inauguration.
The fact is that prior to the Revolution, the UK had laws imposed on the colonies that made it illegal for us to manufacture many of our own products, including fine clothing.
These laws, of course, were in place to keep manufacturing in England, but the effect of them was that we had been principally a producer of raw materials like cotton, with very little industry.
George Washington did manage to get an American made suit in time for his inauguration because a tailor in Connecticut had been breaking the British laws, but Washington's search for an American-made suit highlighted the fact that because of our colonial history, there was little to no manufacturing in the United States when we became an independent nation.
So Washington asked Alexander Hamilton to draw up a solution to America's manufacturing dependence, and in 1791, Hamilton presented his 11-point plan to foster American manufacturing.
The core of Hamilton's plan was simple: put high tariffs (import taxes) on foreign manufactured goods; prohibit the export of critical raw materials and promote their import; subsidize domestic manufacturing until it was strong enough to stand on its own; and invest in domestic innovation and infrastructure.
Hamilton wasn't the first to propose the use of tariffs and subsidies to build a strong domestic manufacturing sector: King Henry VII's "Tudor Plan" used similar policies to transform England into a developed state at the end of the 15th century.
More famously, Adam Smith's 18th century economic analysis "The Wealth of Nations" spelled out exactly how domestic manufacturing grows a nation's economy.
Smith used the example of a person taking a valueless tree branch and using his or her skill and labor to carve it into a valuable axe handle which then becomes part of the wealth of the nation for years into the future.
And that's still how it works: our nation's wealth grows when American workers build cars and other consumer products and when we build bridges and other infrastructure, for instance.
Two years after Hamilton proposed his 11-point plan, most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either President Washington or various states, and it built the greatest industrial powerhouse the world had ever seen.
But after nearly 200 years of success, Hamilton's proposals were systematically rejected and abandoned when Ronald Reagan deregulated the American economy and promoted so-called "free trade" in the Western Hemisphere.
Before Reagan took office, we were the world's largest importer of raw materials and the world's largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods.
We were the world's largest creditor, we even loaned money to developing countries so that they could afford to buy American-made goods, and we had been running a trade surplus for most of the 200 years before Reagan took office.
Reagan started it, but every president since then has continued to destroy American manufacturing with insane trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.
Even Barack Obama has negotiated sweeping new trade deals like the Transpacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the TPP and TTIP.
It hasn't come at a small cost either, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders frequently points out, America has lost over 60,000 factories in just the last 15 years to so-called "free trade".
According to Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, NAFTA alone cost us at least a million jobs in its first 20 years, creating a massive trade deficit with our trading partners and increasing income inequality in the United States.
Democrats need to realize that it's no secret that our trade deals are disasters, average working Americans know it well, because they've been hurt the worst.
And if Democrats don't wake up and come out strong against these disastrous trade deals, they risk losing industrial swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan in November.
Don Gonyea on NPRs Morning Edition talked to a former steelworker and lifelong Democrat in Canton, Ohio who is supporting Trump in this election based on his rhetoric on trade.
Other steelworkers told Gonyea that they would have supported Bernie Sanders because he was as clear as Trump about trade, but that given a choice between Trump and Hillary, Trump is more outspoken about how badly the middle class has been hurt by our disastrous trade deals.
And if anything should worry Democrats about the general election, it should be the very real possibility of losing the votes of rank-and-file working people and lifelong Democrats to Donald Trump and other down-ticket Republicans who might start parroting his anti-trade rhetoric.
Over 220 years ago, Alexander Hamilton presented Congress with a plan to transform America from a fledgling agrarian nation into the most productive industrial powerhouse that the world had ever seen.
And now it's time to do that again, and to reject our insane "free trade deals" that only benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the American working class.
We need a revival of Hamilton's sensible and proven trade policies that made America into the world's manufacturing powerhouse for nearly 200 years.
No matter how they may feel about "Hamilton" the musical, if Democrats want to win big in November, they need to embrace Alexander Hamilton's proven plan to reduce our dependence on foreign-made goods and to bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States.